Furious Turks Are Back On the Protest Warpath


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Furious Turks Are Back On the Protest Warpath

And Erdoğan is getting increasingly violent in his efforts to suppress them.

After the dramatic anti-regime protests that took place earlier this year, it seems the Turkish public have acquired a taste for resistance. This isn't something the country's police seem keen to encourage, unleashing violent crackdowns on the streets of Istanbul and Antakya at the first sign of civil unrest.

Monday evening saw the latest flare up, when 22-year-old demonstrator Ahmet Atakan died – allegedly at the hands of the police – at a protest against military intervention in Syria. It's the latest incident to reignite the spirit of rebellion the world saw blossom in the battle for Gezi Park.


Clashes took place throughout on Tuesday night, after thousands gathered in Istanbul to oppose the police brutality that has left nine dead and thousands injured since June this year. (Reports speak of other demonstrations in over 20 cities across Turkey.) The intention in Istanbul was to calmly march on Taksim Square, the heart of June's uprising, but the police had other ideas, blocking off all entrances to the square before opening fire on the peaceful crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.

A panicked Erdoğan government, afraid that it's losing its grip on the country's economy and population, is trying to regain authority over its citizens by systematically attacking them in public. Regardless of the fact that this seems like a flawed tactic, every demonstration is met with the same response by the Turkish police: teargas and violence.

Protesters manning the barricades last night in Istanbul. (Photo by Osman Nuri Iyem)

As unrest spreads throughout Turkey, it's becoming clear that what started as a protest against the closing of a park has now turned into an extended public condemnation of Erdoğan's government. The second demonstration to descend into violence this week was at Ankara's Middle East Technical University (ODTU), where students gathered to march against plans to build a new road that would pass through the campus, destroying a nearby forest in the process.

Like Gezi Park, the campus' forest is regarded as one of the last green spaces in a city in the grip of a recent construction boom. Hundreds of protesters amassed at the planned construction site and once again were met with almost immediate police violence, the cops attacking with water cannons and tear gas grenades.


Protesters in Tuzluçayır. (Photo by Olcay Kabaktepe)

On Sunday, police in Ankara went on the offensive yet again, this time clamping down on those protesting against the construction of a joint Sunni-Shia mosque in the neighbourhood of Tuzluçayır. Protesters, enraged by what they see as an assimilation of Alevi religious traditions, gathered outside the construction site before police tried to clear the area, sparking running battles that ran into the night, with barricades being set up in the roads in an effort to halt the police water cannons.

A protester blocks a police water cannon in Ankara. (Photo by Olcay Kabaktepe)

My contact in Istanbul told me, “I think the government is very afraid, and that’s why they are putting so much pressure on the people. A couple of weeks ago, we were in Taksim, and suddenly fans of Kasımpaşa [football team] poured in. They were protesting against Beşiktaş fans; there was a possibility Beşiktaş would play in Kasımpaşa’s stadium this season.

"Of course, the riot police confronted them and told them they couldn't protest. The leader of the fans shouted, 'Our stadium is called Recep Tayyip Erdoğan! [It really is; Kasımpaşa is Tayyip Erdoğan’s neighbourhood and the stadium was built in his name.] We are here to protest against the alcoholic Beşiktaş fans – we do not want them in our neighbourhood!'

"The police donned their masks and readied themselves to fire tear gas at the Kasımpaşa fans, before turning on their heels and fleeing Taksim. This really shows the attitude of the government," my contact continued. "They are scared. Whether you are a fan of Kasımpaşa who goes to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium, or whether you're an extremist, it doesn't matter – you have no right to mass protest."


It will not surprise you to learn that the atmosphere in Turkey is tense. No matter how hard Erdoğan’s government tries to spin the unrest as the work of foreign agents, an anti-Muslim deep-state or terrorists, it appears that he has now gone past the point of no return. Unfortunately for the embattled prime minister, he doesn't seem to realise that it's not just unrest over greenery, mosques and football stadiums that's prompting the protests in Turkey, but the aggressive police action he has used to fight back.

Follow Yiannis on Twitter: @YiannisBab

More from the unrest in Turkey:

The Brother of a Turkish Protester Murdered by the Police Speaks Out

Could the Turkish Uprising Be a Breakthrough for the Country's Kurds?

Talking to the Bulldozer-Hijacking Soccer Fans About Their Role in the Turkish Uprising