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Istanbul Park Unrest:PM Tayyip Erdogan threatens to escalate tensions / Turkey News


Speaking forcibly brought about the council workers defiant Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has attacked people taking to the streets calling for him to resign as protests show no sign of dissipating.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a speech to thousands of his supporters, telling them that his patience had been tested to the limits and accused the protesters of drinking beer in mosques and insulting women in headscarves.

Addressing crowds of cheering followers at Ankara airport, one of six rallies planned for Sunday, Mr Erdogan had to shout above chants of “We are ready to sacrifice our lives for you Tayyip”.

He said: “With our government, our party and most importantly our nation, it is we who have defended, and are most strongly defending democracy, law and freedoms.

“We were patient, we will be patient, but there is an end to patience.”

At the same time, tens of thousands of anti-government campaigners flooded into an Istanbul square to call for him to step down.

At the rival rally at Gezi Park in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, where the protests started over a week ago, tens of thousands chanted for the prime minister to resign.

The crowd included secularists carrying flags portraying secular state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, leftists, nationalists and other groups opposed to Mr Erdogan, who has won three election victories since 2002.

A large area around the square was closed to traffic, approach roads barricaded with paving stones and debris.

Meanwhile, in the Turkish capital Ankara, police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of demonstrators.

At least two people were injured in the clashes in downtown Kizilay square.

What began as a campaign against government plans to build over Gezi Park has spiralled into an unprecedented display of public anger over the perceived authoritarianism of Mr Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party.

Police have fired teargas and water cannon at protesters night after night in Istanbul and Ankara last week, in clashes that have left three dead and close to 5,000 injured.

But Turkey is a heavily divided country. While many in the urban areas like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir harbour secular and increasingly European-style values, many in more rural areas and Turkey’s smaller towns and villages still cling to many values of its past.

Speaking earlier in the southern Mediterranean coastal city of Adana, Mr Erdogan dismissed the protesters and told cheering crowds to “teach them a lesson” at the ballot box next year, when Turkey holds local and presidential elections.

“Those now at Taksim, those who burn and destroy, those at various places across the country, I ask them, in the name of which freedom are you doing this?”

“You should teach them a lesson at the ballot box … You will go from door to door, house to house and work hard.”

Still by far Turkey’s most popular politician, Mr Erdogan has pressed on with government business as usual despite the unrest.

The AKP  has ruled out early elections and senior party officials said they may call their own public meetings in Istanbul and Ankara next week.

What has galvanised the protests around the country are criticisms of  PM Erdogan’s style, which the protesters say is increasingly authoritarian.

Journalists have been imprisoned, opponents have been arrested over alleged coup plots and there have been moves to restrict alcohol sales.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called for an end to violence and for reports of police abuses to be properly investigated.

“It is essential that all violence stops and that all cases of excessive use of force by the police are recognised as such and investigated promptly, and that those responsible are held fully accountable,” Ashton said in a statement.

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