Numerous anti-government protests raged throughout Turkey this weekend, resulting in one death and over 1,000 injuries. What began as a small-scale sit-in turned into a violent weekend as riot police wielded a variety of powerful weapons to stop the protests.
The main confrontation took place in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, a place of great importance for leftist political parties. Protesters also faced violent confrontations in the cities of Ankara and Izmir.
Nine hundred and thirty-nine people were arrested in ninety separate protests although many have been released already.
The original protest, which objected the government’s plan to abolish a park in Istanbul, turned into the largest protest yet against Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Throughout the streets, people rallied against what they consider to be Erdogan’s excessive use of power, especially with respect to social issues. A bill restricting the consumption of alcohol passed last month and the PM has made public his stance that women should have at least three children.
"The government interferes with what we need to eat, what we need to drink, how we should sleep with our partner, how many kids that we should have,” said Turkish protester Filiz Polat to USA Today. “This is getting beyond reasonable."
The conflict eased on Saturday as riot police left 100,000 protesters to peacefully protest in Taksim Square.
Erdogan has responded to the public opposition with militancy. In addition to the police violence, he threatened opposition leaders with the potential force of his own supporters.
"If you use provocative words, our people will never forgive you," he said Saturday. "If you gather 100,000 people, I can gather a million."
Monday, however, proved to be another day of violence as the protests resumed their prior strength. Police violence resumed as well, with riot police employing tear gas to control the crowds.
In addition, a protester was killed Monday in Istanbul when a car struck the crowd in which he was standing. It is reported that eight others remain in critical condition in Ankara as a result of the day's violence.
The protests, which remain ongoing, mark the first major display of opposition in the PM’s reign. With this growing discontent comes an opportunity for change, opined Turkish journalist Cengiz Candar.
"In his more than 10 years of rule of getting more and more authoritarian, he's been publicly defeated for the first time," Candar said. "Despite whatever he says in defiance or however unrepentant he may seem, he is a very pragmatic person and he's picked up several lessons over what has happened."