Protests ‘no Turkish Spring’, says PM Erdogan


The BBC’s Selin Girit says reports of a protester being killed are “spreading through the streets”

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan says four days of anti-government protests do not constitute a Turkish Spring.

At a news conference before a trip to Morocco, he said the protests were organised by extremists and accused the opposition of provoking “his citizens”.
The protests initially targeted plans to build on a treasured Istanbul park but have spread into nationwide unrest.
The first death in the unrest has been reported, with doctors saying a man was killed after being hit by a taxi.
The demonstrator, 20-year-old Mehmet Ayvalitas, died after the car ignored warnings to stop and ploughed into a crowd of protestors on Sunday in the Mayis district of Istanbul, said the Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB).
In a statement, the TTB also called for:

  • An end to the violence
  • The police to be pulled back
  • All those detained during the protests to be released

In another development, a public sector trade union confederation, Kesk, says it will begin a two-day strike starting on Tuesday in support of the demonstrators.
The left-wing confederation accused the government of being anti-democratic and carrying out “state terror”.
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Clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul 3 June 2013
Taksim Square in Istanbul has been a focal point for the protests which broadened out from opposition to redevelopment of Gezi Park to wider political demands.
Shares in Turkey fell sharply as fears that the protests could continue took hold, with the main share index falling by 10.47%. The cost of insuring Turkish debt rose to a two-month high.

In a sign of continuing concern in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of “excessive use of force” by the police.
“We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force,” he said.
After more overnight violence in Istanbul, protesters clashed with police on Monday in the capital, Ankara.

I have covered Syntagma in Athens, the Occupy protests and reported from Tahrir Square in Cairo. This is different to all of them. First, it is massive: the sheer numbers dwarf any single episode of civil unrest in Greece. 
Second, the breadth of social support – within the urban enclave of Istanbul – is bigger than Greece and closer to Egypt. “Everyone is here – except the AK Party” – says one young woman. People nod. In Greece, the urban middle class was split; here the secular middle class is out in force, united across political divisions, to say nothing of football hatreds.
Is this the Turkish Tahrir? Not unless the workers join in: Turkey has a large labour movement, and a big urban poor, working population, and Monday is a work day, so we will see. It is certainly already something more than the Turkish version of Occupy.
Teargas and water cannon were fired at hundreds of demonstrators in the city as around 1,000 protesters converged on central Kizilay Square.

Mr Erdogan said during a televised news conference: “There are those attending these events organised by extremists. This is not about Gezi Park anymore. These are organised events with affiliations both within Turkey and abroad.
“The main opposition party CHP has provoked my innocent citizens. Those who make news [and] call these events the Turkish Spring do not know Turkey.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul urged calm and defended protesters’ rights to hold peaceful demonstrations.
“If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural that being able to voice those differences,” he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.
“The messages delivered with good intentions have been received.”
Protesters say the Turkish government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.
They fear Mr Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to impose conservative Islamic values on the officially secular country and infringe on their personal freedoms, correspondents say.
Officials say more than 1,700 people have been arrested in demonstrations in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been released.
Makeshift hospitals


Gezi Park

  • The demolition of Gezi Park is a part of a wider urban redevelopment project in Istanbul
  • The government wants to pedestrianise and ease traffic around Taksim Square; Kalyon Group, a company which has close ties with the government, has been contracted to carry out the project
  • The project also includes building a shopping centre which PM Erdogan says would not be “a traditional mall”, but rather would include cultural centres, an opera house and a mosque
  • The plan also includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks near the site and demolishing the historic Ataturk Cultural Centre
  • The government has been making ambiguous and inconsistent statements about the project, which is causing concern among protesters who oppose replacing the green city park with grey concrete

Overnight, protesters in the Besiktas district of Istanbul tore up paving stones to build barricades, and police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Mosques, shops and a university in Besiktas were turned into makeshift hospitals for those injured in Sunday night’s demonstration.
Several thousand people took part in the protest outside the recently decommissioned Besiktas football stadium.
Unrest was also reported in the western coastal city of Izmir, Adana in the south and Gaziantep in the south-east.
Last week, the government passed legislation curbing the sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks.
The protests began on a small scale last week over redevelopment plans for the park to make way for the rebuilding of an Ottoman-era barracks, reportedly to house a shopping centre.
The demonstrators say the park is one of the few green spaces in Istanbul, and object to the loss of public space for commercial purposes.

Map of protest locations in Turkey and Istanbul

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