Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed protests over the death of Berkin Elvan, a teenager who was hit by a tear gas canister last year amidst anti-government protests, asking, “Are we going to stop what we’re doing to commemorate every death in this country?”
On Friday, Erdoğan, addressing a meeting of his Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) provincial chairmen, commented on the incidents in İstanbul’s Okmeydanı neighborhood, saying he did not understand how the police can have the patience they have with the protesters. He did not mention the death of Uğur Kurt, a bystander who was killed by a stray bullet.
“Are we going to defend those who attack stores with Molotov cocktails in their hands? But this country’s main opposition party is defending them,” he said, targeting the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
He criticized the groups holding a protest in Okmeydanı, saying: “We will not remain silent before those who use Soma [the site of last week’s mining accident] as an excuse to destroy. They say they are going to have a ceremony for Berkin Elvan. Are we going to stop what we’re doing to commemorate every death in this country? He is dead and it’s over.”
The prime minister, who has been accused of purposefully polarizing society to consolidate his supporters ahead of the upcoming presidential election in August, continued his harsh rhetoric against other critics of government.
He said journalists Yılmaz Özdil, Melis Alphan and Yazgülü Aldoğan — who have criticized the government’s handling of the Soma mining disaster — have no conscience. “Can a person who says ‘the [the miners] deserved it’ be considered to have a flicker of humanity?” he asked, referring to an alleged statement made by Özdil, which the journalist has denied saying. He said the families of the victims in Soma should sue the three journalists over their remarks.