Thousands of people turned out Sunday in Istanbul for an antiterrorism rally in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s condemnation of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. Erdoğan spoke before a crowd of more than 100,000 at Yenikapi Square about the upcoming general elections and his efforts to stop the separatists, Agence France-Presse reported.
"There is no question of making the slightest concession to terrorism," he said.
Erdoğan in July abandoned two years of peace talks with the PKK, which has been an insurgent force in Turkey since 1984. About 40,000 people have died in the PKK’s struggle for autonomy, met recently with a series of government-approved airstrikes on the Kurds’ camps near Iraq. Critics have accused Erdoğan of getting involved for political reasons -- he wants Turkey to switch to a presidential system, and in order to achieve this, his party must come out on top in the Nov. 1 elections.
— Hassan Ridha (@sayed_ridha) September 20, 2015
">Today's Zaman reported. The group did not obtain a majority of parliamentary seats in the June elections.
AFP reported Sunday’s demonstration was well-attended by people bearing flags, signs and headbands reading, “Martyrs never die, the homeland cannot be divided," a reference to several attacks on government security forces linked to the PKK. Others held banners reading, “Eliminate terror, invite unity,” the Daily Sabah reported.
Though ostensibly about countering terrorism, the rally Sunday never strayed far from the topic of the elections. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, also the head of the Justice and Development Party backed by Erdoğan, told the audience his candidates would work for unity because “everyone living under the Turkish flag are equals,” according to the Daily Sabah.
He also joined Erdoğan in bluntly denouncing the PKK, according to the Associated Press. "Yes, those who want to divide this country, those who want to separate this country by wrecking it, may they be damned!" Davutoğlu said. "God willing, they will be damned."
Sunday’s event wasn’t the first of its kind. About 10,000 people came out Thursday for a similar antiterrorism rally in Ankara. "I am here for peace," attendee Fatma Kurthasan told AFP at the time.