News / Middle East

Turkish PM Demands End to Protests

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) and his wife Emine wave to the crowd upon their arrival at the Ataturk Airport of Istanbul early June 7, 2013.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) and his wife Emine wave to the crowd upon their arrival at the Ataturk Airport of Istanbul early June 7, 2013.
Dorian Jones
On his return home Friday from a tour of North Africa, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his tough stance towards the ongoing nationwide protests sparked by last week's violent police crackdown on a demonstration against the destruction of a park in central Istanbul.

Prime Minister Erdogan was greeted early Friday morning at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport by thousands of AKP supporters chanting “we will crush the protests against you” and “Istanbul will defend its leader.”  It was the biggest show of public support for the prime minister since nationwide anti-government protests erupted last week.  Addressing the crowd,  Erdogan promised a firm response.
 
Protesters greet each other near a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 6, 2013.Protesters greet each other near a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 6, 2013.
x
Protesters greet each other near a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 6, 2013.
Protesters greet each other near a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, at Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 6, 2013.
These protests are bordering on illegality and must end immediately, he said.
 
On Thursday, he said he would never allow a minority to impose its views on the majority and reiterated that the demolition of a park in central Istanbul, which sparked the protests, would go forward.
 
Istanbul's Uskudar district has always been an AKP stronghold. Its numerous mosques, some of the city’s most beautiful and important, are a testament to the district's religious sensibilities. The pious prime minister is a popular figure here.
 
Mehmet, a retired telephone engineer, sits chatting with a friend following noon prayers. He has voted for the AKP for the last decade and says he and the country have done well under Erdogan’s leadership. But Mehmet has reservations about the initial police crackdown on environmentalists trying to protect an Istanbul park.
 
The ruling AKP party has made mistakes over the park that is about to be demolished, he said. "They could have asked those who are trying to protect it, 'Come let us talk, what do you want? What's the meaning of this? What are you trying to say?'"

Mehmet adds that there was no reason to harm people with pepper gas. Look where the events started and where the prime minister has taken it, he says.
 
A short walk from the mosque is a string of small businesses - or, as they are called here, esnaflar. Small businessmen are among the prime minister's most loyal supporters. 28-year-old Bulent, who also votes AKP, runs a small luggage shop. He thinks the protests are out of control.  He said the first demonstrations for the trees were good for 2-3 days.

But he added that later, provocateurs came to the scene. He said these provocateurs harmed the demonstration. And what started out as something good turned bad; these attacks on the police and clashes are wrong. There shouldn't be any clashes. Provocateurs from different political groups escalated the situation.

But Bulent adds that the prime minister reacted harshly, and that it would be much better if he could join the people and talk with them.
 
Photo Gallery: Turkey Protests

  • Riot police officers gather in central Ankara, Turkey, June 10, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester gestures during a demonstration in central Ankara, June 9, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters remove bricks from a sidewalk to build a barricade in central Ankara, June 9, 2013.
  • Riot police chase protesters at Kizilay Square in central Ankara, June 9, 2013.
  • Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan listen to his speech at the Ankara airport, June 9, 2013.
  • Supporters of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cheer upon his arrival at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, June 7, 2013.
  • Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters after arriving at Istanbul's Ataturk airport, June 7, 2013.
  • Pedestrians walk among tents set up by protesters in Gezi park, Taksim Square, Istanbul, June 6, 2013.
  • People observe a destroyed urban bus with a destination sign that reads ''This bus goes to Dictator'' at Taksim Square, Istanbul, June 6, 2013.
  • Thousands of protesters gather for another rally at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, June 3, 2013.
  • Protesters carry the Turkish flag and shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration at Gezi Park near Taksim Squar, Istanbul, June 3, 2013.

For some, however, Erdogan can do no wrong - like fish seller Ahmet Kalkan, who shouted that Erdogan is the greatest prime minister since Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Kalkan doesn’t feel the country or the prime minister is under threat and laughs off comparisons of Turkey's unrest to the Arab Spring.
   
"I believe these protests harm peace in society, but it will be all fine soon," he said. It will calm down after 2-3 days. "Turkey won't be like the Arabs, this won't break us - the Turkish people are different. Because in Turkey, race, nation, religion don't matter, because we have our flag."

This government has been in power for 10 years and they’ve done a good job, Kalkan adds. Everybody knows that. Our prime minister doesn't make any mistakes. The only threats come from outside the country.  
 
For now, support for Erdogan appears to be solid in this AKP electoral stronghold. But people here do not appear to share his concerns about the protests being a threat to democracy. Instead, many seem to be more interested in seeing the prime minister strike a more conciliatory tone rather than risk further confrontation.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid