What began in late May as a demonstration focused on the environment – opposition to a plan to build a mall in Gezi Park – has evolved into a crusade against Erdogan that’s spread around the country.
Protest leaders canceled plans Wednesday to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying the previous night’s violence in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park showed talks would be fruitless.
Riot police used massive amounts of tear gas, water cannons and stun guns to break up protesters’ large-scale demonstration Tuesday night.
Erdogan was going ahead with meeting some “popularists,” including figures from the protests in Gezi Park, the country’s semiofficial Anadolu Agency reported.
But protest leader Eyup Muhcu said those attending the meeting are friendly with Erdogan’s government.
Wednesday began quietly, with rain blanketing the ruins of days of rowdy protests.
Tensions are running high in Turkey after clashes. The people in Turkey are angry
Protesters have faced off with police on the streets of Istanbul for two weeks.
A heavy hand and rhetoric from Erdogan have left little room for dissent and have long been a thorn in the side of many secular Turks, who voted against the government.
These are the protesters, many of them urban professionals, who have crowded into the park and called for an end to Erdogan’s 10 years at the government’s helm.
Opposition leaders T say they have had little place at the table in the government, which is supported mainly by rural and religious conservatives.
Experts and human rights groups agree with this large group of Turks that Erdogan’s democratically elected government lags when it comes to human rights and freedom of expression by opponents.
“Prosecutors and courts continued to use terrorism laws to prosecute and prolong incarceration of thousands of Kurdish political activists, human rights defenders, students, journalists and trade unionists,” Human Rights Watch wrote in a 2013 report on Turkey.
Turkish journalists are afraid to write anything critical of the government, and media companies are slapped with huge tax fines for covering uncomfortable topics.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkish authorities have targeted journalists with detention for covering the protests.
Those who are against him are handled in “too authoritarian” a manner, Zakaria said Tuesday on “Piers Morgan Live.”
The Prime Minister has said he will not back down.
“They say the prime minister is harsh,” Erdogan said Tuesday, referring to his detractors.
“I’m sorry,” he told a gathering of his own party. “The Prime Minister is not going to change.”
Erdogan is tightening his grip on power, adding authority to the office of the presidency, which he hopes to hold in coming years.
Former U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte said he believes the protests could have something to do with Erdogan’s ambitions.
There may be “forces joining in here, whose aim it is to prevent him from achieving his ambition of becoming the next president of the country,” he told Morgan.
– CNN News