Turkey Apologizes For Original Police Crackdown

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 4 2013 10:28 AM

The Turkish Government Says It's Sorry. Sort Of.

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Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Ankara on June 4, 2013.

Photo by Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images

Before leaving the country on Monday for a trip to North Africa, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's dismissed the tens of thousands of demonstrators who have taken to city streets to protest his government, saying they were being led by secular extremists who were walking "arm-in-arm with terrorism." The rest, he said, were simply "looters" taking advantage of the situation. As you'd expect, that did little to mollify the protesters, who were back on the streets in full force on Tuesday.

In what is sure to be a failed attempt to make peace with the growing crowds, Erdoğan's deputy prime minister offered a half apology on Tuesday, saying the government was sorry for the original violent crackdown on a peaceful sit-in at a small city park that was set to be razed—but making it clear the government's position had not changed concerning the massive and wide-spread protests that have raged since. "The excessive violence that was used in the first instance against those who were behaving with respect for the environment is wrong and unfair. I apologize to those citizens," Bulent Arinc told a news conference (via Reuters). ""But I don't think we owe an apology to those who have caused damage in the streets and tried to prevent people's freedom."

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Several thousand people have been injured in the clashes between protesters and police since the demonstrations began on Friday. Fortunately, there have so far been only two fatalities: the first occurred Sunday when a taxi hit a demonstrator in Istanbul, and the second came late Monday when a 22-year-old member of the main opposition youth wing was killed after being hit in the head at a rally in the southern town of Antakya.

Arinc suggested that he'll meet with several of organizers from the original, peaceful protest. But given the size and scope of the demonstrations that have followed, that effort appears unlikely to settle things once and for all.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.