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Trafalgar Square hosts rally for No vote

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There was a strong turnout at the British Alevi Federation’s No referendum event in Trafalgar Square

Members of Britain’s Alevi community urge Turkish-speakers everywhere to oppose Turkey’s plans for an executive presidency system

Britain’s Alevi community rallied for a ‘No’ vote in Trafalgar Square on Sunday as it urged Turkish speaking people to opt against the government’s executive presidency plans.

Thousands of people turned out for the event in the iconic central London venue, calling for a No vote in aid of a “secular, free and democratic republic”. They carried placards with slogans such as “No to sharia and wars” and urged opposition to “racist, reactionary and bigotry” policies.

Among the speakers at the rally was İsrafil Erbil, British Alevi Federation director

Labour MP David Lammy was among the speakers at the rally, which also included Alevi elders, British and trade unionists and directors from the British Alevi Federation (BAF).

“Proud to join Turkish Speaking friends from across the UK in Trafalgar Square today urging a No vote in Erdogan Referendum,” Mr Lammy tweeted after Sunday’s event, adding: “No to Oppression.”

The Tottenham MP has been outspoken in recent weeks on Turkey’s executive presidency proposals, describing the country as “a democracy in name only” at a recent Westminster debate.

‘We do not fear anyone’

BAF director İsrafil Erbil said the Turkish government’s proposed constitutional reform, which contains 18 articles, was an attempt to fool everyone and that he knew well the mentality that attempted to collect the powers of the judiciary and parliament in one place.

“In accordance with our historical mission, by remaining committed to that historical mission, we are doing today what an Alevi, a Bektashi, a Qizilbash would have done in the past,” he said.

“We do not fear anyone,”

Also speaking at the event was Mustafa Yalçıner, the journalist and writer, who said there was an attempt to introduce a sultanate and a hereditary system in the country.

Everywhere a ballot box exists there must be an effort to canvas and cast a No vote, Mr Yalçıner told the crowd in a speech.

Sweeping reforms planned

Registered Turkish citizens in the UK will be able to vote in the referendum between Thursday 6 April and Sunday 9 April at the Novotel London West hotel and exhibition centre near Hammersmith.

Voters in Turkey will go to the polls the following Sunday, 16 April, a week after expatriate voters, to decide whether to grant sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

There was a strong turnout at the British Alevi Federation’s No referendum event in Trafalgar Square

The Turkish government says the proposals are needed to streamline the decision-making process, but critics say they concentrate too much power in the hands of one man – Mr Erdoğan.

There are around three million Turkish expatriates registered to vote worldwide.