06/04/2013, 00.00
TURKEY
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Strikes and demonstrations continue. Erdogan: This is not the Turkish Spring

Death toll now stands at three. In recent clashes 1000 injured in Istanbul and 700 in Ankara. In the capital, police use teargas in clashes against demonstrators. The Prime Minister claims the title of "Spring Turkish" to describe the work of his government. Protesters demand his resignation.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The public employee unions are starting a two-day strike in support of anti-government demonstrations that have spread throughout the country from Taksim.

The demonstrations that started five days ago in Istanbul, to defend the Gezi Park from property speculation, have become a mass protest movement against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In recent days, the violent clashes between protesters and police have left three people dead. The most recent victim is 22 year old  Comert Abdullah, who died in hospital after being hit by a gunshot during clashes in southern Turkey, on the border with Syria. The first victim was Sarisuluk Ethem, who died in Ankara from a shot of gunshot wound to the head. The second victim is 20 year old Mehmet Ayvalitas: he died in Istanbul hit by a car that drove into the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, human rights groups and doctors have updated the toll of the clashes: the wounded are at least 1000 in Istanbul and a further 700 in Ankara. The interior ministry said they have arrested 1,700 people.

Yesterday there were still demonstrations in Taksim Square. To the cry of "Tayyip, resign!" many protesters tried to reach the house of the Prime Minister in the Besiktas neighborhood, blocked by police and tear gas. This morning, there were clashes between demonstrators and police in Ankara.

The Prime Minister Erdogan, before flying to Morocco, spoke yesterday on television, blaming "vandals" and "extremists" of being behind the demonstrations. He warned against comparing the recent riots to a " Turkish Spring". " Was there a multiparty system in the Arab Spring countries?", he asked. He also claimed that his government, its political and economic reforms are already a "Turkish spring ". "Those in foreign media who talk about a Turkish Spring, we are already going through Turkish Spring, we have been living in it, and those who want to turn it into winter will not succeed".

Erdogan, who came to power in 2002, has modernized the economic structures of the country and reduced the power of the military, launching his nation as a model for the entire Islamic world. He has also recently launched a number of laws on religious education and against the sale of alcohol. But part of the secular society accuses him of wanting to Islamize the country and stifle personal freedoms. Most of the protesters liken him to an authoritarian dictator.

 

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