Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Thursday in the eastern city of Kahramanmaras to a large crowd gathered for a collective opening ceremony of services provided by the government.
The president thanked the people of Kahramanmaras for their “resistance against the occupying force on 15 July [referring to last year’s coup attempt]”.
Erdogan then said, “We resisted against countries like England and France which tried to occupy our country in the past using just our hands and fists. This time, on 15 July, we fought against FETO [referring to the Gulenist movement] who are the pawns and slaves of the very same countries. 248 of my citizens ran to martyrdom shouting “Allah, Allah. What could be more beautiful than being the President of such a nation?”
Erdogan, who kicked off the referendum process after signing the constitutional reform package that will afford him executive powers, called on the people to say ‘yes’ in the upcoming vote set for 16 April.
Towards the end of Erdogan’s speech, cries calling for capital punishment were heard from the crowd, to which the president responded, “The first thing is to sort out the yes vote on 16 April. Then I believe this topic [the execution of those arrested for taking part in the coup attempt] will be brought up. If the parliament passes the legislation, I will approve it straight away. Because this is my debt to our martyrs. I don’t care what the EU will say, or what Hans or George will say,” Erdogan boomed, ironically referring to Germany and England.
Erdogan has been accused of stoking anti-Western sentiment following the coup attempt, with recent polls suggesting 70% of AKP and 80% of MHP supporters view the EU and US as enemy states. Erdogan and the AKP have been critical of western governments for their delayed support following the 15 July coup attempt.
Amnesty International had previously said that it gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey were being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres in the country. The organisation had called for independent monitors to be given immediate access to detainees in all facilities in the wake of the coup attempt. More than 10,000 people have been detained since the failed coup.