ANKARA — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused rights activists of double standards Monday over their response to the French “yellow vests” protests after criticizing Ankara’s handling of anti-government demonstrations in Turkey.
“Those who defended human rights during the Gezi protests have become blind, deaf and mute to what’s happening in Paris,” Erdogan said during a televised speech.
He was referring to the 2013 Istanbul anti-government protests, known as the Gezi Park protests, that sparked widespread protests from rights campaigners.
On Saturday he criticized the “disproportionate violence” used by riot police against protesters in Paris. French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn dismissed his comments as “interference.”
Turkish authorities are often criticized by Ankara’s Western allies and human rights organizations for what they say is the brutal repression of large protests.
Following the arrest of tens of thousands of people after the failed July 2016 coup, the European Union and rights activists accused his administration of eroding the rule of law.
“You (activists) mobilized the world during the Gezi events. Why? Because this is Turkey? Come on, explain it (the protests) in the same way now,” Erdogan said.
Police arrested a total of 1,723 people across France during the latest round of “yellow vest” protests this weekend. Of these, 1,220 were ordered held in custody, the interior ministry said on Sunday.
The demonstrations by individuals wearing the luminous safety jackets carried by law in all French cars began with slowing or blocking traffic on roads around the country on November 17 in protest against anti-pollution fuel tax hikes.
But the movement has snowballed into a bigger protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s administration.
Critics say his policies benefit the rich at the expense of people struggling to make ends meet in rural and small-town France.
Paris has seen rioting, with some of the worst clashes in decades between protesters and the police.
After Italy’s far-right leader Matteo Salvini and Erdogan criticized Macron, the French health minister Buzyn denounced “… extremist politicians exploiting this situation,” in comments to LCI television Sunday.
“These people are exploiting the situation to justify their own anti-climate, totalitarian policies,” she said.