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How ambitions of 'Islamist cult' united Islamists, secularists in Turkey

The ambitions of the Gulenists have been able to bring Turkey’s Islamists and secularists together for the first time in the country's political history.
Pro-secular demonstrators march with cutouts of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk during a Youth and Sports Day celebration in Istanbul, Turkey May 19, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer  - RTSEZQH
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In the biggest mass rally of Turkish political history, more than 1 million Turks — even 3 million by some estimates — gathered in Istanbul Aug. 7 to denounce the July 15 attempted coup. This, naturally, was widely reported by the Western media, with a focus on the man who led the rally: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Turkey's Erdogan stages mass rally in show of strength after coup attempt,” read a Reuters headline. “Crowds gather in Istanbul for massive pro-Erdogan rally,” reported Deutsche Welle. For Voice of America, too, the news was a “Massive rally in Turkey in support of Erdogan.”

The reality on the ground, however, was less Erdogan-centric. Turkey’s powerful president was of course the biggest star of the show, but what made the rally so significant was the participation of two opposition leaders: Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Action Party. The presence of the CHP — the “Ataturk party,” the traditional guardian of secularism — was very significant. It was a strong symbol that the current political fault line in Turkey is not about Islam versus secularism, as it often is. It is rather about the defense of the democratic system against the putschists — who were identified by all leaders who spoke at the rally as FETO, or the Fethullah Gulen Terror Organization.

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