Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) anticipates a massive turnout at a rally in Istanbul on Saturday to express solidarity with the Palestinians amidst the ongoing conflict with Israel.
"We will show the whole world that the inhumane blockade of Gaza is unacceptable," declared Omer Celik, AKP spokesperson, in a statement to reporters on Thursday.
The rally is set to take place at the former Istanbul Ataturk Airport, and President Erdogan has extended invitations to other Muslim leaders, including heads of state from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, and the Palestinian Authority.
During the rally, only Turkish and Palestinian flags will be permitted, reflecting a unified stance of support. Additionally, various conservative and Islamist political parties, as well as Islamist non-governmental organizations, have encouraged the public to participate in the demonstration.
However, the timing of the rally coincides with the long-awaited celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.
Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and his associates declared the establishment of the republic on October 29, 1923, during the Turkish War of Independence.
While AKP and government officials maintain that centenary celebrations are not being scaled back, there will be no official reception hosted by Turkish President Erdogan to mark this momentous occasion, according to his official schedule.
The absence of official celebrations has sparked criticism from opposition parties, civil society organizations, academics, and members of the public. Many have voiced their concern, especially given President Erdogan's political Islamic ideology and his stance on Turkey's secular republic.
Kursat Zorlu, spokesperson for the opposition Good Party, emphasized that the centenary should be celebrated with "great enthusiasm and faith," asserting that this is an ideal time to reflect on how the Republic was founded and the legacy it has left behind.
As the Middle East remains embroiled in ongoing violence, several Turkish embassies abroad have canceled receptions, and Turkish Radio and Television, the state broadcaster, has also nixed several centenary-related broadcasts.
Professor Ilber Ortayli, a globally respected Turkish historian, highlighted the significance of the centenary celebration, stating, "We are in the 100th year of our Republic. There is no celebration like this. No republic has celebrated its 100th anniversary like this."