Protests 'no Turkish Spring', says PM Erdogan

The BBC's Paul Mason describes the scene in Taksim Square

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the continuing anti-government protests do not constitute a Turkish Spring.

At a news conference before a trip to Morocco, he said the protests were organised by extremists and accused the opposition of provoking "his citizens".

For a fourth night, there have been confrontations between police and protesters with tear gas being used.

A protester has died after being hit by a taxi on Sunday, doctors say - the first fatality since the unrest began.

The demonstrator, 20-year-old Mehmet Ayvalitas, was hit when the car ignored warnings to stop and ploughed into a crowd of protestors in the Mayis district of Istanbul, said the Turkish Doctors' Union.

On Monday evening, thousands of demonstrators again gathered in Taksim Square, the focus of the recent protests.

A helicopter, its searchlight shining onto the crowd, hovered overhead and tear gas wafted into the square, reports the BBC's Paul Mason in Taksim Square.

Many protesters shouted "Tayyip, resign!" while waving red flags and banners and blowing whistles, according to the AFP news agency.

Police also fired tear gas again to disperse protesters near Mr Erdogan's office in the Besiktas district of Istanbul.

Earlier on Monday, protesters clashed with police in the capital, Ankara. Tear gas and water cannon were fired at hundreds of demonstrators in the city as around 1,000 protesters converged on central Kizilay Square.

In another development, a public sector trade union confederation, Kesk, says it will begin a two-day strike starting on Tuesday in support.

The left-wing confederation accused the government of being anti-democratic and carrying out "state terror".

Clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul 3 June 2013 Taksim Square in Istanbul has been a focal point for the protests which broadened out from opposition to redevelopment of Gezi Park to wider political demands.
Police fire tear gas against protesters in Ankara 3 June 2013 Police have used tear gas against demonstrators, such as here in Ankara, and have been accused of heavy-handedness.
Police use water cannon against protesters in Ankara, 3 June, 2013 Amid some of the most violent clashes in years, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan rejects any suggestion the protests have anything in common with the Arab Spring.
A protester throws a gas canister back at riot police during a demonstration in Ankara 3 June 2013 Protests continued in Ankara where 1,000 demonstrators clashed with police in the centre of the city.
Protesters shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Ankara 3 June 2013 Protesters have been singing and chanting slogans calling for the resignation of the prime minister.
Protesters stand around the Republic monument on Taksim square in Istanbul, 3 June 2013 Those continuing to occupy Taksim Square are vowing to continue their push for "more democracy".

Shares in Turkey fell sharply as fears that the protests could continue took hold, with the main share index falling by 10.47%. The cost of insuring Turkish debt rose to a two-month high.

In a sign of continuing concern in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of "excessive use of force" by the police.

"We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force," he said.

Analysis

The last wave of protests against the government has highlighted the rift between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul.

While Mr Erdogan is accused of "polarising rhetoric", Mr Gul is considered more conciliatory.

Turkey's parliamentary system gives the president a ceremonial role leaving the prime minister with executive power.

With presidential elections looming, these two former allies differ in their perceptions of the presidential system.

Mr Erdogan wants to implement a presidential system similar to that of the US. Though he has not declared it openly yet, all the signs indicate he wants to become head of state.

However, Mr Gul wants to remain in post.

In the 2002 parliamentary elections, Mr Erdogan could not run because of a political ban and the government was formed under the short-lived leadership of Mr Gul.

After less than a year in power, Mr Gul passed the premiership to Mr Erdogan in March 2003 and reverted to being foreign minister.

It was a sign of the close alliance between them which now seems to be fading. And recent disturbances in Turkey look set to sharpen the rivalry.

'Extremists'

Mr Erdogan said during a televised news conference: "There are those attending these events organised by extremists. This is not about Gezi Park anymore. These are organised events with affiliations both within Turkey and abroad.

"The main opposition party CHP has provoked my innocent citizens. Those who make news [and] call these events the Turkish Spring do not know Turkey."

Meanwhile, Turkish President Abdullah Gul urged calm and defended protesters' rights to hold peaceful demonstrations.

"If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural that being able to voice those differences," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

"The messages delivered with good intentions have been received."

Protesters say the Turkish government is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

They fear Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to impose conservative Islamic values on the officially secular country and infringe on their personal freedoms, correspondents say.

Officials say more than 1,700 people have been arrested in demonstrations in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been released.

Makeshift hospitals

Gezi Park

  • The demolition of Gezi Park is a part of a wider urban redevelopment project in Istanbul
  • The government wants to pedestrianise and ease traffic around Taksim Square; Kalyon Group, a company which has close ties with the government, has been contracted to carry out the project
  • The project also includes building a shopping centre which PM Erdogan says would not be "a traditional mall", but rather would include cultural centres, an opera house and a mosque
  • The plan also includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks near the site and demolishing the historic Ataturk Cultural Centre
  • The government has been making ambiguous and inconsistent statements about the project, which is causing concern among protesters who oppose replacing the green city park with grey concrete

On Sunday night, protesters in Besiktas tore up paving stones to build barricades, and Istanbul police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Mosques, shops and a university in Besiktas were turned into makeshift hospitals for those injured in the demonstration.

Several thousand people took part in the protest outside the recently decommissioned Besiktas football stadium.

Unrest was also reported on Sunday in the western coastal city of Izmir, Adana in the south and Gaziantep in the south-east.

Last week, the government passed legislation curbing the sale and advertising of alcoholic drinks.

The protests began on a small scale last week in opposition to plans to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul but have since taken on wider political demands.

The demonstrators say the park is one of the few green spaces in Istanbul, and object to the loss of public space for commercial purposes.

Map of protest locations in Turkey and Istanbul

More on This Story

Related Stories

More Europe stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • HolidayHaute holiday

    When you’re wealthy, money is no object. BBC Capital discovers six places the rich like to escape to

Programmes

  • (File photo) A mother polar bear and two cubssThe Travel Show Watch

    From polar bear watching to crocodile conservation - highlights from 2014

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.