Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed on Sunday to continue fighting anyone or any power seeking to undermine his government. Addressing millions at a massive rally in Istanbul, he also vowed to root out those involved in last month's failed coup "as well as the powers behind them."
Erdogan spoke from a 60-meter stage draped with huge national flags and images of Turkey's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
"We will continue on our road in solidarity," he said. "We will love each other not for rank or title, but for Allah." He then told his flag waving audience he would sign any legislation passed by parliament that reactivates the death penalty abolished in 2004 as Turkey lobbied to enter the 28-nation European Union.
The president was flanked by leaders of two main opposition parties. He did not invite the head of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP).
"July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation," said Republican People's Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu. "If we can further this power ... we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey."
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim prohibited the display of partisan slogans Sunday in an effort to promote unity. "The spirit of one nation, one flag, one homeland and one state will prevail throughout the rally," he said.
An estimated 15,000 police guarded the massive gathering, described by journalists as one of the largest rallies ever in the nation of 75 million people. The site was ringed by anti-aircraft batteries as two helicopters patrolled the scene.
Turks and Turkish Americans are also demonstrating Sunday on a smaller scale in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Saylorburg, Pennsylvania -- the home of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, the accused mastermind of the failed coup.
Gulen, who moved to Pennsylvania in the late 1990's, has denied Turkey's claims he was involved and hopes to avoid its efforts to extradite him.
Hundreds of Turkish Americans and American Muslims rallied Sunday in front of the White House to support democracy in Turkey and to condemn the coup. "The Democracy Against Coup" rally was organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), an umbrella organization that represents nearly 150 associations.
Representatives of Turkey's governing AK Party and of the opposition parties CHP and MHP were among the speakers during the rally. Demonstrators urged the Obama administration to extradite Gulen.
VOA spoke with Turkey's Ambassador to the U.S. Serdar Kilic during the rally who thanked the demonstrators for their participation. He also said American officials seem willing to cooperate with Turkey on the extradition request for Gulen. The U.S. has said Turkey needs to follow extradition protocols.
The Turkish government launched an aggressive crackdown after the coup. It has arrested and detained nearly 18,000 people, mostly members of the military, and suspended or dismissed tens of thousands of people, including judges, professors and prosecutors, from government agencies.
The crackdown has prompted some European countries and rights groups to urge restraint. Erdogan has responded with complaints about the lack of Western support for his government for surviving the attempt to oust him.
In an interview Sunday with Russia's state-controlled Tass News Agency, Erdogan said he plans to meet this week with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss bilateral relations.
Tass said the two leaders will meet in Saint Petersburg in an attempt to ease tensions after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border last November. Russia responded by imposing trade sanctions against Turkey.
Source: Voice of America