Photo Gallery And Live Webcast From A Violent Turkey
As violent protests persist across Turkey, and spread from Istanbul to the capital Ankara, and Izmir, here is a visual summary of what is going on courtesy of Reuters.
As for the underlying reason for the recent surge in violence and public anger, there is a some serious confusion. From the WSJ:
The public outcry follows a series of events that have fed antigovernment sentiment among many Turks, particularly in large cities. Recent episodes include street-fighting between unions and police on May Day, a restriction on alcohol sales that secularist Turks say is social engineering, Ankara's increasingly aggressive stance on the Syria conflict and urban planning in Istanbul such as a new airport and a new bridge over the Bosphorus that environmentalist say will uproot thousands of trees.
To some, protesting is merely a way to vent:
The profile of many of the protesters appeared dramatically different from Turkey's more familiar demonstrations, which pitted leftists or nationalists against the police. "I'm taking part in a rally for the first me in my life. I had to take some precautions, my medicine, and snacks. God willing nothing bad will happen," said Nazmiye Coruh, 50, a retired PR manager, who was equipped with a surgical mask.
"It feels great to throw out all the stress and anger," she said.
"We want to show that we are afraid of not being able to continue our lifestyles under this government," said Deniz, 29, a computer engineer demonstrating around Taksim, who preferred not to provide his last name.
So a little bit of everything. One wonders what and how substantial the US influence in these events may be.
Regardless of what the spark that set off the protests, now in their fourth day, the government is taking a more than proportionate response to the street protests even as the nebulous public anger is spreading:
Turkish antigovernment demonstrations widened on Saturday, as police and protesters resumed clashes in Istanbul and other cities across the country, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan struck a defiant stance, labeling his detractors "a minority."
Tens of thousands of people began gathering in areas around Istanbul's central Taksim Square from sunrise on Saturday, while smaller copycat protests emerged in several other Turkish cities, including the capital Ankara, and Izmir. The numbers of injured in Istanbul in Friday's clashes climbed sharply overnight to total around one thousand, according to volunteer doctors and nurses at a makeshift first-aid coordination center set up close to Taksim Square.
In his first public comments on the protests since Wednesday, Mr. Erdogan took a largely uncompromising stance, claiming that his party's support easily eclipsed the numbers attending antigovernment demonstrations.
"Don't compete with us.... If you gather 200,000 people, I can gather a million.... This event has been escalated beyond the park and become ideological," Mr. Erdogan said of the protests, which intensified dramatically on Friday. "The police were there yesterday, they are there today, and will be there tomorrow…because Taksim cannot be a square where extremists run wild."
Despite the gathering protests, the ruling AKP, with roots in Islamists politics, still retains strong public support. Mr. Erdogan won the latest of his three election victories in 2011 after delivering strong economic growth and political stability. Mr. Erdogan brooks little dissent and has made no secret of his ambition to run for Turkey's presidency in elections next year, when his term as prime minister ends, to the dismay of the political opposition.
As the protest numbers swelled, other senior government officials weighed in to damp tensions, with President Abdullah Gul stressing in a statement that police should exercise more restraint and calling on protesters to act "in a mature way" to avoid escalation.
Early on Saturday evening, battalions of riot police withdrew from the square, although security forces continued to use tear gas and high-pressure water against protesters in adjacent areas.
One thing is certain: an already destabilized region (Turkey is bordered by Syria on the south, Iran on the east) is about to get even more unstable. Those having flashbacks to comparable ad hoc "Arab Spring" riots and subsequent revolutions whose only outcome was installing pro-US puppet regimes in assorted MENA countries, are excused.
The livestream from Istanbul is below: