As tensions continued to build in Turkey over the government's heavy-handed police crackdown during almost two weeks of mass protests, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to the country, defiant and angry, to decry the demonstrations as "bordering on illegality" and called for an immediate end to the movement that has garnered international support.
“These protests that are bordering on illegality must come to an end as of now,” Erdogan said to a large crowd of supporters outside a terminal at Istanbul’s airport early Friday.
Erdogan also blamed the escalation of the widespread public protests on "terror groups" which he lumped in with leftist parties and members of his political opposition.
But, as the Guardian reports Thursday, numerous political analysts focusing on Turkey say the leader continues to "misinterpret the reasons behind the protests" that have now spread far beyond Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul to Ankara, the nation's capital, and other cities.
Cengis Aktar, a professor of political science at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, told the Guardian:
[Erdogan] believes there is a plot to overthrow him with the complicity of external and international forces. Erdogan has returned from abroad as angry dad. This is bad. It means he is preparing for confrontation.
And Bahar Leventoglu, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Economics at Duke and a native of Turkey stated:
A lot of people now see Erdoğan’s policies as a ‘cultural war’ against their lifestyles, and see the government’s so-called ‘Taksim project’ as an extension of this cultural war. [...]
Erdogan also has no tolerance for criticism. He believes that he knows what is good and what is bad for citizens of Turkey, and so we have to obey him as if we are teenagers being disciplined by dad. I’m sure he was taken by surprise by the protests against the government, as Turkey does not have a long history of this. But times are changing, and Erdogan is behind the times in this one.
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Meanwhile, as Erdogan spoke, supporters waved Turkish flags, chanting "We will die for you, Erdogan" and "Let's go crush them all."
Erdogan called on his ruling party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), and their supporters to refrain from the "lawless protests" of his opponents.
Erdogan once again promised go forward with plans to tear down Istanbul's last green space to construct a shopping mall—the decision which sparked the protests last Tuesday, May 28.
"We said we are sorry for the tear gas used," Erdogan has said of the clouds of tear gas that have enveloped Istanbul, Ankara, and other Turkish cities throughout the week along with the excessive presence of riot police that has lead to the death of at least two citizens and the injuries of more than 4,300, 47 of them seriously.
"We are angry. He doesn't listen," said 25-year-old biologist Senay Durmus in Taksim Square.
"This started with some trees. But I think it's about freedom," added Ali Ihsan Canimoglu, 32, goggles wrapped around his wrist to protect his eyes in case of a tear gas attack.