UPDATED: Massive anti-government protests spreading across Turkey, Amnesty International have criticized the police response.
In 2013, protesters in Ankara’s Kilizay Square hurling rocks at riot police in the latest violent clash.
The demonstrators are angry at the government’s use of tear gas and water cannon by security forces against what had been largely peaceful protests against Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The demonstrator Neslihan Ozgunes claimed “There has been unprecedented violence against protesters and social protest”.
Over 3,000 have been injured and one killed in the past two days alone. Most of the injuries occurred in Istanbul, where the protests began before spreading to other locations, including Ankara, Izmir, Adana.
Several international groups including Amnesty International have criticized the police response as excessive. Erdogan dismissed the demonstrations as the work of “extreme elements” and said they would likely spark a backlash against the organizers.
“My smart citizens will recognize this, then they will give them the right lesson,” he said.
The response of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, however, was less harsh, saying “the messages sent in good faith have been received.” He also noted that peaceful protests are a part of democracy.
The protests spreading across Turkey began over plans to raze Gezi Park, the last green space in central Istanbul, and replace it with a replica of 19th-century Ottoman barracks.
What started with a handful of angry residents quickly grew into a larger protest. When riot police responded by using tear gas and pepper spray, protesters hurled bottles, set up barricades, blocked bulldozers and burned trash in the middle of the street.
The protests have since grown into larger complaints against Erdogan, whom protesters call paternalistic and authoritarian. According to the semi-official Anadolou News Agency, the protests have spread to 67 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.
Richard Haass, a Middle East analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, summarized the situation by saying, “What you have is essentially a large group of Turks who feel alienated from this government, in power for 10 years. It’s increasingly a one-party country.
All the politics happen within it. The opposition is weak, divided, feckless. You have a lot of people in Turkey who feel both alienated and intimidated by the government, and this is the way they decided to push back.”
Hugh Pope, a senior Turkey analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the protests were “completely unprecedented” and that Erdogan was caught off guard. Most of the demonstrators, Pope said, are “overwhelmingly ordinary people” who simply want their voices heard.
On protest in Turkey recent updates, in Istanbul, protests are increasing as government ministers attend funerals of Turkish soldiers who were killed by the Kurdish rebel group PKK. Some funerals are taking place in AK Party strongholds.
“Murderer president, murderer AK Party,” mourners shouted at a minister attending the funeral of a soldier killed by the PKK. Similar protests have occurred at the funerals of other soldiers as renewed fighting with the PKK escalates, according to Voice of America report.
Also former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s charges against Turkey for lending support to militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have found a bitter response from Ankara, who said al-Maliki was among the leading actors in the fall of Mosul to jihadists.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also announced it had summoned the Iraqi ambassador in Ankara to protest a report by the Iraqi parliament, which criticized the Turkish consul in Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, for alleged links to ISIL.
Image / AP