Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Erdogan warns protesters ‘will pay’ – Demonstrators hold fast despite warning

A beaten and shocked demonstrator is helped by other protesters

A beaten and shocked demonstrator is helped by other protesters

ISTANBUL: Turkish protesters refused to back down yesterday after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned they would “pay a price” for their unrelenting demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government’s decade-long rule. As riot police doused of thousands of protesters in the capital Ankara with tear gas and jets of water for a second straight night, Erdogan fired up supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with combative rhetoric in rallies across the country. “Those who do not respect this nation’s party in power will pay a price,” he told thousands of cheering loyalists in Ankara, just a few kilometres from the clashes in downtown Kizilay Square, the latest violence in a second week of mass civil unrest. “We remained patient, we are still patient but there’s a limit to our patience,” Erdogan said.

His fans relished the show of strength, frequently interrupting his remarks with bursts of applause and chanting: “Turkey is proud of you.” Tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators stepped up their protests over the weekend, pouring into cities across the country including Istanbul, Ankara and the western city of Izmir. Istanbul’s Taksim Square, the symbolic heart of the protest movement, attracted some of the largest crowds yet, with people dancing and chanting “Erdogan, resign!” into the early hours in a festive atmosphere. The unrest first erupted on May 31 with a tough police crackdown on a campaign to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park, which borders Taksim Square, from demolition.

The trouble spiralled into nationwide displays of anger against Erdogan and his party, seen as increasingly authoritarian. Nearly 5,000 demonstrators, scores of whom are young and middle-class, have been injured and three people have died in the trouble, tarnishing Turkey’s image as a model of Islamic democracy. Taksim, which has seen no police presence for over a week, was much quieter yesterday as demonstrators resumed their normal routines, though many vowed they would return. “We are going to school now, but we will come back later,” said 17-year-old Etem Yakin as she crossed the square, where a clean-up operation was in full swing. She said the premier was pouring oil on the flames with his confrontational stance. “If he keeps talking like this, we will keep up like this too.” Erdogan was to meet with government ministers in Ankara later yesterday, with the crisis expected to top the agenda. “I honestly don’t know where this is going,” said Akif Burak Atlar, secretary of Taksim Solidarity, a group representing the original Gezi Park campaigners. “It was his speeches and the police brutality that led the protests this far in the first place. He needs to take a step back.” “We want life on the square to return to normal,” said Eyup Muhcu, head of the Chamber of Architects and part of the Taksim Solidarity Platform. “We are ready for dialogue...but the prime minister’s remarks indicate he is not open to dialogue.” Abdulkadir Selvi, a political commentator close to the government, wrote in Yeni Safak newspaper that Erdogan would stick to a tough line. “To summarise the new roadmap in short, Erdogan chose to fight. He will not reach an agreement with those who launched this movement against him or take a backward step,” Selvi wrote.

He added a note of moderation. “He will distinguish between those who have just demands, voicing their criticism without violence ... from those who use violent means to try and overthrow him.” Opponents accuse Erdogan, in power since 2002, of repressing critics - including journalists, minority Kurds and the military - and of pushing conservative Islamic values on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation. But the 59-year-old is also considered the most influential leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, and remains the country’s most popular politician. His AKP has won three elections in a row and took nearly half the vote in the 2011 elections, having presided over strong economic growth. On his whistle-stop tour of three cities Sunday, the premier urged loyalists to respond to the demonstrators by voting for the AKP in local polls next year. “I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box,” he said. — Agencies

Pin It
This article was published on 10/06/2013