Gezi protesters suspicious of Erdogan′s motives | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.06.2013
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Gezi protesters suspicious of Erdogan's motives

The protests in Turkey have now continued for two weeks. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shown a willingness to talk despite violent police suppression, while the population remains hopeful - but apprehensive.

A protester fixes a Turkish flag to a fan in front of a barricade in Istanbul's Taksim Square June 12, 2013. Turkish riot police fought running battles with pockets of protesters overnight, clearing the central Istanbul square that has been the focus of nearly two weeks of protests against Turkey's prime minister. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)

Istanbul Taksim Platz Demonstrant 12.06.2013

The demonstrations around Taksim Square in Istanbul have now been going for two weeks, and they are aimed mainly at the authoritarian government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Hundreds of demonstrators are still occupying the Gezi Park in tents. There were renewed clashes between demonstrators and police on Tuesday (11.06.2013), when officers stormed Taksim Square with tear gas and water cannon in the early hours of the morning - even though Erdogan had signaled a willingness to talk the day before.

On Thursday, Erdogan invited representatives of the opposition movement to a second round of talks in Ankara. But the Turkish population still expected new confrontations with security forces, while Erdogan threatened to break up all protests within 24 hours. The public appearance of Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu also caused unrest when he posted his private cell phone number on the Internet and offered talks with the protestors. He also called on the parents of the demonstrators - mainly young people - to take their children home. Instead many mothers turned up to form a human chain around the tent city to show their solidarity.

Protesters sleep in Gezi park in Istanbul's Taksim square early June 14, 2013. Turkish protesters said on Friday Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had pledged not to push ahead with plans to redevelop an Istanbul park until a court ruled on the project, in what they heralded as a positive sign after two weeks of protest. REUTERS/Osman Orsal (TURKEY - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)

Protesters remains camped out in Istanbul's Gezi Park

Mothers fight for their children

"The government thinks that we're anarchists, or that we're just living out our youth," one 25-year-old demonstrator told DW. He was very happy to see older people come out in support of the opposition.

"The mothers are coming to the park and fighting together for the future of their children," a 16-year-old said.

Political scientist Yasar Adanali said the show of the support from the mothers sent an important signal.

"The mothers are acknowledging their children as individuals. They're showing solidarity," the 32-year-old Ph.D. student said.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to represent the demonstrators as immature, as people without a serious political opinion, he said. "But the mothers have proved that this attitude is wrong. They are a part of society, and they're standing behind their kids," Adanali added.

The political scientist also emphasized that the demonstrators are not criminal gangs working against the Turkish government - they are much more a peaceful movement of a society that wants more freedoms from its government.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the mayors from his ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, June 13, 2013. (AP) /eingest. sc

Erdogan has met demonstrators this week

First successes

Many saw the discussion between Erdogan and the protestors' representatives as an important step in the right direction. The artists and intellectuals were invited to a discussion with Erdogan in Ankara that ended up taking nearly four hours. The participants included the "Taksim Solidarity Platform," one of the most important elements of the protest movement. According to the BBC, the Platform's representative Tayfun Kahraman described the result of the talks with the prime minister as "positive."

Erdogan for his part declared that the planned building project in the Gezi Park would not continue until a court ruling on the matter had been taken. And even if the court should uphold Erdogan's position, the prime minister promised to consider a referendum on the building plans in the park.

"The meeting was proof that the demonstrators' demands were right," said Adanali, while the previous talks with famous people at the start of the week had mainly been a PR exercise, he argued. "It was important that Erdogan met directly with the Taksim Solidarity Platform."

The prime minister's willingness to talk has also led to changes within society. One 16-year-old demonstrator says that people had started to see that they could express their opinions.

"People were scared that they could be locked up for the things they said," he told DW. "Now you can see them expressing themselves much more freely. I think it will be better from now on. Nothing will be like before."

'It's about much more'

In this photo released by the Turkish Prime Minister's Press Office, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, and some of his ministers and advisors meet with with a group of activists in his offices at his Justice and Development Party in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, June 12, 2013. There was no official announcement as to who exactly was be taking part _ and whether the meeting would be able to broker an end to the protests. Activists had doubts about the talks' legitimacy. An actor and a singer _ with unclear connections to the protesters _ had agreed to take part, and some leaders of civil society groups, including Greenpeace, had said they would not participate because of an “environment of violence” in Turkey. (AP Photo/Kayhan Ozer, Turkish Prime Minister's Press Office)

The talks were considered a real step forward

The latest talks between Erdogan and the demonstrators were mainly about the future of the park - one reason why Adanali saw a dark side to Erdogan's behavior.

"It's easier for Erdogan to solve the problem by focusing on the park," he said. "It's much more difficult to take on the responsibility for the police violence and to take measures against it. Because the violence is also an expression from the government."

The young political scientist said Erdogan is trying to draw attention mainly to the park - which will ultimately fail to satisfy the demonstrators. "The way that the government is using violence, pressure, and an authoritarian rule, does raise doubts that it will really change its style of government," he said.

Demonstrator Zeliha Ocak said Erdogan's policies are ambiguous. "People here are educated," the 26-year-old told DW. "They don't believe him anymore. They can see through his lies very quickly. We've been here for 17 days, and only yesterday he accepted a group of real demonstrators to talk." The prime minister, she said, does not represent the nation's young people - or else he would listen to them.

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