Turkey: Opposition leader set to attend democracy rally

– ‘Democracy and Martyrs’ rally set to be held on Sunday, culminating weeks of rallies since last month’s defeated coup

– Turkey’s main opposition party leader confirmed Friday that he will attend a massive democracy rally Sunday in Istanbul, reported Anadolu Agency.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu had initially declined the invitation, as the party’s vice chair and deputies would represent it, but changed course Friday.

Turkey’s presidency had invited the opposition CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to the event, saying, “The ongoing democracy watches across the country” – in the wake of the July 15 defeated coup, thwarted in large part by public opposition – “will culminate in a Democracy and Martyrs Rally to be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7 in Istanbul’s Yenikapi Square.”

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli had already confirmed that he would attend. “I will be there in Yenikapi [in Istanbul], with all the participants, to keep alive the spirit of unity and solidarity, to eliminate all doubt, to dispel despair, and to open a new door to fortune and history,” he said.

The mass rally was billed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an event that would attract participation from citizens, political leaders, top military officers, musicians, and athletes.

“Let the nation be there together,” Erdogan said. “Accelerating the process of normalization is extremely important for our country.”

Yasin Aktay, vice chair of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, said earlier that Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim would attend the rally, which he said, “would not appeal to just AK Party supporters.”

“On the contrary, we are expecting the participation of all the other parties,” he said.

A huge stage will be erected at the rally site, as well as big TV screens and sound systems.

Around 13,000 people, aside from the police officers, will be on duty to organize the event, clean up, and do technical work. Helicopters, ambulances, and over 700 medical personnel will be on hand as well.

Similar rallies will also be held simultaneously all across the country on Aug. 7 in support of democracy.

Turkey’s government has repeatedly said the deadly July 15 coup attempt, which martyred  239 people and injured nearly 2,200 others, was organized by followers of U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen.

Gulen is also accused of running a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary, forming what is commonly known as the parallel state.