Turkish PM accuses CHP of abusing student protests

Turkish PM accuses CHP of abusing student protests

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish PM accuses CHP of abusing student protests

Thousand of students marhced at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) yesterday as ODTÜ rector Ahmet Acar met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (inset photo) and President Abdullah Gül. The banner carried by the students during the march read ‘ODTÜ is Standing, Resisting [the] AKP.’ DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan yesterday maintained his harsh language over last week’s student protests during his visit to the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) just hours before he met with ODTÜ rector Ahmet Acar. He attempted to legitimize the police violence at the ODTÜ campus by suggesting that it was students who had provoked the police in the first place to use disproportionate force. At the same time as Erdoğan’s meeting with the rector, students in several cities staged demonstrations to protest rectors who sided with Erdoğan over student protests.

While reiterating his resentment over academics’ support of the students at ODTÜ, Erdoğan blamed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for praising violence and provoking student protests. “God forbid, if another political party puts its own masses in front of those students, what will the CHP chair then say, how will he give account of his irresponsibility?” Erdoğan said, while calling on the CHP and the media to avoid exploiting the student protests.

His remarks came ahead of a meeting with ODTÜ’s Acar, who had criticized the police, saying they were responsible for the violence, in the aftermath of Erdoğan’s visit to the ODTÜ campus to witness the launch of Turkey’s first-ever domestically produced satellite, Göktürk-2.

According to media reports Acar requested an appointment from the prime minister after Erdoğan heavily criticized the former and his academic staff for supporting the students. Ahead of the meeting, the ODTÜ rector said the prime minister had been misinformed about the situation.

After meeting with Erdoğan, Acar made no comments to reporters regarding the meeting. Acar also met with President Abdullah Gül yesterday. Like the meeting with Erdoğan, Acar had requested the meeting with Gül.

Erdoğan slammed the attitude of the media following the clashes between police forces and students protesting his visit to the campus. “The media have been patting the backs of those students for the past 10 days,” Erdoğan said. “They are acting like [the students’] lawyers. They bless that protest. And then as if all of that isn’t enough, the leader of the opposition comes forth and praises the violence, inciting it.”

Swiftly responding to Erdoğan, CHP deputy chair Gürsel Tekin condemned the premier. “We know that Mr. Prime Minister lost his composure due to the latest developments, he might have delivered such a speech for this reason,” Tekin told reporters.

Students stage protests in several cities

Meanwhile, following a march on the campus, around 3,000 ODTÜ students flocked into the Devrim (Revolution) Stadium on campus to protest disproportionate use of force by the police against students on Dec. 18.

Inside the stadium, some of the students clasped in each other’s arms and formed with their bodies the words “ODTÜ is afoot.”

Afterward bands and singers, most of whom are known to perform protest music, took the stage at the stadium in a show of support for the students. Students from Ankara University and Hacettepe University also joined the protest.

In a related development, students at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University staged a demonstration protesting the university’s rector, who signed a joint declaration condemning the student protests at ODTÜ. Students gathered in the rector’s office building, and rector Ethem Tolga had not yet been able to exit the building when the Hürriyet Daily News went to print.