15 May 2014

Turkey: Erdogan remains defiant over Soma protest

For a man proposing to stand in August for election as president of Turkey, the past 24 hours are a mighty embarrassment for Prime Minister  Tayyip Erdogan.

In most other countries and all real democracies the past 24 hours would have ended a career in politics or public life.

First Mr Erdogan commented that the mining disaster in Soma was normal and just like England 150 years ago – and then he allegedly hit a protester in a supermarket.

The protester’s name we hear is Hatice – a 15 or 16-year-old girl.

The critical moment happened on Wednesday. Surrounded by security staff and uniformed police, the prime minister was being moved through a crowd howling abuse at him.

Read more: anger over mine disaster triggers protests across Turkey

Screaming “Resign! Resign!” as he walked across a road in Soma. You can then hear Mr Erdogan say, clearly enraged: “Come here if you want to boo me!”, to the crowd.

Then, he was bustled into a supermarket, apparently to take refuge as his detail work out quite how to get their man out of all this.

At this point two women eye-witnesses in the supermarket said Hatice shouted at Erdogan: “What is my father’s murderer doing in here?”

Moments after that both women said Mr Erdogan lashed out with his arm, hitting the teenager. Video footage of the moment is distant and hard to make out, but no doubt there are other witnesses in an extremely crowded environment.

Most credible newspaper websites in Turkey and internationally – including ours – are treating this story seriously and not just as something got up by opposition sites on social media.

Furthermore the MP Lutfu Turkkan, from the opposition MHP party, has tweeted that a man in the supermarket, Taner Kuruca was also jostled – and possibly hit – either by Mr Erdogan himself or his minders, in – of all places – the vegetable aisle.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Kuruca feels it was all over before he knew what happened and he is terrified.

Mr Erdogan faces even more criticism after a key advisor kicked a protester who was lying on the ground on the ground surrounded by security heavies.

Read more: Turkey – grief and anger met with contempt and thuggery

As things stand Mr Erdogan’s advisor Yusuf Yerkel has not apologised. He has not been arrested on suspicion of assault. He has not resigned. He has not been sacked.

In fact, incredibly, he still appears to be defending himself – insisting that he attacked a leftie, not a mine worker.

Information on the ground suggests this is wrong. And the implication that assaulting a leftie is OK, needs no further comment.

As things stand the prime minister has not explained his comments in Wednesday’s speech – where he said: “Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world.”

Mr Erdogan has not taken any action against Mr Yerkel. Nor has he explained to his nation what happened in that supermarket.

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