Turkey’s Erdogan to Hold Mass Rally to Support Palestinians

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a huge pro-Palestinian rally on Saturday in Istanbul but faces criticism because his government appears to have cut back on centenary celebrations for the foundation of the republic.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP is expecting hundreds of thousands of people to attend a mass rally in Istanbul on Saturday to support the Palestinians amid the ongoing conflict with Israel.

“We will show the whole world that the inhumane blockade of Gaza is unacceptable,” Omer Celik, AKP spokesperson told reporters on Thursday.

The rally will be held at the site of former Istanbul Ataturk Airport and President Erdogan has sent invitations to other Muslim leaders including the heads of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya and the Palestinian Authority.

During the rally, only Turkish and Palestinian flags will be allowed. Other conservative and Islamist political parties as well as Islamist NGOs have called on the public to attend the rally.

However, the rally coincides with the long-awaited celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish republic.

Founder of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his comrades announced the foundation of the republic on October 29, 1923, during the Turkish War of Independence.

AKP and government officials denied they are cutting back on the celebrations but no official reception will be held by Turkish President Erdogan to mark such a significant occasion, according to his official agenda.

Opposition parties, civil society groups, academics and members of the public have criticised Erdogan, a political Islamist who is known for his discomfort with Turkey’s founding father and his secular republic.

Kursat Zorlu, spokesperson for the opposition Good Party, said that the centenary should be celebrated with “great enthusiasm and faith”.

“In such a week, the world should be told how the Republic was won and the gains it left us,” Zorlu told reporters on Thursday.

Amid the ongoing violence in the Middle East, several Turkish embassies abroad have cancelled receptions and Turkish Radio and Television, the state broadcaster, has also cancelled several centenary broadcasts.

“We are in the 100th year of our Republic. There is no celebration like this. No republic has celebrated its 100th anniversary like this,” Professor Ilber Ortayli, a globally esteemed Turkish historian said on X on Tuesday.

Alternative celebrations over the weekend are organised by opposition parties and opposition held municipalities with concerts, festivals and marches across the country.

Erdogan decided to hold a massive pro-Palestine rally after he opted a harsher tone against Israel over the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is “not a terrorist organisation, but a group of freedom and mujahideen [warriors] who are striving to protect their lands and their citizens”, Erdogan said on Wednesday, abandoning any potential mediator role between Israel and the Palestinians. Erdogan’s statement received a wide international condemnation.

After Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on Israel on October 7, killing over a thousand people and seizing hostages, Israel’s government declared ‘war’ on the organisation.

Israel’s military struggled for days to crush Hamas fighters embedded in southern Israeli towns and has since intensified its bombardment of the Gaza Strip, making preparations for a ground invasion.

According to the UN, the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza is now more than 5,000.

Source : Balkaninsight