Turkey–Worth reading

June 13, 2013

In Blog

Turkish voices back Erdogan against protests

In Turkey tens of thousands of people have taken an active part in protests, voicing their anger at what they see as the increasingly authoritarian government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But he won a landslide at the last election and still has high levels of support across the country.

This weekend there are expected to be big rallies backing the prime minister.

Here, some of his supporters give their views on the current crisis.

Caner Ozdemir, 30, software developer, Istanbul

Caner Ozdemir
Caner Ozdemir says he will continue to support Erdogan and wants him to run for the presidency

I live in Istanbul and I don’t support the protests. I am one of the 50% that is patiently waiting at home.

I was born in America and moved to Turkey three years ago. If it wasn’t for Erdogan I would never have wanted to come to this country.

The Turkish economy has improved dramatically in 10 years. When I visited here in the 90s the money was a joke because of hyper-inflation – a burger cost millions of Turkish lira.

We had a series of weak governments that were toppled under military coups, especially if they showed signs of being too Islamic.

This is the first prime minister and government that broke the cycle.

The protesters seem to be frightened of what the government might do rather than what it actually has done.

They say Erdogan is getting too involved in people’s lives. They can’t produce specific examples of this, other than saying he told people to have three kids. But this was just advice, it’s not like there is law about this.

What they really want is for the prime minister to resign – but who do they want in his place? They don’t want someone from his party. They don’t really want someone from the opposition parties either.

Why don’t the protesters go and form new party and run against the governing party?

I will continue to support Erdogan and want him to run for the presidency. This is a leader you only get once in a century.

Zeynep Goktas, 27, academic, Ankara

Zeynep Goktas
Zeynep says protesters have picked on her because she wears a headscarf

The protesters are failing democracy not advancing it. They are condemning anyone who disagrees with them and actively brand pro-Erdogan voters ignorant and bigoted.

They protest for the whole night, keeping people up and making them agitated.

They have damaged streets and insulted the police – provoking them into using tear gas. The result is that members of the public who are not part of the protest get caught up in the use of tear gas.

Because I wear a headscarf protesters have picked me out, assuming I vote for the governing AK Party, and harassed me.

One night last week I was driving with two of my sisters who also wear headscarves. We met protesters on a road who had closed two of the lanes. They picked on our car and about 30 people started rocking it back and forth.

The protest against Erdogan is unfair but it does not really matter now. More than 50% of the voting population chose him and his party at the last election.

A significant number of people were not convinced that Erdogan would be the best choice at the next election. But I think protesters have pushed those people into supporting his party.

I am a member of Greenpeace and would have supported a protest that was about protecting trees – but this has become something else.

On what planet is destroying cities and attacking innocent human beings the decent reaction to anything?

Mustafa Kanban, 28, financial consultant, Istanbul

I supported the protests in the beginning because I love that green area and I didn’t want it to be replaced by a building mall.

Mustafa Kanban

It was a peaceful protest, people were reading books. And then the police attacked them with excessive force. That’s when more people joined the protest. I was among them.

But then we got a concession – the park construction was put on hold. The Deputy PM Bulent Arinc met representatives of the crowd and asked them what they wanted. He also apologised to the innocent people who were targeted by police.

At this point I thought we had to stop the protests because our initial demand was met. A final decision on the park was going to come in due course.

I went home, but the protests continued and are still ongoing. They object to having their freedom limited, to restrictions on alcohol which they interpret as an attempt by an Islamic party to impose its religious ways.

I actually agree on the alcohol policy, there are similar policies in European countries.

They are asking for the government to resign, but this is not the way it should happen.

I voted for this government and I think they’ve been successful in many areas. Our economy is stronger than before and we have finally paid off our IMF loans.

The government ended the military dominance – the days of army coups are in the past.

And we are on our way, perhaps, to become members of the EU.

Ayse, Istanbul

The protests have been disruptive. I live on the Asian side of Istanbul and have not been able to go out in the centre for two weeks.

If the only thing protesters want is for Erdogan to quit, then I say they should challenge him at the next election.

I think the lack of a strong opposition leader lies behind the protesters’ anger – even if they say it’s about Erdogan’s authoritarianism.

The protesters have no-one to represent them in the parliament. The two main opposition groups are nationalist rather than leftist.

I voted for Erdogan twice, and I am quite happy with the current economic and democratic situation in Turkey.

I am from an ethnic minority community in Turkey and I have never felt as free as I do today.

It would not have been easy to declare that I was not Turkish 15 years ago, now I am very free to say so. Erdogan’s government has changed the country.

It is the same for gay people. Gay pride parades are now free in Turkey – which would have been beyond the imagination 10 years ago.

I know that 50% of young people in Spain are unemployed, I know about the situation in Greece and even in the UK. I think economically we are doing better than countries in the EU.

Erdogan is also the only one who could have dared bring the PKK Kurdish rebels to a ceasefire agreement.

I will vote for the ruling AK Party again.

Interviews by Krassimira Twigg and Nathan Williams