DOHA, Qatar: More than a million people have attended a pro-democracy rally held in Istanbul in response to Turkey’s failed coup attempt last month.
The massive rally on Sunday united the country’s president, the prime minister and two opposition party leaders around a single issue for the first time in years.
“The world is looking at you now,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the rally as he began his speech. “You should be proud of yourselves. Each and everyone of you fought for freedom and democracy. All of you are heroes.”
Erdogan said that on July 15, the Turkish people had proven that “we are mighty enough to foil any coup”, condemning those behind the plot to topple his government as a “terrorist organization”.
Turkish political parties unite against coup attempt
The president also said that had the coup attempt succeeded, “We would have lost our homeland, and offered it to our enemy in a silver platter.”
Al Jazeera’s Ayse Karabat, reporting from Istanbul, described the event as “the biggest, most crowded, political meeting in Turkish political history”.
As part of its anti-coup campaign, Ankara has been encouraging nightly rallies throughout the country, culminating in Sunday’s grand finale.
The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” was meant to represent the unity of the country, and Erdogan had urged attendees to bring only the Turkish flag, instead of party banners.
Around 13,000 people, in addition to police officers, were on duty to run the event. Helicopters, ambulances and over 700 medical personnel were also on duty.
Similar rallies were held simultaneously across the country, according to officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
HDP not invited
Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who is also the leader of the AKP, as well as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli were present at the rally.
Kilicdaroglu and Bahceli addressed the rally before handing the stage to the prime minister and the president.
In his speech, Erdogan said that he would support restoration of the death penalty should the parliament approve it, saying that countries such as the US and China also have capital punishment.
Yildirim praised those “who fought bravely and stood in defiance” of the coup attempt.
For his part, opposition leader Kilicdaroglu said the failed coup had opened a “new door of compromise” in politics, adding that politics must now be kept out of the mosques, courthouses and barracks.
“There is a new Turkey after July 15,” Kilicdaroglu said.
How could Turkey’s failed coup affect the Kurdish peace process?
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party’s (HDP) co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were not invited. The HDP opposed the coup, but were excluded from the rally because of their allegedly support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Galip Dalay, columnist and Turkey analyst, told Al Jazeera that including the HDP would have “completed the picture”. He said the event was significant as it showed “unity across [the]political spectrum” in the country.
Turkey, the US and the European Union designate the PKK, an armed group that has been fighting for Kurdish autonomy since 1984, as a “terrorist organization”.
The HDP is the third-biggest party in parliament. It denies having direct links with the PKK and promotes a negotiated end to the Kurdish conflict, which has claimed hundreds of lives since a peace process, once led by Erdogan and his governing party, collapsed in 2015.
‘One nation, one heart’
Before and during the rally, the hashtags #birliktegucluyuz (Together we are strong) and #TekmilletTekyurek (One nation, one heart) were trending on Twitter, with thousands of people reveling in the solidarity on show between the political parties.
The failed coup, attempted by a small faction of the Turkish military, killed more than 270 people and posed the gravest threat yet to Erdogan’s 13 years in power.
Loyalist factions in the security forces, with the help of thousands of Turkish citizens who took to the streets to confront the troops, quickly put down the coup.
US-based cleric and businessman Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, has been blamed for the coup attempt.
Since July 15, more than 70,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education have been detained or suspended for alleged links to Gulen’s movement.