ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L), wife Emne Erdoğan (C) and daugther Sümeye Erdoğan (R) are greeted by supporters upon arrival at Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul on June 7, 2013. AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
called for an end to ongoing Gezi Park protests on his return from a four-day trip to North Africa.
"These protests must end immediately," Erdoğan said today in front of thousands of Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters who greeted him at Istanbul’s Atatürk
airport. "No power but Allah can stop Turkey's rise," he said.
Thousands flocked to the airport to greet Erdoğan in a show of solidarity with the country’s most influential politician over the Gezi Park protests that have shaken Turkey in the last 10 days.
"The police are doing their duty. These protests, which have turned into vandalism and utter lawlessness must end immediately," Erdoğan told the crowd.
“May Allah preserve our fraternity and unity. We will have nothing to do with fighting and vandalism...The secret to our success is not tension and polarisation."
Tens of thousands of protesters have held demonstrations that have spread to dozens of cities across Turkey, sparked by the violent police reaction last Friday to what started out as a small protest against a plan to develop Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.
Since then, three people have died - two protesters and a policeman - and thousands have been wounded. One protester is on life support in a hospital in Ankara. Protesters from all walks of life have occupied the square and its park, objecting to what they say is Erdoğan’s increasingly autocratic and arrogant manner - charges he vehemently denies.
“God is Great,” his supporters chanted, and soon moved on to slogans referring specifically to the protesters in Taksim Square. “Let us go, let us crush them,” they shouted. “Istanbul is here, where are the looters?”
Erdoğan had initially referred to the protesters as looters and troublemakers, while also acknowledging that excessive police force might have been used, and promising it would be investigated.
“They say I am the prime minister of only 50 percent. It’s not true. We have served the whole of the 76 million from the east to the west,” he said, referring to his election win in 2011, when he took 50 percent of the vote.
“Together we are Turkey. Together we are brothers. We have never endeavored to break hearts. We are in favor of mending hearts,” he said.
“You acted with dignity and common sense these past 10 days. Now we will directly go to our homes from here. We won’t give up on those. You don’t have pots and pans in your hands do you?” said Erdoğan.
“We have never been for building tension and polarization. But we cannot applaud brutality,” he said.
In his last speech in Tunisia before flying to Istanbul, Erdoğan had said terrorist groups were involved in the protests, saying they had been identified.Erdoğan criticizes interest lobbies, Garani Bank CEO
In a twist, Erdoğan implied that bankers were also part of a conspiracy that was fuelling the protests. He added that the flames of dissent had been fanned by other groups too. “Those who call themselves journalists, artists, politicians, have, in a very irresponsible way, opened the way for hatred, discrimination and provocation,” he said.
Erdoğan blamed the “interest rate lobbies” for the recent losses at the stock exchange, saying these “lobbies think that they could threaten the government by making speculations in the stock exchange” and vowed not to “waste the efforts of the people on interest rate lobbies.”
Erdoğan previously said “domestic extremists” and “foreign powers” were behind the Gezi Park demonstrations, ahead of flying to Morocco on June 3.
Erdoğan also harshly criticized Ergun Özen, the general manager of Turkey’s Garanti Bank, without naming him, for his words in support of the protesters. “If a general manager of a bank voices support for those organizing this vandalism, he will find us standing against him,” said Erdoğan after Özen said this week that he was one of the “marauders.”
Meanwhile, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) officials previously said the prime minister did not need a huge crowd’s welcome and called on his supporters not to come to the airport ahead of his landing. However, the AKP’s local branch heads sent text messages to their members to gather at Atatürk
Airport in order to welcome Erdoğan. The subway remained open until 4 a.m. for those coming to welcome Erdoğan.