Friday 24 November 2017

'Turkey is a democracy, Erdogan can't just do what he wants'

Richard Hall Taksim Square, Istanbul

No sooner had Pinar Gulec finished admonishing Turkey's prime minister for behaving like a dictator than Istanbul's Taksim Square filled with tear gas.

As smoke rained down on the square, which has become the centre of protests against the authoritarian leadership style of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the thousands who had gathered there at dusk – Pinar among them – were sent diving into side streets with their eyes watering.

Police stormed the square and fought running battles with protesters who responded with fireworks. Skirmishes continued late into the evening as police used water cannons and further volleys of tear gas.

Later, fires were lit as protesters returned to the square chanting: "Everywhere is Taksim. Everywhere is resistance."

ARMOURED

Last night, Human Rights Watch said one man was in intensive care with a serious brain injury, while about 15 others had been admitted to hospital for gas inhalation.

The central square had been cleared once already during the day. Police in armoured vehicles entered it soon after dawn, demanding via loudspeakers that the hundreds of protesters gathered there should leave, before firing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.

Yesterday's gathering followed two weeks of similar demonstrations.

Many have expressed concern over what they perceive as an attack on their secular lifestyles, and accuse Mr Erdogan's government of imposing an Islamist agenda on the country.

"In my opinion, he is a dictator," said 31-year-old Pinar Gulec, a tax auditor, as she stood in the centre of the square. "This is a democracy, he can't just do what he wants.

"We are angry at the prime minister. Every time he speaks he makes people angrier," she added.

Irish Independent

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