Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused "the famous Hungarian Jew" George Soros of backing anti-government protests that rocked his country in 2013, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.
The Gezi Park protests - Turkey's biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades - erupted in the summer of 2013 over government plans to raze the green space and build a shopping mall.
In his comments, Erdogan referred to the Jewish Hungarian-American as the “famous Hungarian Jew Soros” and said he had received assistance from a “local collaborator,” Osman Kavala.
Kavala, a wealthy businessman and the head of Kavala Companies, was arrested in October 2017 and jailed for a year for the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey” and “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”
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Erdogan's attacks join a slew of similar smear campaigns. Populist and far-right groups from Hungary to Italy and the United States have made Soros the target of hostile media campaigns, and on Tuesday an explosive device was found in a mailbox at the billionaire’s New York home.
The Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor often features as the main character in conspiracy theories that depict him as a gray eminence pulling the strings of anything from the financial industry to immigration or other progressive causes.
Critics have pointed out how much these hoaxes resemble anti-Semiticconspiracy theories that view the Jews as controlling the world.
In 2014, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay denied reports that he blamed "world powers and the Jewish Diaspora" for Istanbul's Gezi Park protests.
According to the reports, Atalay had said that "world powers and the Jewish Diaspora prompted" the popular unrest and "actively encouraged it." He was also cited as saying that the international media played a large part in the "conspiracy as well."
On May 31, 2013, police forcefully evicted environmentalists from Gezi Park who had staged a peaceful sit-in for several days to try to stop government plans to erect a shopping centre and luxury flats in one of central Istanbul's few remaining parks.
Angered by the use of violence, tens of thousands of people from a variety of political backgrounds descended on Gezi and occupied Taksim Square for two weeks before authorities finally cleared the space.
Many at Gezi complained of as authoritarianism as Erdogan, a religious conservative who dominates the Turkish political scene, marked a decade in office.