CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the tens of thousands have reached Istanbul on the twenty-third day of the Justice March. Kılıçdaroğlu, who was met with applause from a joyous crowd in front of the Istanbul sign, released white doves. In the statement he made before setting out on the march, Kılıçdaroğlu criticised the European Parliament’s decision to suspend negotiations with Turkey, saying, ‘We want justice for everyone and we also want justice from you. Turkey does not consist of the ruling party alone. More than 50 per cent of this country wants democracy. Relations with the EU should not be suspended, but taken forward more robustly and consistently.’
Life starts early
Today’s leg of the Justice March started at around nine in the morning from Gebze Barracks, which were opened for use in 1972 and are now closed. Those having made an overnight stay in the barracks entrance area were ready for the day hours in advance. The tents were taken down at daybreak, and a little later the campers went to the breakfast tables that had been set up by CHP municipalities. Those who have been following the march for days set out on the road at the front heedless of their sunburn and scarred feet.
‘Our quest for justice will continue’
Kılıçdaroğlu sat at the table set up in front of the caravan where he had spent the night to make a statement prior to the march. Having admonished party members who engaged in a display of affection towards him and shouted slogans, ‘Wait, wait. We will have plenty to say about right, law and justice. We will talk about it after this, too,’ he started to speak: ‘Today, we are leaving Kocaeli. I heartily thank all the people of Kocaeli. For the interest they have shown in us. We want justice for them and all Turkey, for the eighty million, and we have set out on the road for justice. And this journey of ours will continue. Today we are entering Istanbul. I am exceptionally happy and at ease. We have covered a long journey with not so much as a nosebleed. We will have crossed the Istanbul provincial boundary. I hope that my journalist friends who have been covering us are pleased, too. They, too, have made a long walk along with us. We will have completed this march together on Sunday, but not our quest for justice. Our quest for justice will continue.’
Call to the European Parliament
Kılıçdaroğlu, recalling that the European Parliament had accepted Kati Piri's report, continued, ‘I wish to call out to the European Parliament from here. We want justice for everyone and we also want justice from you. Turkey does not consist of the ruling party alone. Look, we are holding a justice march in Turkey. There are tens of thousands. We held a referendum. More than 50 per cent of this country wants democracy. Relations with the EU should not be suspended, but taken forward more robustly and consistently. I hope that, in this regard, they will support our quest for justice and take a decision to continue relations with Turkey and this will also satisfy us, because justice is a notion that is valid not just for Turkey, but all humanity. In the hope that the European Union parliament will act justly and pass a decision to continue relations with Turkey, I convey my greetings, respect and regards to all of you.’
Roses and doves
Following the press conference, Kılıçdaroğlu speedily set out on the road. Gebze Sub-Province Organisation members released white doves and chanted, ‘We want peace, we want justice’ as their leader exited the barracks. With Kılıçdaroğlu striding out at the pace for which he has now become fabled, those wishing to march at his side were forced to run. He marched for a while along with the relatives of the fallen, and then with actresses Nur Sürer and Sumru Yavrucuk together with theatre critic Vecdi Sayar. Young CHP members, wearing T-shirts depicting 15 July martyr Ömer Halisdemir, also accompanied Kılıçdaroğlu. In Darıca, a surprise prepared by the Darıca CHP Organisation awaited them. Rose petals were scattered over them from overpasses on two occasions. Along the way, protesters were greatly outnumbered by those applauding. The rapturous reception given by Gebze fruit and vegetable market workers escaped nobody’s attention. The disabled, environmentalists, grandfathers, grandchildren, children and tens of thousands of people from all walks of life and of all shapes and sizes were once more on the procession yesterday.
Doves released in Istanbul
Kılıçdaroğlu was met by a waiting joyous crowd when he arrived in front of the Istanbul sign. Kılıçdaroğlu was met by the CHP Provincial Chair Cemal Canpolat and Maltepe Mayor Ali Kılıç and was presented with a bunch of roses by Kılıç's daughter Dila. A huge banner screamed out from behind the sign: ‘You said you’d come to Istanbul. We waited with songs of victory.’ A brief melee ensued as Kılıçdaroğlu passed in front of the sign. The CHP leader, waving at admirers, released white doves from beneath the sign. One dove rested on Kılıçdaroğlu's head. According to police records, Kılıçdaroğlu entered Istanbul along with 42,480 people. The march was completed in three legs, with shorter breaks than on previous days. Yesterday, a total of 14.7 kilometres was covered. An overnight camp was set up next to the Sports Stadium in Tuzla’s İçmeler Quarter.
