Hundreds gather at airport to welcome Turkish PM and show him support
Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan shout slogans as they wait for his return at Istanbul Ataturk airport June 6. REUTERS photoHundreds of supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) gathered at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport late June 6 to give a solemn welcome to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has faced an unusual wave of protests since last week.
The AKP's deputy head had called on supporters not to welcome Erdoğan in order to avoid a potential clash with a group of protesters. "Our prime minister does not need such a show of strength," he had told reporters a day earlier. However a lot of protesters still showed up at the airport, despite the late hour, holding Turkish flags and chanting slogans of support for Erdoğan.
Erdoğan, who was ending his four-day North Africa visits in Tunisia, gradually became the main target of demonstrators across the country as he refused to back down from plan to convert the small patch of green in the center of Istanbul into a leisure complex inside what will stand as the reproduction of the old Ottoman Artillery Barracks.
While Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and President Abdullah Gül tried to appease the protesters' anger against brutal police crackdowns, Erdoğan's statements stigmatizing demonstrators as “marauders” and denouncing agitators as linked with terrorist groups had caused strong criticism.