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June 18, 2013

Turks Embrace Silent Protests

by VOA News

Turkish anti-government demonstrators adopted a new type of protest Tuesday - silence.

Hundreds of people joined performance artist Erdem Gunduz, who stood still and silent in Istanbul's Taksim Square for hours.

Demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara have for weeks been marked by violence, with police using tear gas and water cannons against demonstrators throwing rocks and gasoline bombs.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told parliament Tuesday that Turkish police "successfully passed the test of democracy." He has accused the protesters of being influenced by terrorists and says those who commit violence will no longer be tolerated.

Turkish police raided homes and offices across the country Tuesday, arresting nearly 100 people in a coordinated operation linked to the protests.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for Turkish police using excessive force to be punished. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the Turkish government should urgently "change police tactics and issue a clear signal for restraint."

The nationwide protests have left at least four people dead and 7,500 hurt. Thousands have been arrested.

The demonstrations started as a march against plans to tear up a park for new construction. They quickly built into nationwide protests against Erdogan. The opposition accuses him of imposing his conservative Islamist views on what is supposed to be a secular nation