At this game for 94 years
CHP Manisa MP Özgür Özel has been acting as the march’s announcer for days. His voice frequently echoes round the procession. He cautions against provocations: ‘The only thing we will do, as we have done for twenty-two days, is to applaud and chant the ‘Right, law, justice’ slogan.’ He says, ‘We have covered 412 kilometres but we have not left behind a single plastic bottle or a single plastic bag. We urge you to keep up this environmental sensitivity.’ Then he continues, ‘We request that you treat admonitions with understanding and respond with understanding and a smile to the rapid reaction force and gendarmerie officers’ warnings for your safety.’ Those who have lost relatives or dropped their glasses or mobile phone turn up at his side. I visited him on the bus at the first break. He replied to my questions to the extent that announcement duties permitted.
- How did you come to take on the announcement job?
One of the best voices in Turkey when it comes to announcements is our Barış, actually. With it becoming apparent on the first few days that marchers were ignoring announcements, the General Chair said, ‘Let parliamentarians that the people know better make requests in my place.’ That is how I assumed the duty. The General Chair also said at the Central Executive Committee meeting that, ‘The crowd only heeds Özgür.' I was hoarse for two days, but have made it through until now. I made these warning and admonition announcements for nineteen or twenty days. The parade has a twenty-five-person core team of MPs and a four-person executive. The MPs remind people of the rules to be followed. The crowd pays heed to their warnings because they are MPs who have been internally elected and the people know them.
- What is the thing that excites you the most about this march?
Realising that there is a transformation was exciting. If the main opposition leader marches from a country’s capital to its metropolis, the whole world looks to that country. And that country looks out in that direction. Because this is a political leader’s march, it started with the emphasis on its political side. In fact, they ask how we managed to organise it in four hours. We said we did it in 94 years plus four hours. We have been at this game for 94 years. We have members in every quarter and in every village and an organisation in every municipal area. We set out on the road trusting in these. The words we most frequently heard were, ‘We will not abandon the General Chair in this caravan.’ The most unforgettable thing was, following the funeral of our member who had a heart attack, his two daughters joining the march saying, ‘We are taking over from where our father left off.’
Greetings to Ahmet Şık
Metin Göktepe's mother Fadime Göktepe was in the procession despite having undergone a knee operation one and a half months earlier. She left home determined to march even if her children had told her not to. She speaks of having run everywhere in the quest for justice. She asks, ‘Is this march to be missed? We are here for justice, for peace, for our children. Let them not kill our children and let them leave jail. We want justice. If there is no justice in the world, what is there?’ Saying with reference to the youngsters on the march, ‘They are all Metin for me,’ she continues, ‘Let them not kill Metin, and they are all Metin. Our efforts are for youth, things have moved on from us now.’ She also sends her love to our detained reporter Ahmet Şık: ‘Oooh, Ahmet. I love him as much as Metin. He was everything to Metin. I was going to visit him in Silivri when he was first detained. He told me not to come. This time I fell ill and couldn’t go. I love him greatly. I hope he’ll get out.’
So as to be able to carry out our own profession freely
Many people from the arts world were on the march yesterday, too. I hold out my recording device to two famous figures walking alongside me. Nur Sürer says, ‘This is really the first time in my life that I have been on such a peaceful march. It is so wonderful. We are marching calling for justice for everyone. For academics, for the jailed MPs, for children and for women. So as to be able to carry out our own profession freely.’ Sumru Yavrucuk continues: ‘I am marching for my father and for my child. I am marching for the people of the arts world and for the MPs who are currently in detention.’
Onward until we succeed
Journalists Union of Turkey Organisational Secretary Mustafa Kuleli and Istanbul Branch Chair Ali Açar were also on the march yesterday along with many union members. Kılıçdaroğlu also made a short assessment for the trade unionists during the march. Kılıçdaroğlu said, ‘We are marching with conviction and in peace. Even if we do not see the results of this in a short time, I believe that it will end positively on both the political and social planes before long. We are marching for democracy and justice to come to this country. Our struggle will continue until we succeed in this.’
Side by side with his double
Nusret Gümüşalp is a member of the Kocaeli Provincial Organisation. He bears a twin-like resemblance to Kılıçdaroğlu. He is just a little shorter than Kılıçdaroğlu. The first moment you see him, you think he’s Kılıçdaroğlu. He joined the march for the first time yesterday. He came to the assistance of those unable to break through Kılıçdaroğlu's guards and the cordon of rapid reaction force officers around him. Those astonished at the similarity were keen to have selfies taken with Gümüşalp. Gümüşalp, saying he knew that Kılıçdaroğlu looked like him, said, ‘We have come side by side. I am pretty pleased with the similarity.’ Gümüşalp later walked along with Kılıçdaroğlu for a while.
Strong support from workers
Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions Chair Kani Beko, municipal workers' union Genel İş Chair Remzi Çalışkan and 5,000 Genel İş members took part in the march. Beko and Çalışkan marched with CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu for a while. The Genel İş members called for a human and safe working regime, trade union rights and justice for sub-contracted workers and their members who have been sacked.