President Tayyip Erdogan told a rally of more than one million people on Sunday that July’s failed coup would be a milestone in building a stronger Turkey, defying Western criticism of mass purges and vowing to destroy those behind the putsch.
The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” at the Yenikapi parade ground, built into the sea on the southern edge of Istanbul, was a show of strength by Erdogan, who has been angered by European criticism of his combative response to the coup and by U.S. reluctance to hand over the man he accuses of masterminding it.
Banners in a sea of red Turkish flags read “You are a gift from God, Erdogan” and “Order us to die and we will do it”. It was the first time in decades that opposition leaders joined a rally in support of the government, with pockets of secularists, nationalists and others alongside his core Islamist supporters.
“That night, our enemies who were rubbing their hands in anticipation of Turkey’s downfall woke up the next morning to the grief that things would be more difficult from now on,” Erdogan said of the July 15 abortive coup, drawing parallels to times past when Turkey was occupied by foreign forces.
“From now on, we will examine very carefully who we have under us. We will see who we have in the military, who we have in the judiciary, and throw the others out of the door.”
The parade ground, built to hold more than a million people, was overflowing, with the streets of surrounding neighborhoods clogged by crowds. One presidency official put the numbers at around five million and the event was broadcast live on public screens at smaller rallies across Turkey’s 81 provinces.