Turkish police detained dozens of people at their homes and raided two media offices on Tuesday in a coordinated operation across the country to clamp down on nearly three weeks of mass anti-government unrest, AFP reported.
Officers raided the homes of around 90 members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), a small leftist group that has been active in Istanbul’s Gezi Park protest at the centre of the nationwide protest movement, the Istanbul bar association said.
Police also searched the offices of the Atilim daily and the Etkin news agency, local media outlets linked to the ESP group, the NTV and CNN-Turk television stations reported.
NTV said 30 people were arrested in the capital Ankara and another 13 in the northwestern city of Eskisehir in a police swoop targeting 21 provinces overall.
TEHRAN – The Iranian foreign ministry underlined the domestic nature of the current unrest in Turkey, and expressed the hope that the problems in the neighboring country will be solved by the Turkish officials’ tact and wide domestic diplomacy.
“The conflicts in Turkey are an internal issue and we hope that this problem will be solved calmly and peacefully by the Turkish leaders’ insight,” Foreign Ministry Spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi told FNA on Sunday.
The protests in Turkey began earlier this week as a sit-in over plans to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, but escalated after police used tear gas.
In Ankara, protesters tried to march on the parliament.
Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon for a second day on Saturday to prevent hundreds of protesters reaching the central Taksim Square, scene of violent protests in which hundreds were wounded.
Anti-government demonstrators wearing handkerchiefs and surgical masks chanted “unite against fascism” and “government resign” as they tried to walk down the street to Taksim, a witness said.
Protesters also clashed with police in the Besiktas neighborhood, on the shores of the Bosphorus, after crossing a bridge in another apparent attempt to reach Taksim.
Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon on Friday at demonstrators in central Istanbul, wounding scores of people and prompting rallies in other cities in the fiercest anti-government protests in years.
Thousands of demonstrators massed on streets surrounding Istanbul’s central Taksim Square while protests erupted in the capital, Ankara, and the Aegean coastal city of Izmir.
Broken glass and rocks were strewn across a main shopping street near Taksim. Primary school children ran crying from the clouds of tear gas, while tourists caught by surprise scurried to get back to hotels lining the square.
The unrest reflects growing disquiet at the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Riot police clashed with tens of thousands of May Day protesters in Istanbul this past month. There have also been protests against the government’s stance on the conflict in neighboring Syria.
“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.
The protest at Taksim’s Gezi Park started late on Monday after trees were torn up under a government redevelopment plan, but has widened into a broader demonstration against Erdogan’s administration. Friday’s violence erupted after a dawn police raid on demonstrators who had been camped out for days.
“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.
Thousands chanting for the government to resign gathered at a park in the center of Ankara, where police earlier fired tear gas to disperse several dozen opposition supporters trying to reach the AKP headquarters. Protesters also rallied at two locations in Izmir, according to pictures on social media.
A woman was in critical condition last night after being hit by a police gas canister and underwent an operation after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
A total of 12 people, including a pro-Kurdish MP and a Reuters photographer, suffered trauma injuries and hundreds suffered respiratory problems due to tear gas, doctors 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 “the use of excessive force” by the police against what had started out as a peaceful protest. Ria Oomen-Ruijten, the European parliament rapporteur on Turkey, also voiced concern.
In Washington, the State Department said it was concerned with the number of injuries and was gathering its own information on the incident.
“We believe that Turkey’s long-term stability, security and prosperity is best guaranteed by upholding the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler promised that allegations that police had used disproportionate force would be investigated.
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.
He has made no secret of his ambition to run for the presidency in elections next year when his term as prime minister ends, increasing 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.
Turkish people protest the arrival of NATO’s Patriot missiles in the country. (File photo)
Turkish police have arrested dozens of protesters who condemned the arrival of NATO’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles to be deployed near the border with Syria.
Police arrested 25 protesters on Monday after they tried to get through the barricades at Incirlik Air Force Base in the city of Adana, where US troops are assembling two Patriot missile batteries to be later deployed in Gaziantep near Syria’s border.
Protests were also held in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara outside the US embassy, where angry protesters condemned what they called Ankara’s interventionist policies towards Syria.
Earlier, two ships carrying two Patriot batteries each from Germany and the Netherlands anchored at the southwestern port of Iskenderun in Turkey, as part of a NATO-authorized operation to deploy the advanced armament along the border region.
The six batteries of the US-made missiles, effective against aircraft and short-range missiles, will be deployed in the southern city of Adana and the southeastern cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, along with 350 troops from each contributing country.
In December 2012, NATO approved Turkey’s request for the deployment of the Patriots in its territory. Germany’s Bundestag parliament approved the deployment – limited to one year – on December 14, 2012.
Each Patriot battery has an average of 12 missile launchers. NATO says the missile systems will be operational by early February.
Syria has censured the Turkish plan to deploy the Patriots along its border, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
An anti-war protest was held in the Turkish capital Ankara on October 9, 2012
A recent opinion poll has revealed that more than 75 percent of the Turkish people are against a war with neighboring Syria.
The opinion poll was conducted by Metropol, an agency close to the Turkish government, and surveyed 3,000 respondents.
Analysts believe that this majority is increasing further and there is a sharp mismatch between the government’s policies and the Turkish public opinion.
This comes as massive anti-war protests have taken place in many Turkish cities during the past weeks.
The row between Turkey and Syria escalated after Ankara held Damascus responsible for a mortar shell that killed five civilians in the southeastern town of Akcakale on October 3.
Ankara promptly responded with retaliatory fire that continued through the next days, and Turkish lawmakers also authorized the government to use military force against Syria when it deemed necessary.
Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing a deadly insurgency that has claimed the lives of many Syrians, including security and army personnel.
Turkey has beefed up its military presence on its border with Syria over the past weeks, stationing tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and additional troops in the area.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on October 9 that Turkey’s armed forces would not hesitate to strike back in response to any attack on the Turkish soil after Turkey’s parliament authorized cross-border military action against Syria “when deemed right” On October 4.