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Istanbul`s Taksim Square rocked by anti-govt protests

Last Updated: Monday, June 3, 2013 - 10:48

Zee Media Bureau

Ankara: In what seems to be one of the most formidable anti-government unrest Turkey has witnessed in years, thousands of protesters continued demonstrating against the government for the 3rd day on Sunday at Istanbul`s Taksim Square.

Over 10,000 people converged at Taksim Square on Sunday, shouting chants of "Dictator, resign!" and "victory, victory, victory" and clashed with police who in turn reacted with tear gas and water cannon.

Hundreds have been injured reportedly in the unrest and they are being rushed to the nearby mosques, shops and a university which have turned into temporary hospitals, reported the BBC.

At the heart of the unrest lies the people`s anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,and his plans to uproot trees at Taksim as part of his urban renovation plans for the area. In a statement that could cause more controversy, he also declared that a mosque would be built at Taksim.

The mosque plans have long been contentious because it would further shrink the green spaces in Istanbul`s city center. Some argue that there are already plenty of mosques around Taksim.

The unrest was triggered three days ago on Friday when a peaceful sit-in to prevent the uprooting of trees at Taksim Square in Istanbul was met by a violent police crackdown.

Since then the unrest has spread across the country and the Turkish Doctors Association said the three days of demonstrations have left 1,000 people injured in Istanbul and 700 in Ankara.

About 7,000 people took part in protests in Ankara, the capital, that turned violent on Sunday, with demonstrators throwing fire bombs and police firing tear gas. Scores of protesters were detained.

Some protesters have compared Erdogan to a sultan and denounced him as a dictator. Scrambling to show he was unbowed and appealing to a large base of conservative Turks who support him, Erdogan delivered two speeches on Sunday and appeared in a television interview.

Erdogan has meanwhile denied the dictatorship claims saying, "I am not the master of the people. Dictatorship does not run in my blood or in my character. I am the servant of the people."

Erdogan called the protests "ideological" and manipulated by an opposition "unable to beat (the government) at the ballot box." He said 89 police vehicles, 42 private cars, four buses and 94 businesses were destroyed by the "vandalism" of the past two days.

Under Erdogan`s leadership, Turkey has boosted economic growth and raised its international profile. But he has been a divisive figure at home, with his government recently passing legislation curbing the sale of alcohol and taking a strong stand against the Syrian regime that some believe has put security at risk.

The White House on Sunday night called for all parties in Turkey to "calm the situation." In a statement, spokeswoman Laura Lucas said the U.S. believes peaceful public demonstrations "are a part of democratic expression." And she said Turkey`s long-term stability is best guaranteed by upholding "the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association."

With Agency Inputs

First Published: Monday, June 3, 2013 - 09:27
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