Clashes between police and anti-government protestors in Turkey have continued to escalate well into Saturday in some of the fiercest protests for years.
A sit-down protest on Friday over plans to build on Gezi Park, one of Istanbul’s green spaces, into a shopping centre was met with tear gas by the police.
That reaction provoked a groundswell of unrest across the country as demonstrators from Ankara to Izmir to Bursa have turned out in support.
But police have clamped down hard on them. One protestor lost the sight of an eye and another suffered a brain haemorrhage, according to reports. The governor of Istanbul also reported that 63 people were detained, with 12 injured, one seriously.
Ceren Ozgur, a protester in Istanbul, said:
“We are confronting a very heavy police presence. Gas bombs are everywhere. I got stuck in the metro. They threw a gas bomb and then closed the doors.”
Another told euronews:
“All we want is for them to leave Taksim’s park to the people. But, as you can see, the incident is getting much bigger. Now we want the pressure applied on us to be removed.”
The authorities heavy-handed approach has drawn international condemnation.
Amnesty International condemned what it called “excessive force against peaceful protesters” over the original Istanbul demonstrations. It says its own observers were struck by police truncheons and tear gassed.
Washington said it seemed the protesters were exercising freedoms “crucial to any healthy democracy” and warned Turkey to uphold them.
The Turkish interior minister promised that allegations that police had used disproportionate force would be investigated.
But it’s only the sharp end of a deeper problem. The Islamist-leaning Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, who recently pushed through legislation on alcohol consumption, has also spearheaded Turkey’s economic transformation.
But he stands accused of putting profits before the environment – and according to observers and critics, consolidating power and cracking down on dissent.