A rally convened on Sunday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drew hundreds of thousands of his supporters to the streets of Istanbul in response to last month’s attempted military coup.
The gathering comes after Erdogan’s pledge to crack down on followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president has blamed for orchestrating the coup.
In the aftermath of the attempted July 15 takeover by members of the military, when more than 230 people were killed and thousands were injured, thousands of people have been detained, including members of the government. More than 1,600 military members were dishonorably discharged.
Gulen has denied involvement in the attempt to overthrow Erdogan’s government.
Turkish state media called the rally a protest against the coup that, it said, was started by a terrorist organization with links to Gulen. State media also described the rally as a gathering place for supporters of a pro-democracy governance, nothing that “only Turkish national flags have been permitted, not those of political parties.”
Hordes of demonstrators on Sunday formed a sea of red and white Turkish flags, banners and flyers at a parade ground in Istanbul, with many smaller congregations taking place in squares across the country, Reuters reported.
“We’re here to show that theses flags won’t come down, the call to prayer won’t be silenced and our country won’t be divided,” one of Erdogan’s supporters, Haci Mehmet Haliloglu, told Reuters.
The mass detainments and shuttering of media outlets in Turkey in the weeks following the coup has put western governments on edge and raised concerns that Erdogan could use the coup to expand his power.