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Turkey's President Raises The Possibility Of Restoring Death Penalty


In Istanbul, there is a parade ground built for rallies as large as a million people. And that was not big enough for the crowd rallying yesterday for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of a failed coup in Turkey. Turkey, of course, is a society with a mix of religious and secular citizens. Journalist Mustafa Akyol says the crowd yesterday was really diverse.

MUSTAFA AKYOL: It was not just Erdogan supporters. It was also three major political parties that joined the rally, especially the main opposition, the CHP, the party that's defended secularism in Turkey for more than a century. There were women with headscarves, women with miniskirts, all kinds of colors. So that was, I think, significant. And it underlined the fact that the coup plot was not just against the current government but against the whole democratic system.

GREENE: OK. Now President Erdogan in Turkey has been criticized by Western leaders for cracking down on human rights, especially after that coup attempt. And Akyol, the journalist we're speaking to, is a frequent critic of the president. But at the moment, he's urging people to appreciate Erdogan's position.

AKYOL: Well, in the whole world, the liberal order is being challenged. And I look at this with concern. Even in the West, you have far-right politicians. And if I'm not wrong, even in the U.S. there are some populist politicians having some illiberal, authoritarian views and getting some popular support. That is happening in Turkey as well. So I would urge all Western opinion leaders - first of all, try to understand the severity of the coup attempt.

GREENE: But I asked Akyol what he would tell human rights advocates who are worried that Erdogan might take advantage of this moment to really clamp down.

AKYOL: I'm not willing to justify any crackdown on human rights, which is probably taking place in some aspects in Turkey today. But before that, we should understand what happened. And we should understand the government's rightful authority to defend itself against a very real threat.

GREENE: Just one voice from Turkey there - it's Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol in Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.