Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Mayor Kadir Topbaş attend the Anatolian Lions Businessmen's Association's (ASKON) tree-planting ceremony in Istanbul's Pendik district. AA photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
attended Dec. 14 the tree-planting ceremony of a business association that had vowed to plant 400,000 as a response to the Gezi protests back in June.
Erdoğan praised the Anatolian Lions Businessmen's Association (ASKON) for its initiative to plant trees along highways and residential areas in Istanbul’s Asian suburb of Pendik, emphasizing that those would symbolize the "respect to national will."
“This tree-planting ceremony has a very important meaning. As you know, ASKON made a promise late May and beginning of June. They adopted a very clear attitude regarding the violent demonstrations staged under the excuse of trees. They said: If you really worry about trees, we promise to plant 400,000 against your four trees.’ We are seeing today that they have kept their promise,” Erdoğan said, referring to the protests that were sparked after the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s attempts to cut down trees in Gezi Park.
What was a small-scale local demonstration had gradually spread across the nation following repeated brutal police crackdowns on protesters, becoming the biggest anti-government movement since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2001.
“On the [other] side you have those who committed violence, who sent our citizens into distress, who vandalized the businesses of our shop-owners, who terrorized our beautiful Istanbul and then other cities with their Molotov Cocktails… I find this step particularly to the purpose as the forest that will be formed here will symbolize the concept of respect to national will,” Erdoğan said.
Back in June, protesters expressed their outraged in the face of the possibility of losing one of central Istanbul’s last small patch of green, threatened by the construction of the historic Artillery Barracks, one of Erdoğan’s "crazy projects."
The construction project was suspended by the court pending the appeal since, but the outcry for police violence left an indelible mark.
Erdoğan repeated once again that the government had planted more than 2.8 billion trees in the last 11 years, emphasizing that a national reforesting project initiative was underway since 2008.
Following his speech, Erdoğan symbolically planted a tree with a shovel along with Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Mayor Kadir Topbaş.