18 April 2014, Friday
Today's Zaman

Turkish protesters refuse to leave İstanbul park despite PM pledge

15 June 2013, Saturday /REUTERS, İSTANBUL
Turkish protesters said on Saturday they would not leave an İstanbul park despite a call from the president for them to withdraw and a pledge from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to hold a vote on plans to redevelop the site.

Hundreds of protesters, camped out for more than two weeks in tents in Gezi Park adjoining İstanbul's central Taksim Square, said they would keep up their campaign after the government failed to meet demands including the release of detained demonstrators.

A police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in the park two weeks ago provoked an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdoğan and his AK Party -- an association of centrists and conservative religious elements -- drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, trade unionists and students.

The unrest, in which police fired teargas and water cannon at stone-throwing protesters night after night in cities including İstanbul and Ankara, left four people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

"The government has ignored clear and rightful demands since the beginning of the resistance. They tried to divide, provoke and damage our legitimacy," the Taksim Solidarity platform, an umbrella group for the protesters, said in a statement.

The group, whose representatives met Erdoğan at his official residence in Ankara on Thursday night, said it had seen no serious signs of progress in holding those responsible for the police crackdown to account, nor in investigating the four deaths, one of them a policeman, during the unrest.

"We continue to guard the park," said Mücella Yapıcı, a spokeswoman for the group, when asked if the protesters were considering withdrawing.

Erdoğan told protesters at Thursday's talks he would put plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks in Gezi Park on hold until a court rules on them, a more moderate stance after two weeks of defiance in which he when he called the protesters as "riff-raff" and said the plans would go ahead regardless.

"The fact that negotiation and dialogue channels are open is a sign of democratic maturity," President Abdullah Gül, who has struck a more conciliatory tone than Erdoğan throughout the protests, said on his Twitter account on Saturday.

"I believe this process will have good results. From now on everybody should return home," he said.

What began as a campaign by environmentalists to save what they say is one of central İstanbul's few green spaces spiralled into the most serious show of defiance against Erdoğan and his AK Party of his decade in power.

The ruling party plans rallies in Ankara later on Saturday and in İstanbul on Sunday. Erdoğan said on Friday they mark the start of campaigning for local elections next year and are not to do with the Gezi Park protest, but they are widely seen as a show of strength in the face of the demonstrations.

Erdoğan has long been the country's most popular politician, his AK Party winning three successive election victories each time with a larger share of the vote, but his critics complain of increasing authoritarianism.


@Eric, that's why you prefer been Eric Turk in USA. We are majority refusing to tolerate anymore RTE's despotic terms and regulations. Regime change in Ankara. Now!
Keep trying to Defy and insult our government Istanbul liberals. Erdogan is our leader not a leader just for Istanbul elite rich. Obviously have a good economy and peace are not good enough for these fools. Hooligans. This shows a minority of Turks want to be martyrs and not be peaceful. Yes,...
Eric Turk in USA.
This is what happens when you have a PM that rules the country by EGO he has put himself in a corner. If he had been a true STATESMAN he would have listened and made a balanced comprimised with the other half of the electorate he promised to embrace instead calling them names He is meant to PM of al...
PM must leave ,not people .... Gezi park will be remember in history as the place where Turkish nation was borne ....In this park every tree and shrubs be hold sacred. It shall be like second Madinah...
It is obvious that these groups are not there to defend environment or democratic values. Actually the opposite, Turkey was never been so democratic as it is today. Now, since all means are exhausted, the prime minister should not say anything anymore but to act in the manner these extremists unders...
This was always the most likely outcome if the actual protesters(rather than regime stooges appearing as their representatives) decided the issue. Now Erdogan must order them beaten from the park or watch his reputation as the iron man of Turkish politics melt. In the heat of the fire his own arroga...
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