Turkey's 'democracy watch' against coups ends with final rallies

Published 11.08.2016 22:03
Updated 11.08.2016 22:04
Turkey's 'democracy watch' against coups ends with final rallies

Pro-democracy rallies held every night since a coup attempt on July 15 by a Gülenist junta concluded on Wednesday night, as thousands gathered on streets and squares across Turkey for the last ‘democracy watch'

A coup attempt by a military junta linked to the Gülenist terror cult was foiled on July 15 thanks to public resistance, and since then millions across the country have assembled on the streets in a show of force against further putsch attempts. These conventions, which were described as "democracy watch" by media and participants, formally ended on Wednesday night with an overwhelming turnout in all cities.

The heart of the last rallies was in the capital Ankara, where an unprecedented crowd filled the area outside the presidential complex, instead of Kızılay Square, where the rallies were held for nearly a month. Those assembled heard a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who together with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, urged the public "to claim the squares for democracy" hours after the first report of a coup attempt emerged on July 15.

From Edirne in northwestern Turkey, to Şanlıurfa along the border on the southeast, every main street and square was filled for the last rallies, during which crowds denounced the coup attempt amid a sea of Turkish flags. At each rally, people watched Erdoğan via giant screens as he addressed the fervent crowd outside the presidential compound.

The last democracy rallies on Wednesday night drew thousands outside the Presidential Palace, in Istanbul (above) and other cities.

Turkey was rocked by an attempted coup on July 15, the third major attempt in the history of the Turkish republic by the military to seize power. Ankara has alleged that the coup plotters are linked to U.S.-based former imam Gülen, who is accused of leading the eponymous terror cult, and of trying to overthrow the government and assassinate Erdoğan. The coup attempt did not find support from most military commanders, and Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was hailed for his stand against the putschists that held him hostage. In the end, troops and police units loyal to the state and thousands of unarmed civilians who stood in front of tanks tried to convince soldiers to lay down their arms, succeeding in quelling the coup attempt. In the process, more than 246 people were killed - the majority being civilians - and more than 1,440 people were injured. At least 2,800 officers linked to the coup were detained or arrested after July 15, while those with links to Gülenists were dismissed from all state institutions. Massive purges are still underway to weed out suspected sympathizers of Gülen within the bureaucracy, military, police, judiciary and political parties.

The rallies were solemn as well as cheerful events where people carried Turkish flags and photos of their "commander-in-chief" Erdoğan, credited by the public with fighting off the coup by mobilizing the people to stay in major squares. While singing patriotic songs, crowds have celebrated public resistance and commemorated the martyrdom of hundreds of civilians and security personnel who died confronting the coup plotters.

Nursel Mutluok, a 66-year-old woman from Istanbul's Kasımpaşa district, where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan grew up, was among the loyal supporters of the "democracy watch." Mutluok was in Taksim Square for the last democracy rally, just as she was on July 15, after hearing a coup attempt was under way. "I would attend if the rallies continued for years," Mutluok told Anadolu Agency (AA). "They could not and cannot defeat us. Turkey is a great country and our nation has no fear."

Hatice Güvercin, an artist, was also among those attending the last rally at the Taksim Square. She has been attending the rallies for two weeks and told AA: "Seeing this large crowd, this unity of people here makes me emotional. We were deeply hurt by the coup attempt and by God's will, it will not be repeated."

At each rally, guestbook stands were set up where participants penned their feelings about the coup attempt and those who died while resisting.

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