News / Middle East

Turkish Riot Police Storm Istanbul Park in Bid to End Protests

  • Protesters are attacked by a police water cannon at the entrance to Gezi Park near Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 15, 2013.
  • Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 15, 2013.
  • Riot police fires a water cannon on Gezi Park protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, June 15, 2013.
  • A protester runs through tents covered by tear gas in Gezi Park in Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 15, 2013.
  • People run as riot police fire a water cannon on Gezi Park protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
  • Turkish riot police fire tear gas after chasing protestors out of Gezi Park in Istanbul, Saturday, June 15, 2013.
  • Protesters are evacuated from Gezi Park by riot police at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
  • Riot police fire tear gas and a water cannon at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
  • Riot police use a water cannon to disperse anti-government protesters at Taksim Square in central Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
  • An injured protester is helped in the basement of a hotel where protesters took shelter next to Gezi Park near Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 15, 2013.
  • Protesters are attacked by a police water cannon next to Gezi Park near Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 15, 2013.
  • A child suffering from tear gas inhalation is carried by a protester in the basement of the Divan hotel, where protesters took shelter, next to Gezi Park near Istanbul's Taksim Square, June 15, 2013.
  • Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a rally in Sincan, June 15, 2013. Erdogan warned protesters occupying a central Istanbul park that they should leave before a ruling party rally on Sunday or face eviction by the security forces.
  • A supporter of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan watches a rally organized by the ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, June 15, 2013.
  • A woman listens to the speech of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during his rally in Ankara, June 15, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Turkish riot police stormed an Istanbul park at the heart of two weeks of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, firing tear gas and water cannons and sending hundreds scurrying into surrounding streets.

Lines of police backed by armored vehicles sealed off Taksim Square in the center of the city as officers stormed the adjoining Gezi Park, where protesters had been living in a ramshackle tent camp.

People wave flags during Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speech at his rally in Ankara, June 15, 2013.People wave flags during Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speech at his rally in Ankara, June 15, 2013.
x
People wave flags during Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speech at his rally in Ankara, June 15, 2013.
People wave flags during Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan speech at his rally in Ankara, June 15, 2013.
Erdogan had warned hours earlier that security forces would clear the square, the center of more than two weeks of fierce anti-government protests that spread to cities across Turkey, unless the demonstrators withdrew before a ruling party rally in Istanbul on Sunday.

'We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country's security forces know how to evacuate it," he told tens of thousands of flag-waving supporters at a rally in Ankara.

A main public-sector union confederation, KESK, which has some 240,000 members, said it would call a national strike for Monday, while a second union grouping said it was holding an emergency meeting to decide whether to join the action.

Panicked protesters fled into an upmarket hotel at the back of the park, several of them vomiting, as clouds of tear gas and blasts from what witnesses said were percussion bombs - designed to create confusion rather than injure - engulfed the park.

"We tried to flee and the police pursued us. It was like war," Claudia Roth, the co-chair of Germany's Greens party who had gone to Gezi Park to show her support, told Reuters.

Thousands of people spilled onto a main avenue leading to Taksim after the raid, ripping up street signs and starting to build barricades, while police fired tear gas into back streets around the square to try to prevent protesters regrouping.

Local television footage showed groups of demonstrators blocking a main highway to Ataturk airport on the western edge of the city, while to the east several hundred walked towards a main bridge crossing the Bosphorus waterway towards Taksim.

Wave of Unrest

"We will continue our work to constitute a peaceful environment in the next few hours," Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters, describing the police operation as "extremely smooth." He said 29 people had been lightly injured.

Protesters also gathered in Ankara around the central Kugulu Park, including opposition MPs who sat in the streets in an effort to prevent the police firing tear gas.

A similar police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in Gezi Park two weeks ago provoked an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdogan, drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, trade unionists and students who took to the streets in protest at what they see as his autocratic style.

