Tens of thousands of Turks took to the streets Sunday as part of a massive cross-party rally in support of democracy, days after an attempted military coup tried to dislodge President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, following which the president clamped down on suspected enemies of the state in a controversial legal crackdown.
Istanbul’s central Taksim Square saw demonstrators holding a cross-party “Republic and Democracy” rally to showcase a spirit of unity. Erdoğan’s ruling Islamic-conservatives and the opposition secular camps set aside their differences to condemn the coup that killed at least 246 people and injured more than 2,000.
The Agence France-Presse reported Erdogan supporters keeping up a “vigil” for democracy, late into Sunday. The president has urged his supporters to occupy the streets until further notice, fearing another coup.
In another bid to promote unity, pro-government channels broadcast a live speech by main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in a rare move.
“This is a day to unite, a day to stand up against coups and dictatorial regimes, a day to let the voice of the people be heard,” he said at the rally, according to Reuters. “We are all together in Taksim today. Today is a day we made history all together.”
The rally was organized by Kılıçdaroğlu’s secularist opposition CHP but received backing from the ruling conservative AK Party and other opposition groups.
After narrowly escaping possible death during the attempted coup, Erdoğan has declared a state of emergency in the country. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said Saturday that about 13,000 people had been taken into custody, including 8,831 soldiers. Addressing concerns raised by human rights organizations and world leaders, he pledged that the detainees would have a fair trial.
In the latest round of arrests, Istanbul anti-terror prosecutors issued warrants for 42 journalists Monday, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Despite reassurances from the government, Amnesty International said the government was already resorting to torture and ill-treatment while dealing with the detainees. The human rights group claimed it had “credible evidence” some detainees were being “subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centers in the country.”
“Turkey is understandably concerned with public security at the moment, but no circumstances can ever justify torture and other ill treatment or arbitrary detention,” John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe director, reportedly said.
In spite of the administration drawing widespread criticism from human rights groups, the headline in Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News — “No to the coup!” — was in line with popular opinion in the country where the masses are reportedly more vehemently against the coup attempt than the emergency that followed it.