World Bulletin / News Desk
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has told business group the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (TÜSİAD) to mind its own business, responding to questions from the organization regarding a munitions depot explosion in Afyon that killed 25 soldiers and the deaths of 34 civilians in an airstrike in Şırnak last year.
TÜSİAD President Ümit Boyner in remarks made late last week said, “The citizens want to understand what happened in Uludere [the Şırnak district where 34 locals were killed in an airstrike, with the military later announcing they were mistaken for terrorists] and the background to the blast in Afyon,” referring to a military arsenal explosion in that city last week that claimed the lives of 25 soldiers. “People want to know why these happened and who is responsible,” she said.
Speaking to journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he visited as part of an official trip to three countries last week, Erdoğan said: “They are saying things like ‘It is our right to know.' Whose right is what? How extensive is that right? Ümit Boynar can't measure that. She should mind her own business.”
Opponents have been criticizing the prime minister for a long time, saying he has become increasingly intolerant of criticism or opposing views, frequently scolding editors publicly for publications that go against the government's ideas.
TÜSİAD and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government have had a troubled relationship since the AK Party came to power nearly a decade ago. TÜSİAD has been criticized for a pro-military stance in the past, particularly the Feb. 28 period, and is seen by some as an elite club representing the interests of the country's secular establishment.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç last week accused TÜSİAD of being a member of the “gang of five,” a phrase used to refer to the workers' unions Turkish Confederation of Labor Unions (Türk-İş), the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB), Turkish Confederation of Employers' Unions (TİSK) and the Turkish Tradesmen and Artisans' Confederation (TESK), who displayed a pro-military stance during the period initiated by the Feb. 28, 1997 unarmed military intervention, which caused the resignation of the government in power in summer of the same year. “They [TÜBİTAK] were part of the gang of five to overthrow the government,” Arınç said.
Boyner responded to Arınç's accusation, saying: “TÜSİAD has been working to increase Turkey's democratic standards for the past 41 years. It has never been part of the initiative Mr. Arınç defines as ‘the gang of five'.”
Most recently, the government and TÜSİAD clashed over a government proposal to change the duration of the country's compulsory education. TÜSİAD vehemently opposed the change, along with various other groups, mostly women's rights groups.
The government accused TÜSİAD of acting like an opposition party. AK Party Deputy Chairman Ömer Çelik even remarked at the time: “If that's how it is going to be, they should establish a party and confront us as such. If they talk in the style of a political party, that will be the response they'll get. They shouldn't see this as a form of pressure or the imposition of a stance,” in response to a statement from TÜSİAD asserting that it is a basic right of a civil society organization to criticize an impending bill.
The education bill has since been enacted into law.