Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan returned home on Friday to a tumultuous welcome. An estimated crowd of three thousand gathered in the early morning at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport.
Chants of, “Do not bend. Turkey is with you,” filled the air. The PM’s message was unequivocal. End the protests now he said on his return from a trip to North Africa. The protesters had, he said looted shops and damaged businesses.
“My dear brothers and sisters, just as we respect democracy, the elections, our national will, so we expect that same respect for us, “ he added to cheers from the crowd.
It was the first major show of support for the prime minister following a week of protests. Three people have died and over four thousand have been injured in the violent unrest sparked by an environmental campaign to stop a planned development in Gezzi Park.
In Ankara and in Istanbul there was no sign of the demonstrations abating. As his plane touched down thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in the Turkish capital.
It was the seventh night of a show of defiance against the perceived authoritarianism of the prime minister and his Islamist -rooted AK Party.
Commentators believe the challenge for the man who remains Turkey’s most popular politician is to calm the unrest but without losing face.