Turkey coup attempt: Huge crowds gather in Istanbul for historic anti-coup rally

The rally marks a climax after many weeks of demonstrations in support of President Erdogan following the failed coup 

Alexandra Sims
Sunday 07 August 2016 17:18 BST
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greeting people as they gather at Yenikapi in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greeting people as they gather at Yenikapi in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup (AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of Turks have gathered in Istanbul as part of a pro-democracy rally protesting against last month’s failed coup.

The city’s Yenikapi Square was filled with Turkish flags on Sunday afternoon as people joined the “Democracy and Martyrs” rally for unity, marking a climax after many weeks of demonstrations in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Supporters of Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) have taken to the streets every night since the attempted military coup on 15 July, in which more than 270 people were killed.

Demonstrators wave Turkish national flags as they stand in front of giant screens on August 7, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15
Demonstrators wave Turkish national flags as they stand in front of giant screens on August 7, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15 (AFP)
People wave Turkey's national flags during the Democracy and Martyrs Rally
People wave Turkey's national flags during the Democracy and Martyrs Rally (Reuters)

Turkey has made wide-ranging crackdowns following the coup attempt, which have seen the arrest, removal and suspension of more than 70,000 people affecting workers in the judiciary, the education system, media, health care and other sectors.

The purges have provoked alarm in the international community, presenting a major stumbling block for Turkey’s campaign to join the European Union.

Speaking to the rally Mr Erdogan said: ""As a state and as a nation we need to analyse the 15 July coup attempt very well. We need to evaluate well not just those who engaged in this treachery, but the powers behind them, the motives that made them take action.

"July 15 showed our friends that this country isn't just strong against political, economic and diplomatic attacks, but against military sabotage as well. It showed that it will not fall, it will not be derailed.

"There is now a new Turkey after July 15."

Mr Erdogan also addressed the death penalty at the rally, saying if the Turkish public want the death penalty following the failed coup then political parties will enact their will.

Demonstrators wave Turkish national flags on August 7, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15
Demonstrators wave Turkish national flags on August 7, 2016 in Istanbul during a rally against failed military coup on July 15 (AFP)

"It is the Turkish parliament that will decide on this [death penalty] given the sovereignty rests with the nation... I declare it in advance, I will approve the decision made by the parliament," he said.

The president was joined by Prime Minister Binali Yildrim and opposition party leaders at the rally, which is being held under tight security with 15,000 police understood to be on duty as well as anti-aircraft batteries set up on the event grounds and two helicopters overhead.

An official from the prime minister’s office told AFP that “arrangements were made for three million people” to attend the rally, with some state media predicting up 3.5 million people may attend.

Thousands of buses and more than 200 boats were brought in to ferry attendees to the area, where they passed through one of 165 metal detectors before being given hats and flags.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Gulbaran attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Gulbaran attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally (AFP)
People wave Turkish flags during a rally to protest the failed coup attempt
People wave Turkish flags during a rally to protest the failed coup attempt (EPA)

The event began with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and prayers.

A 60m stage was set up for the event and draped with national flags and banners depicting Mr Erdogan and Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The names of those who died opposing the coup were read out as the event commenced.

Those wounded during the attempted coup, and the families of those who died, were given special passes for a seated area.

"Today is a special day, which is making all of the gatherings held for 15, 24 days, more precious," said Mustafa Yavuz Aycil, a 44-year-old Istanbul resident attending the rally. "I also had to be here today because as you see all of the crowd is showing its reaction to the coup."

Mr Erdogan had previously urged people to bring only the Turkish flag instead of party banners: "There we will stand together as a single nation, a single flag, a single motherland, a single state, a single spirit," he said on Saturday, Turkish media reports.

Thousands also rallied in Izmir in the west, Antalya in the south and Diyarbakir in the south-east.

Turkish media also said a giant screen displaying the event was to be set up in Pennsylvania, the US state where Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen is based. Authorities say the failed coup was staged by a military faction loyal to the Gulen or “Hismet” movement, but it has denied involvement.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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