Turkish PM vows tougher action against Gezi Park protestors
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gestures as he speaks during a meeting at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party headquarters in Ankara, on May 24, 2013 AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTANPrime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to take tougher action against protestors underlining that they would no longer tolerate massive rallies in Turkey, adopting a rather harsher stance on Gezi Park protestors only a day before his scheduled meeting with representative of environmental activists.
“We will not only terminate these incidents, we will be on these terrorists’ back in the frame of law. No one will get away with what they did,” Erdoğan said in his long parliamentary address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) group yesterday. Erdoğan held consecutive rallies over the weekend in an apparent effort to change the public impression that the mass rallies were only to protect the Gezi Park from being demolished.
Erdoğan explained at length that activists occupying Gezi Parkı in Taksim were just part of an orchestrated plot against the AKP by internal and external lobby groups that joined forces to stop the economic and political rise of Turkey. Some of the activists, however, had sincere approaches toward the environment, according to Erdoğan, who called on these youngsters to separate themselves from the illegal groups and to end their occupation of the Gezi Park.
“I tell these youngsters to leave this place and to end this protest as I believe their sincerity and I kiss their eyes. But I tell those who terrorize and continue these things. This came to an end. There will be no tolerance afterwards. I call on you for restraint,” he stressed.
Erdoğan is set to meet with representatives of the Gezi Park activists on Wednesday. Dismissing comparison between occupy Wall Street and the Gezi Park protests, Erdoğan called on activists to end their occupation of the park. “Our determinacy with regard to Taksim Square and the Gezi Park will continue. I said this. I am sorry, but Gezi Park is a park not a place to occupy.”
We’ll teach them a lesson
Erdoğan said he would show a 20 minute-long video recording on Friday to show vandalism by protestors who had breached the religious feelings of Muslims of this country by entering into an Istanbul mosque with their shoes on and beer bottles. Erdoğan claimed that the muezzin of the mosque could not tell the truth as he was threatened but he would show evidence of the use of alcohol in the mosque. Erdoğan is expected to gather his party’s heads of provincial organizations along with youth and women branches. The friday meeting will be followed by two massive protests in Ankara and in Istanbul in which Erdoğan will find an opportunity to exhibit a powerful showdown against protestors.
“We have never been like those who burned and destroyed,” he said, stressing that there was no need to get worry of his party’s rallies. “Our goal is not to match wits [against protestors] or to scare [them]. Or not to tell them that we are more crowded. Our goal is to let the voice of the silent masses be heard,” he said.
“We are taking to the streets to show that the people are here and defending their popularly elected prime minister and his team. We are coming to take the squares to demonstrate the response of my people who have been watching all of these developments in their houses with gritted teeth,” he underlined. He also called on his electorate not to feel like losers against what he called illegal groups as these would be left behind as well. “There is a very powerful government at work,” he said. “We have never pushed the 50 percent to take the streets. We do not let the people pour into streets.”
See the big game
Erdoğan called on protesters across the country to withdraw from the streets, saying the wave of anti-government demonstrations was part of a deliberate attempt to damage Turkey’s image and economy.
“Violent actions that took place in many cities of Turkey have camouflaged themselves behind the Gezi Park protests,” Erdoğan stated. “I request all activists to see the big picture, understand the plot, and withdraw from the streets.” The ongoing Gezi protests have reached a different dimension over the course of two weeks and the AKP is trying to fully analyze the movement, the prime minister said.
The events that then turned into a “spiral of violence,” however, cannot be seen as a fight for democratic rights, the prime minister added, saying all protests that had witnessed clashes nationwide had been “hiding behind the Gezi movements.”
The prime minister repeated the plans to transfer the trees, rather than cut them down, and accused certain circles of misconstruing the plans to win support for their protests, describing the violent turns as “a mask to cover illegal acts.”
Erdoğan said the protesters, hiding behind the Gezi plans, had majorly damaged Dolmabahçe Street, where his Istanbul office is located. “They would uproot the trees if they could.”
The prime minister also responded to criticism over his tough stance. “What were we supposed to do? Kneel in front of these people and ask them to remove the banners? How would those illegal rags be removed from public buildings?”
“Freedom and intervention in lifestyles are excuses used by the protesters,” Erdoğan said. “The hotels in Taksim are now 80 percent empty, the shopkeepers in Taksim are suffering – except the beer sellers. This is intervening with others’ freedom.”