Not far from the tear gas pellets and mass protests of Taksim square is the Fatih district of Istanbul. Here the people don’t share the views of the thousands of anti-government protesters downtown.
“I was there. They chant, ‘No to fascism’ but I think what people did there is wrong. Turning police vehicles upside down, looting the buses. This makes no sense. In order to save a few trees they destroyed many things,” explained one resident.
For the residents in the conservative district, there is no problem with the authorities and both secular and religious communities can live side by side.
“I’ve lived here for 40 years, I’ve never been stopped by the police and asked things like ‘Where are you going? What are you doing?’ Everybody goes wherever they want. Here is the Fatih Mosque and here is the pub,” said another.
According to one resident the unrest has come from outside Turkey.
“The events in Taksim is the business of foreign forces and of their local collaborators,” he claimed.
Euronews correspondent in Istanbul Bora Borayktar sums it up:
“There are some who follow the events in Taksim silently from a distance. Even though they share environmental concerns they are more concerned with the violence during the protests.”
Though just a few kilometres separate them, the difference in opinions highlights the divides in Turkish society.
The protest, which grew from a small demonstration about the redevelopment of one of Istanbul’s remaining green spaces (Gezi park) has evolved into a larger social movement against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s policies. Many secularists fear creeping Islamisation of Turkey under his rule.
Over the last decade in power, there are some who credit him with the country’s rapid economic growth. Over the same time period per capita income has nearly tripled. Commentators observe that his AK party appeal to many Muslims in Turkey, he won almost 50 percent of the vote during the 2011 general elections.