“Democracy and Martyrs' Rally” in Istanbul's Yenikapı was held on 7 August with an extraordinary attendance. Approximately 5 million of Turks gathered at the square, as well as outer-field. Thousands of people couldn’t even reach the square though they had come a long way.
Turkish people banded together in full unity at the rally with attendance of both governing and opposition parties. Disunited political rhetoric gave way to the reconciliation and cooperation. The rally became the symbol of national unification and solidarity. Excitement, enthusiasm and positive discourse raised in Yenikapı spread fear to enemies and gave confidence to allies. Thus, the meeting can be considered a milestone in Turkey’s history.
This spirit of compromise, which we seek in our works as Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies (BILGESAM), was a planned and the desired outcome was a success In our advisory works, we emphasized that compromise and cooperation had to be established instead of polarization and marginalization of the Turkish society. In order to make a contribution to the solidarity, I arrived at the Yenikapı rally square around 12:00-13:00 as the chairman of the BILGESAM. Early on, I tried to sympathize with the audience, shared their enthusiasm, and gave a reaction about the coup and terrorism. I agreed with the people's hopeful remarks on democracy and unity of Turkey. I participated with the enthusiastic crowd for quite a while and then crossed to the protocol ceremony area. I had the chance to share the families of martyrs' and wounded soldiers' pain who fought against the coup plotters. I listened to these gallant soldiers’ memories from that night, and learned how coup plotters betrayed the country. Most importantly, I was impressed by their hope and will about Turkey’s bright future. Although the country is having hard times, they and their families confidently expect a promising future.
In time, the Chief of Staff and Commanders-in-Chief of Armed Forces arrived to the rally square. I witnessed Turkish citizens welcome their commanders with open arms and embrace them with a noble stance. Turkish people greatly differentiated the traitors in army and honourable soldiers who put their life at stake.
In attendance was: the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP); Binali Yıldırım, the Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman; the Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu; and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. Their unity and their alignment against the coup pleased Turks. This solidarity gave a very clear message to the so-called Western democracies who reacted slowly against the coup. Besides the head figures of politics, the parliament and the army together were long-awaited in Turkish people’s eyes. The meeting started off with the speech of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli and followed by CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, the Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, the Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman, and the President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also delivered a speech to the audience.
FETO terrorist organization and its failed coup attempt were the first issues discussed during speeches. Second issue was the Western, more specifically USA’s unresponsive stance to the coup and the whole situation. In addition to these reactions, political consensus among citizens and politicians came into prominence. Unity solidarity, and finding vision of the country were the governing party members’ field of discourse while the opposition parties’ main expression focused on standing together against coups, democracy, cooperation and conciliation. The rally made contribution to providing harmony between Turkey’s founding philosophy and the cultural/historical values addressed by politicians’ during their speeches.
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli mentioned that Turkish citizens stopped the enemy in soldiers’ dress and the nation protected the country’s all gains. Bahçeli also noted that Turkey has to open a new chapter in its diplomatic history by creating consensus, respecting the rule of law principle, protecting human rights, and avoiding polarization.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said 15th of July failed coup attempt gave a chance for reconciliation that we have to take lessons from the past. Kılıçdaroğlu also stated that Turkey is in new era after the coup attempt and he presented a course of action contains 12 articles. According to this ‘road map’ it is necessary to diverge politics from religion, judiciary and the military; to understand importance of self-criticism in politics; to create necessary merit based evaluation in state building; and to protect secularism and development of democracy are the crucial points.
Later on, the Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar was on stage. Akar mentioned that real protectors of the nation ward off traitors. Akar thanked the Turkish people in differentiating between terrorists in uniforms and devoted army personnel, which gives more courage to the soldiers.
The Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım started his speech by acknowledging the CHP and MHP leaders’ manner during failed coup attempt. Yıldırım assured that politicians wouldn’t harm the consensus on Turkish politics in order to reach Turkey’s 2023 goals. He also noted the importance of solidarity and togetherness against further problems under the rule of law principle.
The Speaker of the Parliament İsmail Kahraman noted the significant things that deputies did on 15 July. Kahraman said that the Parliament was at work additionally all night long during the coup attempt, and parliamentarians kept working during the terrorists bombing of the assembly building. He also thanked all member parties of the parliament on common declaration against the coup. He noted that the Turkish parliament deserved the title of ‘war veteran honour’ for the second time of Turkish history.
At last, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the President of the Turkish Republic, was on stage to deliver his speech. Erdoğan said that the Turkish people defended their state on 15th of July with the same feelings as their ancestors when they opened the doors of Anatolia to Turks thousand years ago. He noted that the failed coup attempt showed that not only economic, politic or diplomatic attacks but also military strikes can’t shatter Turk’s independence desire. He stated that togetherness of the people from all strata at this rally oppress the enemies of Turkey as much as 16th of July morning. He finished his talk by emphasizing the significance of the national will which was underestimated by FETO terrorist organization.
As a result, the rally in Yenikapı showed Turkey’s progress in following democratic principles and the ability to come together when there is a threat to democracy. The rally made Turkey’s position clear on democracy and other countries got the message. It broadened the country’s horizons and gave the capability of self-expression to all parties under the leadership of the president. By means of this rally, Turkey has become more united, hopeful, and stronger against threats. Solidarity is a must when looking to the Turkey’s future with confidence.