Senior figures from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan and son-in-law Selçuk Bayraktar, have joined the ranks of thousands in attendance at anti-Israel rallies taking place across Turkey, local media reported over the weekend.
The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict started when Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
The Islamist group launched thousands of rockets from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and crossed the border with hundreds of militants, prompting Israel to retaliate by pounding Gaza.
Hamas has killed over 1,400 Israelis, including 289 soldiers, and are holding 155 people hostage, according to official figures, while the Palestinian death toll in Gaza is 2,750.
Erdoğan; Bayraktar, chairman of Turkish defense contractor Baykar; former interior minister and current AKP MP Süleyman Soylu; and former parliament speaker Mustafa Şentop were among the participants of Saturday’s “Great March for Palestine.”
Bayraktar said in a tweet that they were holding the march to “speak up against oppression.”
Zulme sessiz kalmamak için #BüyükFilistinYürüyüşü’nde ailelerimizle birlikte Beyazıt’tan Ayasofya’ya yürüyoruz. 🇹🇷🇵🇸
— Selçuk Bayraktar (@Selcuk) October 14, 2023
The protestors held a banner that read, “Zionist organization is doomed to disappear.”
"Zionist organization is doomed to disappear" reads the banner held by high-ranking lawmakers including former Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and former Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop from #President Erdogan's ruling party AKP in a pro-Hamas rally held in Istanbul today. pic.twitter.com/VOhFviOvKd
— Abdullah Bozkurt (@abdbozkurt) October 15, 2023
Commenting on the march, Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said in a tweet that Bayraktar, who “demonstrated in favor of Hamas,” was welcomed aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford about a month ago.
— Michael Rubin (@mrubin1971) October 15, 2023
The US announced on Oct. 8 that it was sending the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to the eastern Mediterranean in support of Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
According to a report by the Voice of America (VOA) Turkish edition on Sunday, support rallies for Gaza were also held in İstanbul and Diyarbakır under the leadership of the radical Islamist Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR), an ally of Erdoğan’s AKP.
Felicity Party (SP) leader Temel Karamollaoğlu, HÜDA-PAR Chairman Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu, Future Party (GP) leader Ahmet Davutoğlu, Palestinian Ambassador to Turkey Faed Mustafa and Gaza Government General Secretary Kemal Aboun were among the thousands who attended to the “Free Palestine Rally” in the Maltepe district of İstanbul, according to VOA.
“This is not just a matter concerning Palestine and Syria; Turkey is right in the heart of this issue. … Sooner or later, we will have to stand up against them to defend our own lands,” Karamollaoğlu said in a speech.
While Yapıcıoğlu emphasized that the issue of Palestine concerns all of humanity, Davutoğlu expressed outrage at the labeling of Gaza as the “land of terrorists.”
At the rally, a message was read out in which İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called for an end to “Israeli operations causing harm to Palestinian civilians.”
Meanwhile at the Diyarbakır rally, HÜDA-PAR Mersin MP Faruk Dinç called for oil-producing Islamic countries to impose a petroleum embargo on Western countries. The party’s Diyarbakır provincial chairman, Vedat Turgut, also spoke during the event, calling for the establishment of a humanitarian aid corridor to Gaza.
While a support convoy was organized in Nevşehir to show solidarity with the Palestinian people on Sunday, various nongovernmental organizations and foundations, including the Confederation of Public Workers Trade Unions (Memur-Sen), the Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions (Hak-İş), the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the pro-gov’t Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) and the Anatolian Youth Association (AGD), held a protest in the capital city of Ankara.