Recording shows Erdoğan refused to ease tensions during Gezi Park protests

Recording shows Erdoğan refused to ease tensions during Gezi Park protests

(ILLUSTRATION: TODAY'S ZAMAN)

March 14, 2014, Friday/ 17:52:00

Leaked audio recordings uploaded onto YouTube by an anonymous user allegedly of a phone conversation between former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and businessman Cemal Kalyoncu during the Gezi Park protests last summer reveal that the minister had asked Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to allow demonstrators to enter Gezi Park to make a press statement in exchange for ending the protests, a proposal which Erdoğan refused.

The Gezi Park protests, which began as a sit-in demonstration, quickly spread to the whole country and evolved into anti-government protests. The conversation, which was apparently wiretapped on June 1 while the protests were at their peak, reveals that Güler, in an attempt to ease tensions which were extremely high during that period, had pleaded with Prime Minister Erdoğan to accept protesters' offer to make a press statement in the park, which had been closed off by the government after the protests heated.

The protesters had apparently asked Güler, through the meditation of some deputies, for permission to enter Gezi Park to make a press statement, promising to end the protests if they were allowed to do so. The alleged conversation between Güler and Kalyoncu suggests that Erdoğan feared the protesters would not leave the park once they were let in and denied permission.

The voice allegedly of Güler also cursed the protesters, saying the government would throw the protesters out of Gezi Park by force if the prime minister's fears came true.

Today's Zaman could not verify the authenticity of the recording but if the controversial recording is genuine, it reveals Prime Minister Erdoğan refused to ease tensions during the Gezi Park protests which subsequently escalated and led to violent clashes between the police and protesters.

The 2013 protests in Turkey began on May 28 initially to oppose the urban development plan for İstanbul's Taksim Gezi Park. The protests were sparked by outrage as the protesters conducting a sit-in in the park were violently forced out by riot police. Subsequently, supporting protests and clashes took place across Turkey protesting plenty of other concerns.

Nearly a month ago, video footage released of the Gezi Park protests was found to have refuted an alleged attack on a headscarved woman in Kabataş on June 1, 2013 during the protests. The incident was frequently repeated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an attempt to portray the protests as being hooligan in nature.

In another attempt to stigmatize the Gezi protestors, Erdoğan had also accused them of drinking alcohol in a mosque. The mosque story was also later found to be untrue, damaging Erdoğan's credibility. In leaked video footage, the demonstrators who sought refuge in a mosque appeared to have sustained injuries and are wounded. The imam of the mosque apparently opened the doors of the mosque to those running away from the police seeking refuge.

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