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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid