“Are the people only those at Gezi Park? Aren’t those who came to meet us at Istanbul airport people too? Those who are gathered now in Ankara; aren’t they people, too?” Erdoğan asked calling on the protesters to face off in local elections next year. “Instead of [occupying] Gezi Park or Kuğulu Park [in Ankara], there are seven months [until the elections]. Be patient and let’s face off at the ballot box.”
Erdoğan hardened his stance as his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is fighting back against demonstrations over the demolition of Gezi Park that turned into a movement to demand more individual freedoms from the government.
Erdoğan also continued to claim that protesters were engaged in vandalism. “Rights and freedoms are not achieved with violence but within the law,” he said.
The Turkish prime minister said freedoms had been widened under the AKP government as under no party before. “Those [protesters] fear freedom of thought. Why? Because they have no thought. We don’t fear it. In all of the republic’s history in terms of freedoms of thought and belief no other government has brought what our government has,” he said, adding that he would not allow another coup to take place. “Everybody should know that today is not May 27, 1960. Today is not September 12, 1980. It is not February 28, 1997,” he said, listing the dates of military interventions that had led to the fall of the government.
Interest lobby ‘to pay a heavy price’
Erdoğan has slammed once again the interest lobby, holding it as one of the parties responsible for the current demonstrations. “The interest lobby has abused for years the honest penny of my people. We have stayed patient for a long time. One bank, or two or three, whoever is forming this lobby. Those who have started this fight against us, you will pay the price heavily.
Erdoğan also did not back down from his negative portrait of protesters, saying they had entered a mosque with beer bottles in their hands and attacked women wearing veils, as had been reported especially on social media over the last week.
“They were upset when I used the term ‘marauder’ [çapulcu in Turkish]. If they are so upset they should look in the dictionary and see who is called a marauder. If they look at it, they will see how accurate the term the prime minister has used is,” he said.
Thousands gathered at the Ankara airport hours before Erdoğan’s return to the Turkish capital from a long series of visits in North Africa and inside Turkey. Erdoğan had also held a similar rally at the Istanbul airport in the early hours of June 7 at his arrival at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, addressing another massive and excited crowd. Erdoğan had said a week ago, before his foreign trip, that they were 50 percent of the population he was struggling to “retain home,” defying the protesters in Gezi Park.