Erdogan calls on supporters to "teach a lesson" to Gezi Park protesters

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Protesters take cover from water cannon during clashes with police at a demonstration in Ankara on 8 June 2013. (Photo: AFP - Adem Altan)

Published Sunday, June 9, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday urged supporters of his Islamic-rooted party to use next year's local elections to "teach a lesson" to the anti-government demonstrators whose mass protests have rocked the country.

"There are just seven months left until the local elections. I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box," Erdogan told a crowd of cheering loyalists after landing at the airport in the southern city of Adana.

Adana saw protesters doused with tear gas overnight, like other Turkish cities. It is also where a policeman died on Wednesday after injuring himself while running after demonstrators.

"We will not do what a few looters have done. They burn, they destroy," said Erdogan, after police used tear gas on protesters in cities across the country in a 10th night of unrest.

"They are vile enough to insult a prime minister of this country," he said, calling protesters "anarchists" and "terrorists."

Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters on Sunday, as they burned tires and threw fireworks in unrelenting demonstrations against Erdogan.

The new clashes raised pressure on Erdogan's conservative government after he ordered an end to the protests, which have thrown up the fiercest challenge to his decade of rule.

Tens of thousands poured into the streets in Istanbul, cradle of the ongoing demonstrations, as well as in the capital Ankara, the major western city of Izmir and Adana.

"Tayyip, resign!" they yelled, in mostly peaceful protests.

Local media said numerous people were injured in Ankara when police dispersed a crowd of about 10,000, sending them scrambling and tripping over each other with jets of water and gas.

Fresh clashes also erupted in Istanbul's western Gazi neighborhood, a working class district where rioters hurled incendiary devices and taunted police.

The government insisted on Saturday that the protests were "under control", but within hours some of the largest crowds yet packed Istanbul's Taksim Square, where the unrest erupted on May 31 with a police crackdown on a campaign to save the adjacent Gezi Park from demolition.

The trouble spiraled into nationwide protests against Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), seen as increasingly authoritarian. Thousands have been injured and three people have died in the unrest so far, tarnishing Turkey's image as a model of Islamic democracy.

The atmosphere was festive overnight in Taksim, which has seen no police presence since officers pulled out last Saturday, with crowds of local football supporters setting off red flares as the masses danced and shouted deep into the night.

Government ministers and President Abdullah Gul have struck a more conciliatory line than Erdogan since the outbreak of unrest.

In fresh bid to calm the turmoil, the man who ordered the initial police crackdown, the governor of Istanbul Huseyin Avni Mutlu, apologized on Twitter and said he wished he was with the protesters camping out on Taksim Square.

"There seems to be a calm atmosphere on the square this morning. I would have like to be among you," he said, after the night's noise subsided at dawn, leaving revelers dozing on the ground.

"I salute the young people of this country who chose to sleep on the square under the stars instead of in their warm beds."

Deputy Prime Minister Huseyin Celik, speaking after a meeting between the premier and top AKP officials on Saturday, downplayed the rallies.

"The process is under the control of the government, and is becoming normalized and increasingly in line with common sense," he told reporters in Istanbul Saturday.

He dismissed any talk of calling early elections to resolve the crisis. "You don't decide on early elections because people are marching on the streets."

In a bid to calm tensions, Istanbul's mayor Kadir Topbas on Saturday said the park would not be turned into a shopping mall, as some feared, but said the reconstruction of an Ottoman-era military barracks at the site would go ahead.

Resting wearily on a blanket on Taksim Square with friends on Sunday after a night of defiant chanting and dancing, Buse Albay, 25, said she would keep protesting against the premier for "as long as it takes until he goes away".

Packing up his tent nearby, Aykut Kaya, a 23-year-old IT student, added: "It was amazing, so beautiful to see everyone together" in the overnight rally.

Erdogan has faced international condemnation for his handling of the unrest in Turkey, a NATO member and key strategic partner in the region for the United States and other Western allies.

The national doctors' union says the unrest has left two protesters and a policeman dead while almost 4,800 people have been injured across Turkey.

Critics accuse Erdogan, in power since 2002, of forcing conservative Islamic values on Turkey, a mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation, and of pushing big urban development projects at the expense of local residents.

Local and presidential elections are scheduled for 2014 and the AKP said it plans to launch its first campaign rally in Ankara and Istanbul next weekend.

The rallies are likely to draw tens of thousands of Erdogan supporters.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar,)

Comments

PM Erdogan's a frustrated man because he's in deep s***. I suspect, since Kurdish Fighters began leaving their positions in Turkey under a peace plan, Mr.PM started to read the tea leaves and got nervous. when hundreds of thousands of marching feet raised their voice at Taksim Gezi Park, he lost himself and practiced the violence exercised by the state against collective political rights and environmental rights. He tried to silence people with tear gas, water cannon, and arrests, and death. but Taxim Movement has become much bigger than itself. they mobilize people in the streets. they take the initiative and say the time has come to change the tune. they know very well the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

It's rich to see the "secular" supporters of Iran gleefully and hypocritically support these protests when Iran used an iron fist to quell the exact same thing in Iran several years ago.

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