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Turkey’s embattled prime minister is sounding a defiant note, saying he will go ahead with plans to build on a park and redevelop a square in the heart of Istanbul despite massive protests.
The protests began small. Last week a few activists camped out in Gezi Park in Taksim Square, central Istanbul, to save trees slated to be cut down for the building projects.
The government set their tents on fire and used tear gas against them. The protest grew.
Police responded with high-pressure water hose and more tear gas, along with rubber bullets, but instead of dousing the protest, the police actions ignited a nationwide movement against the Turkish government.
Turkey is officially a secular state, but the conservative Justice and Development party that has governed the country for the last decade has deep Islamist roots, which have led many observers to ask if this national protest is the opening up of a long simmering Islamist-Secular divide.
But Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir, a protester and activist told Here & Now’s Robin Young, “that is too simple a narrative for what is going on.”
“This is a very interesting moment in Turkish history,” she said. “For the first time, in this very polarized Turkish context, we are seeing different groups being much closer to each other. There is, for instance, a group called ‘Anti-Capitalist Islamists’ partaking in this protest. There are women in headscarves, there are people who formerly voted for the Justice and Development Party in this protest. There is a lot of camaraderie.”
Two people have died in the protests, another is on life support and about 1,000 have been wounded, medical services and rights groups say.