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

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs