Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

June 18, 2013

Unions give lift to Turkish protest movement

ISTANBUL — Turkish labor groups fanned a wave of defiance against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authority, leading rallies and a one-day strike to support activists whose two-week standoff with the government has shaken the country’s secular democracy.

Riot police again deployed in Turkey’s two main cities, and authorities kept up their unyielding stance against the street demonstrations centering on Istanbul’s Taksim Square. But Monday’s police sweep was less forceful than in recent days, with only scattered firing of tear gas and water cannon on pockets of protesters.

After activists were ousted from their sit-in in adjacent Gezi Park over the weekend, two labor confederations that represent some 330,000 workers picked up the slack Monday by calling a strike and demonstrations nationwide. Unionists turned up by the thousands in Ankara, Istanbul, coastal Izmir and elsewhere.

The turnout defied Turkey’s interior minister, Muammer Guler, who warned that anyone taking part in unlawful demonstrations would “bear the legal consequences.” But one analyst called the rallies a “legitimate and a lawful expression of constitutional rights.”

“People are raising their voices against the excessive use of police force,” said Koray Caliskan, a political science professor at Istanbul’s Bosphorus University. Demonstrators, he said, were showing they were no longer cowed by authorities, and “the fear threshold has been broken.”

In a sign that authorities were increasingly impatient, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc floated the prospect that authorities could call in troops to quash the protests.

Erdogan’s opponents have grown increasingly suspicious about what they call a gradual erosion of freedoms and secular values under his Islamic-rooted ruling party. It has passed new curbs on alcohol and tried, but later abandoned its plans, to limit women’s access to abortion.

The government set off protests nationwide and drew criticism abroad over a police crackdown that began May 31 against environmentalists and other activists in Taksim Square who were protesting against plans to tear down trees and re-develop Gezi Park. Thousands have flooded the streets nightly since then, many honking car horns and waving Turkish flags.

Erdogan, who has held power for 10 years and was re-elected in 2011, mobilized his supporters over the weekend in two huge rallies — insisting his duty was to keep order, railing against media coverage of the protests and lashing out at unspecified foreigners whom he said want to hurt Turkey.

TV images Monday showed crowds of government supporters in Istanbul facing down some protesters and chanting “the hands targeting the police should be broken.” On Twitter, a trending topic urged protesters to stay home — some expressing concern that pro-government mobs might attack them.

But overnight, for hours, a lone man stood silently on Taksim Square, eventually joined by about 20 other people who did likewise before police escorted them away. The group put up no resistance. Pockets of unrest erupted elsewhere in Istanbul, with police resorting to water cannon and tear gas at times.

The labor rallies had a more structured feel than the counterculture-style sit-in at Gezi Park’s tent city, and the work stoppage involved many professionals who make up a liberal, urban class that mostly backs the anti-Erdogan protesters. But labor strikes often have little visible impact on daily life in Turkey, a country of about 75 million, and Monday’s rallies were no different.

Feride Aksu Tanik, of the Turkish Doctors Union, said it had called its work stoppage “to protest against the police force that attacks children, youngsters and everyone violently, and to the detentions of doctors who provide voluntary services to the injured.”

Turkey’s doctors association said Monday that four people, including a police officer, had died in violence linked to the crackdown, and an investigation was ongoing into the death of a fifth person who was exposed to tear gas. More than 7,800 people have been injured; six remained in critical condition and 11 people lost their eyesight.

The tough tactics used by the government to disperse protesters during the past two weeks have drawn international criticism.

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany — home to some 3 million Turks — told German broadcaster RTL she was “appalled” to see footage of police forces moving in to clear Gezi Park over the weekend. She criticized the crackdown by Turkish police as “much too strong.”

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 
     

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results