Turkish AKP Lawmaker 'Germany Applies Double Standards'
Akif Çagatay Kiliç, a member of the Turkish parliament for Prime Minister Erdogan's AKP party, was born and raised in Germany. In a SPIEGEL interview, he criticizes the foreign media's coverage of the protests in Turkey as being skewed and one-sided, and defends Erdogan's response to them.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Kiliç, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the foreign media of making false reports about the protests. What prompted him to make this accusation?
Kiliç: Of course we have seen how the major TV broadcasters -- CNN, the BBC and Al-Jazeera, but also German media - have reported on the situation in Turkey. There, for example, the impression was created that the protests were taking place all over Istanbul, even though only a few districts were affected. A demonstration by supporters of the AKP (Erdogan's Islamic-conservative Justice and Development Party) was identified as an anti-Erdogan demonstration.
SPIEGEL: In your opinion, was this deliberate misinformation?
Kiliç: When a major European newspaper writes that the prime minister no longer knows his own people, that is a malicious accusation. Or when it's reported that the government is throwing people out of their homes because something new is going to be built there -- that is a distorted picture. We don't know what lies behind such statements, but they are not helpful. And why is it always the violence of some police officers that is shown? What about the violence of demonstrators who have broken the law? What bothers us most is the accusatory and negative language of the correspondents.
SPIEGEL: But what about Erdogan's language? He has described the demonstrators as riff-raff and looters.
Kiliç: One also has to depict that correctly: The prime minister has clearly stated that there are also honest and peaceable people among the demonstrators. But it's undeniable that there are many violent offenders among them. I have seen how cobblestones were ripped out of the street in the (Istanbul) district of Beiktas and used to build barricades.
SPIEGEL: Be that as it may, it seems like Erdogan is bad-mouthing all of the demonstrators. Why is he so aggressive?
Kiliç: I don't perceive him as aggressive. You know the language of the prime minister; you know his style of speaking. He talks like an ordinary person: direct and personable. But I'd like to remind you of 2007: There were protests against the AKP government then, too. Some were even calling for the military to stage a coup. Nevertheless, no one prevented these people from demonstrating.
SPIEGEL: Back then, it was Kemalists and nationalists who were demonstrating. But, today, it appears to be a genuine mass movement. Is the prime minister afraid of that?
Kiliç: Those who are demonstrating today were also already and always opposed to the AKP. However, back then, there were fewer calls for violence. I'd like to give you an example: One member of parliament from the opposition claimed on Twitter that the police deliberately killed people. He called Erdogan a fascist dictator. When a parliamentarian says that, what do you think that can lead to?
SPIEGEL: Can the AKP learn something from the protests?
Kiliç: Our party has won seven elections in the last 11 years, including three for parliament. After each election, we have asked ourselves why we didn't get more votes. A party that does something like that will now also look into and concern ourselves with the motives of those who are protesting. We are always learning.
SPIEGEL: Your prime minister's authoritarian conception of democracy is not encouraging. Why does he only rely on the power of the majority rather than trying to find some balance with the minority?
Kiliç: On this point, you are entirely wrong. I have worked together with Erdogan for eight years on an almost daily basis. I know how he discusses things, how long he listens to and weighs other opinions. The party council of the AKP has definitely already decided against ideas that he expressed. Mr. Erdogan is anything but authoritarian; he is always searching for dialogue.
SPIEGEL: The conservative newspaper Zaman was always one of your government's biggest supporters. Why do you think it has now decided to criticize Erdogan's course and rhetoric?
Kiliç: But that is a beautiful example of freedom of the press. Of course it is always claimed that the media in Turkey are suppressed, but in this case you are experiencing the opposite. If the press were genuinely not free, wouldn't the prime minister silence his critics? But that's not what he's doing; he respects criticism.
SPIEGEL: Well, perhaps criticism from the conservative camp. But now the authorities are taking legal action against Halk TV, a channel that is critical of the government and provided 24-hour coverage of the protests in Taksim Square.
Kiliç: That is a matter for the Turkish justice system; I can't meddle in it. But I am under the impression that the channel is not being prosecuted because it reported on the protests, but because it broadcast prohibited cigarette ads.
SPIEGEL: The European Parliament has also criticized the heavy-handed response of police. Can you understand why it would do so?
Kiliç: I find it hypocritical how double standards are applied here (in Germany). Of course, Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was shocked by the images coming out of Turkey. But what about the police violence in Germany? What about Stuttgart 21? The police acted brutally there, too. And what did the European Parliament say about that? For me, the Gezi (Park) protests are like the demonstrations against Stuttgart 21. But the foreign press makes it out to be the equivalent of a national uprising.
Interview conducted by Daniel Steinvorth; translated from the German by Josh Ward.