Slate - Tuesday, June 25, 2013
On Sunday, June 16, with Istanbul’s Taksim Square in a fog of tear gas five miles away, thousands of supporters of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gathered on seaside fair grounds to hear their embattled prime minister speak. For nearly three weeks protesters had filled Taksim and the adjacent Gezi Park, chanting "Tayyip, resign." Now police had cleared the square, and it was Erdoğan’s turn to show that not all Turkish citizens wanted him gone.
"Gezi Park and Taksim Square have been returned to the people," Erdoğan shouted, pacing across a large stage. He condemned foreign media, called the protesters terrorists, and reminded the crowd of what he and his party, the AKP, had done for them over the past decade. He addressed his female supporters, many of whom are religiously conservative and cover their heads, warning that the occupiers of Gezi Park were threatening "our sisters in headscarves." This was not a perfunctory aside. For years Turkey had a long-standing partial ban on the headscarf, but under Erdoğan things have changed: Women can now attend university in headscarves, and they are more visible in the workplace and in the streets. The prime minister knows that his religious supporters fear a new regime would reinstate the ban. And so he gives that shoutout to his base, and each headscarf in the crowd is a potent symbol of his bond with them.
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