The “March for Justice” led by the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is expected to reach Istanbul on Sunday, July 9. Over 10,000 people have joined Kilicdaroglu on his 270-mile march that began in Ankara on June 15. After reaching Istanbul, the CHP plans to hold a political rally in the Maltepe district near Dragos Park and the Tuzlaspor stadium, which is currently scheduled to start at 17:00 (local time) on Saturday. According to the United States Consulate General in Istanbul, organizers expect around 1 million people to participate in the event. However, the demonstration could be delayed depending on how long it takes the marchers to reach the city. It is unclear if security forces will attempt to prevent the protesters from entering Istanbul or gathering in the Maltepe district; if they do attempt to stop the marchers, violence is possible. Expect a significantly increased security presence and traffic disruptions as the marchers enter the city.
The march is believed to be an attempt by the CHP, Turkey's main opposition party, to connect with citizens and to help build a larger coalition outside of its secularist base. Much of the march goes through traditionally conservative parts of Turkey, where President Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) generally has more support relative to the CHP. The march has thus far remained peaceful.
One of the main motivators of this ongoing march is to denounce the state of emergency that remains in place across the nation as well as the arrests of opposition politicians, activists, and journalist. Critics of Turkey's state of emergency, implemented after a failed military coup in July 2016, cite a heavy-handed crackdown on opposition elements across the country under the guise of national security. Over 50,000 people have been arrested under the state of emergency, including over 170 journalists and a dozen lawmakers. Over 140,000 public workers have been fired, including tens of thousands of civil servants, prosecutors, and teachers, and several thousand academics.
A recent constitutional referendum granting Erdogan additional powers has exacerbated the country's already-heightened sociopolitical tensions. Additionally, Turkey has suffered repeated bombings and other attacks since the establishment of Islamic State (IS) in neighboring Iraq and Syria, as well as since the 2015 collapse of a long-term ceasefire between the government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy. In recent months, the Turkish military has intensified its airstrikes and military operations against the PKK.
Individuals in Turkey are advised to avoid all demonstrations and rallies, follow any instructions issued by the local authorities, and carry proper identification at all times (e.g. passport).
Due to the prevailing threat of terrorism, report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities and maintain a high degree of vigilance, especially when visiting sites deemed particularly vulnerable to an attack (public transportation, train stations, ports, airports, public or government buildings, embassies or consulates, international organizations, schools and universities, religious sites, festivals, etc.). Some Western governments advise against travel to areas along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
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