Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday cautioned to crack down on the month-long protests against his appointment of a new pastor at a top Istanbul university, calling rallying students “members of terrorist groups.”Just as we have sent terrorists to their graves … we will continue to do the same everywhere else,” Erdogan said, indicating to military operations upon pro-Kurdish insurgents in the country’s south-east.
“Never again will this country go through [another] Gezi incident,” Erdogan charged, drawing a parallel to the 2013 mass protests against his plans for a redevelopment project in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
Then-prime minister Erdogan’s government clamped down hard on Gezi protesters across the country while several were killed during clashes. Erdogan’s remarks follow mass arrests and clashes between police and protesters in Istanbul and Ankara on Tuesday when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. Istanbul’s Governor’s Office said 29 people were still being detained while 65 had been released after Tuesday’s protests.
Echoing the president’s harsh rhetoric, Erdogan’s ultra-nationalist ally in Parliament, Devlet Bahceli, called to “crush the heads” of protesters whom he called as “poisonous snakes supported by [foreign] agents,” on Twitter.
Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), further called the protesters “barbarians” and “vandals.” Students and faculty decline Erdogan’s appointment of Melih Bulu, who is close to the ruling party, as rector of Istanbul’s Bogazici University, and demand his resignation. Bulu said he would not resign and that the protests would die down in six months. Erdogan accused that the protestors tried to “occupy” the rector’s room.
The demonstrations grew this week after two students were detained for artwork depicting Islam’s holiest site in Mecca with LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) flags. Erdogan said the LGBTI movement has no place in Turkey’s “national and moral” future.
Meanwhile, at least four people were arrested earlier on Wednesday over “incitement” in social media posts, lawyer Ali Gul said on Twitter. Gul said two of the suspects were later released, adding police tracked them via Twitter and the Clubhouse audio-only app.