The more than 425 kilometre march from Ankara to Istanbul led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu ended on Sunday with the main opposition leader stating that “the last day of our Justice March is a new beginning, a new step” in the country.
The leader of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) told the tens of thousands of people at the closing ceremony that “the era we live in is a dictatorship” as he strongly criticized Erdogan’s administration and called on him to end the state of emergency that has been in place since July 2016 aborted coup d’état.
The march lasted for 25 days and gained momentum along the way. Authorities claimed that the organizers are seeking for justice in the streets. President Erdogan had warned that participants could face charges and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused Kilicdaroglu of holding an “unlawful” march.
Kilicdaroglu lamented that the government has politicized the courts, seized the parliament’s powers and muzzled the media thereby leaving them with “only a single place for our demand for justice and that is the streets.” The festive crowd chanted “rights, law, justice,” and Kilicdaroglu vowed, “we will be breaking down the walls of fear.”
A constitutional amendment this year has deeply divided Turkey after the coup amid heavy crackdown on those allegedly linked to Fethtullah Gulen. On Monday, 72 arrest warrants targeting university staff were issued and amongst them is a former adviser to Kilicdaroglu.
About 50,000 people have been arrested and 150,000 state workers including teachers, judges and soldiers, have been suspended in the crackdown under emergency rule, which was imposed soon after the attempted military takeover.