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After Two Violent Days, Protesters In Turkey Return

Protesters clash with riot police between Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul, on Sunday.
Gurcan Ozturk
AFP/Getty Images
Protesters clash with riot police between Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul, on Sunday.

This morning central Istanbul was quiet. It was still reeling from two days of anti-government rallies that led to violent confrontations with police. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from Turkey that some 900 people were arrested across the country and several hundred were wounded.

Peter said officials "are beginning to ask questions about who ordered the fierce police crackdown on peaceful demonstrators that triggered the massive anti-government reaction."

Al Jazeera and Haaretz are live blogging the action today. Al Jazeera has posted stunning pictures of the aftermath. Haaretz reports that by around 1:30 p.m. local time, protesters began entering Taksim Square.

Haaretz reports:

"The protesters at Taksim Square represent all sectors of Turkish society. Though flags hanging from poles and walls of buildings around the plaza are mostly of left-wing radical groups, some protesters did not identify themselves as supporters of the left. Their only demand, they said, is democracy Despite the secular dominant majority, some of the demonstrators identified as Muslims. A few men with beards and women wearing veils said they identified as members of the "radical Muslims," a religious organization that opposes [Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

As we've reported, these mass protests — what some are calling the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — began as peaceful demonstrations opposing the redevelopment of a city park.

During the day, yesterday, the government took an unrelenting stance.

"The Taksim project will go ahead," Erdogan said. "If you bring 100,000, I'll bring out a million."

Eventually, police retreated and protesters celebrated. The Telegraph reports that Erdogan sought a resolution. The paper reports:

"Speaking at a rally on Saturday, Erdogan acknowledged: 'It is true that there have been some mistakes, extremism in police response.'

"But he added: 'I call on the protesters to stop their demonstrations immediately.'

"The interior ministry promised legal action against police officers who had acted 'disproportionately.'"

Protesters rejected those talks. "We are still ruled by a prime minister who thinks people are lambs and declares himself the sultan," 19-year-old law student Batuhan Kantas told the Telegraph.

We'll leave you with a video that's made the rounds on the Internet. It sums up the last few days in 70 seconds:

The person who made it, Memento Mori, has some other great videos on his Vimeo page.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa.
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