News / Europe

    Turkish Police Tear Gas Anti-Government Protesters

    Riot police clash with demonstrators at an Istanbul park, Turkey, May 31, 2013
    Riot police clash with demonstrators at an Istanbul park, Turkey, May 31, 2013
    Reuters
    Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at protesters occupying a park in central Istanbul, wounding scores including tourists in the harshest crackdown so far on days of anti-government unrest.  

    The protest at Gezi Park started late on Monday after developers tore up trees but has widened into a broader demonstration against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).  

    Friday's violence erupted after a dawn police raid on demonstrators who had camped for days in the park in anger at plans to build a shopping mall. Clouds of tear gas rose around the area in Taksim Square, long a venue for political protest.      
    Broken glass and rocks were strewn across a main shopping street. A group of primary school children ran crying from the tear gas while tourists caught by surprise scurried to get back to luxury hotels lining the square.  

    "We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan...Even AK Party supporters are saying they have lost their mind, they are not listening to us,'' said Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University who attended the protest. "This is the beginning of a summer of discontent.''  

    Riot police clashed with tens of thousands of May Day protesters in Istanbul weeks ago. There have also been protests against the government's stance on the conflict in neighbouring Syria, a recent tightening of restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection.        

    "This isn't just about trees anymore, it's about all of the pressure we're under from this government. We're fed up, we don't like the direction the country is headed in,'' said 18-year-old student Mert Burge, who came to support the protesters after reading on Twitter about the police use of tear gas.     

    "We will stay here tonight and sleep on the street if we have to,'' he said.    
    An Egyptian tourist was in a critical condition after being hit by a police gas canister, Istanbul Medical Chamber board member Huseyin Demirduzen told Reuters. The 34-year-old woman was undergoing an operation after suffering a brain haemorrhage.  A total of 12 people, including a pro-Kurdish MP and a Reuters photographer, suffered trauma injuries and hundreds suffered respiratory problems due to the effects of tear gas during the clashes, Demirduzen said.       

    Some people were injured when a wall they were climbing collapsed as they tried to flee clouds of tear gas.    

    Amnesty International said it was concerned by what it described as "the use of excessive force'' by the police against what had started out as a peaceful protest.       

    Interior Minister Muammer Guler promised that claims that police had used disproportionate force would be investigated.  

    Erdogan has overseen a transformation in Turkey during his decade in power, turning its economy from crisis-prone into Europe's fastest-growing. Per capita income has tripled in nominal terms since his party rose to power.      

    He remains by far Turkey's most popular politician, and is widely viewed as its most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the modern secular republic on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire 90 years ago.    

    The unrest has not matched the mass demonstrations seen in some Arab or European countries in recent years, but it reflects growing opposition concern about Erdogan's authoritarianism.

    Defiance

    Hundreds of military officers have been jailed for plotting a coup against Erdogan in recent years. Academics, journalists, politicians and others face trial on similar charges.     

    Erdogan has made no secret of his ambition to run for the presidency in elections next year when his term as prime minister ends, exacerbating opposition dismay.         
    "These people will not bow down to you'' read one banner at the Gezi Park protest, alongside a cartoon of Erdogan wearing an Ottoman emperor's turban.       

    Postings on social media including Twitter, where "Occupy Gezi'' - a reference to protests in New York and London last year - was a top-trending hashtag, and Facebook said similar demonstrations were planned for the next few days in other Turkish cities including Ankara, Izmir, Adana and Bursa.     

    "Kiss protests'', in which demonstrators are urged to lock lips, had already been planned for Istanbul and Ankara this weekend after subway officials were reported to have admonished a couple for kissing in public a week ago.       

    Erdogan is pushing ahead with a slew of multi-billion dollar projects which he sees as embodying Turkey's emergence as a major power. They include a shipping canal designed to rival Panama or Suez, a giant mosque and a third Istanbul airport billed to be one of the world's biggest.        

    Speaking just a few miles from Gezi Park at the launch on Wednesday of construction of a third bridge linking Istanbul's European and Asian shores, Erdogan vowed to pursue plans to redevelop Taksim Square.        

    Architects, leftist political parties, academics, city planners and others have long opposed the plans, saying they lacked consultation with civic groups and would remove one of central Istanbul's few green spaces.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.