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Thousands rally in Istanbul to protest coup attempts PDF Print E-mail

Thousands of people held a silent rally on Saturday in İstanbul to protest recent coup attempts by the military through several institutions that have resorted to anti-democratic practices.

ImageMore than 20,000 people gathered in İstanbul's historical Tünel neighborhood at 5 p.m. on Saturday to raise their voices against anti-democratic initiatives. The rally, which came in the wake of a ruling by the Constitutional Court that annulled constitutional amendments that would have lifted a long-standing ban on the Muslim headscarf on university campuses, was planned in cooperation with such nongovernmental organizations as the Young Civilians, Küresel Eylem Grubu (Global Action Group), the Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed Peoples (MAZLUM-DER), Irkçılığa ve Milliyetçiliğe Dur De (Say Stop to Racism and Nationalism), Lambda -- a gay rights association -- and the Movement for Political Horizons (SUH).

A number of famous figures, such as columnists Nazlı Ilıcak, Abdurrahman Dilipak and Nihal Bengisu Karaca; actress Lale Mansur; famous sociologist Ferhat Kentel; and ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Zeynep Dağı, participated in the march, called "70 Million Steps against Coups."
Participants of the rally wore white gloves and they carried banners that read "Neither the judiciary, nor the military; the nation is the greatest," "Shoulder to shoulder against coups," "No to juntas, yes to democracy," "We can stop coups" and "Bow to the will of the people." The rally was held peacefully under heightened security measures.

A statement read during the march said civilians and NGOs had gathered to express their stance against anti-democratic practices in Turkey.

"This is the most beautiful day of the year. Here, we break our oaths of silence in support of democracy and justice. Are we going through a military intervention? It may not seem so at first glance, but the developments that followed the release of an e-memorandum on April 27, 2007 have shown that our democracy is the subject of some sort of intervention. While the country was busy considering the consequences of closure cases [against the governing AK Party and the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP)], the Constitutional Court overruled the headscarf amendments, approved by 411 deputies. The demand for a more democratic constitution, voiced by all pro-democracy powers, especially after the July 22 elections, has been pushed aside. The notions of freedom, justice and equality have been overshadowed. Today '70 Million Steps against Coups' shows that we are against coups," read the statement.

Dağı expressed her support for the march, saying such platforms are of great significance for raising the public's voice against those who wish to prepare the groundwork for coups and anti-democratic practices. "For this reason, we support such initiatives. Support for such rallies and protests will stop those circles that uphold coups from reaching their objectives," she noted.

Ilıcak recalled that Turkey has suffered several coups in its history. "Adnan Menderes, a former prime minister, was hung in the aftermath of a military takeover [in 1960]. We have witnessed several coups and much suffering. Now, years later, we say 'no' to coup attempts for the first time ever," she said.
Özden Sönmez, who spoke on behalf of the Ankara Platform for Freedom of Belief, stressed his hope for a better future in Turkey. "Every dark night ends with a bright morning. Today we are experiencing Turkey's brightest day. We will have bright mornings from now on," he said.
Other civilians who participated in Saturday's march expressed their opposition to coup attempts, too. Cemal Aydın, a retired teacher, said he joined the rally to stand by the vote he cast in the July 22 polls. "I want to reject all sorts of anti-democratic initiatives and see the will of the nation be the only rule in the country," he said.

Nursen Gökçek, who attended the rally with a walking stick in her hand, noted that she had witnessed several military interventions and coup attempts since she was 15. "We are facing new risks of anti-democratic interventions because we didn't raise our voices against them. Enough is enough," she remarked.

Zeynep Ak, a university student, said the common wish of all participants of the march was to live in a more democratic Turkey. "My thoughts and beliefs are different from many people who are rallying beside me today. But, despite all our differences, our common wish is to live freely in this country," she said.

23 June 2008, Monday
NERGİHAN ÇELEN  İSTANBUL