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Opposition leader's 'Justice March' will change Turkey's political landscape

Millions around the globe hope Turkey's main opposition's "Justice March" will mark the beginning of a new societal movement.
Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu walk during the 22nd day of a protest, dubbed "justice march", against the detention of the party's lawmaker Enis Berberoglu, near Dilovası in Kocaeli province, Turkey, July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal - RTX3A9RJ

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), was perhaps the least likely figure to initiate a mass mobilization against the increasingly repressive regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yet Kilicdaroglu, for a long time referred to as "Gandhi" for his physical resemblance to the Indian leader and ridiculed by his critics for his alleged passivity against Erdogan, took a Gandhi-like step and unleashed the great but hidden energy of opposition and dissent that has accumulated in Turkey in recent years.

Ironically, the CHP leader's activism was not a calculated or a carefully preplanned move. It came out unexpectedly when CHP deputy Enis Berberoglu, a veteran journalist who has been in charge of his party's media relations and communications since 2014, was sentenced to 25 years and put behind bars for allegedly revealing state secrets. The prosecution claimed Berberoglu leaked footage to Can Dundar, then-chief editor of Cumhuriyet newspaper, of Turkish weapon deliveries to Syrian armed groups. Parliamentary immunity was lifted in the spring of 2016 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had forced a constitutional amendment, which the CHP supported. The objective of the amendment was to strip the immunities of pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputies. Since November 2016, the HDP's co-chair and 12 deputies have been jailed. Kilicdaroglu has been severely criticized for his cooperation with the ruling party on that decision.

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