Some 59 percent of Turkish citizens do not believe in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's discourse that Gezi Park protestors “burned down mosques” during the nationwide demonstrations in 2013, according to a survey conducted by polling firm Türkiye Raporu (Turkey Report).
The Gezi Park protests, which morphed into a nationwide demonstration against Erdoğan’s authoritarianism in 2013, still haunt the president. During a speech on June 5, Erdoğan accused protestors of “burning down mosques,” prompting several to ask for proof. People asked why Erdoğan did not bring charges against the protestors for all these years if this was really the case.
Turkey Report survey asked citizens if they believed in Erdoğan's discourse during an interview conducted in the first week of June, with 59 percent of citizens saying they disagree with the president, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on June 20. It was only 16 percent of survey participants who said they believed in Erdoğan's latest accusation.
The survey also gave a breakdown analysis of citizens according to which party they favor. Accordingly, 43.5 percent of ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters do not believe in Erdoğan's accusation against Gezi Park protestors, while this percentage stands at 56.4 percent for Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters.
Türkiye Report Director Can Selçuki evaluated the survey results, saying that as the economy worsens, the rulership is increasing its attack on the opposition and critics in an attempt to attract votes.
“As the economy worsens, the rulership is trying to criminalize the opposition through specific issues, especially Gezi [Park protests], in order to bring back home the mass that it lost and not to give any more losses [of votes]. In this way, despite the worsening economic conditions, it is trying to prevent its own voters from supporting opposition parties. But our results show that this strategy does not have a response in the case of Gezi,” Selçuki said.
Experts say that Erdoğan’s renewed outrage at the Gezi protests has to do with elections scheduled for June 2023.
Erdoğan had also previously alleged that Gezi Park protestors “drank alcohol inside the mosque,” but this claim was also refuted by the clerics of the mosque years ago.
Gezi Park protests initially began in Istanbul in May 2013 as a reaction to renovation plans of the ruling AKP, which aimed to construct a replica Ottoman barracks on the city's few remaining green spots. The protests later grew into nationwide protests and spread to other cities.