Turkish riot police enter Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.Turkish riot police enter Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
x
Turkish riot police enter Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
Turkish riot police enter Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 15, 2013.
​The unrest, in which police fired tear gas and water cannon at stone-throwing protesters night after night in cities including Istanbul and Ankara, left four people dead and about 5,000 injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

The Gezi Park protesters, who oppose government plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks there, had defied repeated calls to leave but had started to reduce their presence in the park after meetings with Erdogan and the local authorities.

"This is unbelievable. They had already taken out political banners and were reducing to a symbolic presence in the park,'' Koray Caliskan, a political scientist at Bosphorus University, told Reuters from the edge of Gezi Park.

Several people were brought out of the park on stretchers to waiting ambulances, while families with young children fled into side streets from a main shopping street leading to the square.

Residents in surrounding neighborhoods took to their balconies or leaned out of windows banging pots and pans, their clatter rising above the wail of ambulance sirens, while car drivers sounded their horns in support of the protesters.

Erdogan told protesters on Thursday that he would put the building plans on hold until a court rules on them. It was a softer stance, after two weeks in which he called protesters "riff-raff" and said the plans would go ahead regardless.

Defiant Again

But at the first of two rallies this weekend by his ruling AK Party, he reverted to a defiant tone, telling tens of thousands of supporters on the outskirts of Ankara that he would crush his opponents at elections next year.

He called for unity among Turks and accused foreign forces, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), international media and market speculators of stoking unrest and trying to undermine the economy.

The police intervention so soon after Erdogan had spoken took many by surprise on a busy Saturday night around Taksim, one of Istanbul's main social hubs, not least after President Abdullah Gul, who has struck a more conciliatory tone than Erdogan, said earlier on Saturday that talks were progressing.

"The fact that negotiation and dialogue channels are open is a sign of democratic maturity ... I believe this process will have good results," Gul had said on his Twitter account.

What began as a campaign by environmentalists to save one of central Istanbul's few green spaces spiralled into the most serious show of defiance against Erdogan and his AK Party of his decade in power.

Erdogan has long been Turkey's most popular politician, his AK Party winning three successive election victories, each time with a larger share of the vote, but his critics complain of increasing authoritarianism.

He has said the AK Party rallies in Ankara and Istanbul are meant to kick off campaigning for local elections next year and not related to the protests, but they are widely seen as a show of strength in the face of the demonstrations.

"At the beginning I felt sympathy towards those in Gezi Park and I thought our prime minister's tone was too harsh. But now the protests there have turned into something else,'' said Sumeyye Erdogmus, a 22-year-old nurse, at the Ankara rally. "Nothing can justify behavior like cursing the prime minister's mother and burning buses. This is anarchy, and today we are here to show that our prime minister is not alone."

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Marios Demetriou from: Muskegon USA
June 16, 2013 1:48 PM
Turkey as a nation has a long history of violating human rights. The Ottoman Empire ruled with an Iron Fist to say the least. The occupation of Jerusalem caused the reduction of the Jewish population down to less than 10,000. Turkey was an ally of Germany in the 1st World War, it has killed hundreds of thousands of Armenians and Greeks, it has attacked Cyprus and and it continues to illegaly occupy 36% of the island for almost 40 years now even after numerous United Nations Resolutions to evacuate the island of Cyprus. The people of Turkey deserve a democratic peaceful government.


by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: Nakame, JPN
June 15, 2013 7:14 PM
War has begun in Turkey.
Turkish people has been showing that thier country is not a good country and they do not have ability to have Olympic Games in thier country.

Do you want to go to the coutry where they are battlig each other?

In Response

by: yusuf from: Turkey
June 16, 2013 5:47 AM
I'm hope it won't last so long don't worry.

In Response

by: Selin
June 16, 2013 5:10 AM
Kitagawa, you apparently have no idea what is going on. Turks are very particular about their secularism. This fight will end the dictatorship of Erdogan. Whether or not Olympic Games happen in Turkiye is not all that important. We are fighting for our freedom. Don't ever come visit Turkiye we don't need negative people like you. This is particularly sad because I am married to someone who is half-Japanese. But when I visited Japan with my husband every single person I met was extremely nice and they asked me a lot of questions about my country. Apparently you're one of the a few not-so-nice ones.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid