Turkish PM warns over possible rise of sectarian tensions

Turkish PM warns over possible rise of sectarian tensions

Turkish PM warns over possible rise of sectarian tensions Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the main opposition of trying to foment “sectarian strife” by taking advantage of the Gezi Park protests, speaking at a party rally today in the eastern city of Erzurum. 

“I plead to everyone to show the maximum vigilance against those vile people who try to foment sectarian tension in Turkey. Both the Republican People’s Party [CHP] leader and his fellow countryman deputy are putting in maximum effort to create it,” Erdoğan said, referring to the CHP’s Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün, who he previously accused of provoking the public through messages posted on Twitter.

The CHP’s leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, is also from the same province, which is also known as Dersim, where Alevis constitute the majority of the population. 

“I address all my Alevi citizens. Who was ruling during the [1938] Dersim massacre? It was the CHP. Did the CHP apologize? But Tayyip Erdoğan apologized as a prime minister,” Erdoğan told thousands of supporters. 

Erdoğan also hinted that a party rally would be held in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sivas massacre where 35 people, mostly Alevis, were killed after a mob attacked their hotel on the night of July 1-2, 1993. The judicial case on the killings was dropped last year by the court, which had ruled that the charges against the suspects exceeded the statute of limitations.

Message to nationalist party’s base

During his speech, Erdoğan reiterated his request to his supporters to hang a Turkish flag on their houses as a gesture of showing their backing to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He also sent a message to the base of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP), whose flag displays three crescents. “If you say you will unfurl the three crescents, it belonged to the Ottoman Empire, so we would also be proud of it,” he said. 

The prime minister also asked that the Turkish flag of his supporters should not comprise any other “symbol,” in an implicit reference to the Turkish flags carrying the effigy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, which has often been unfurled at the Gezi Park demonstrations.

Erzurum was the last stop of the AKP rallies launched in response to the Gezi Park protesters. After two mass rallies in Ankara and Istanbul last weekend, the party continued the rallies in Kayseri and Samsun on Friday and Saturday respectively.