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Anti-government riots tear through nation of Turkey

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Nation of Turkey has been wracked with anti-government demonstrations over the past several days. The unrest began on Friday of last week when trees were torn down at a park in Istanbul's main Taksim Square. Riots and demonstrations have since widened in a show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP. Travelers have been warned against visiting Turkey at this time, and to keep visits to an absolute minimum at this time.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Tens of thousands of angry protestors took to the streets in the country's four biggest cities. The demonstrators have clashed violently with riot police, who repelled them with tear gas.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds. He claims that the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.

Erdogan also said that plans to remake the square, long a rallying point for mass demonstrations, would proceed. The protests Erdogan claims were started by a small group of environmental campaigners but grew when police used force to eject them from the park on Taksim Square.

"It's entirely ideological," Erdogan told TV reporters. The demonstrations have since drawn in a wide range of people of all ages from across the political and social spectrum.

The demonstrators have a very different message. They are protesting what they consider to be a violation of fundamental human rights. Many fear that Turkey will reject those rights and succumb to a form of Islamic republic.

Police used tear gas to try to disperse hundreds of people in Ankara's main Kizilay Square. There were similar clashes in Izmir and Adana, Turkey's third and fourth-biggest cities.

In Taksim Square, the atmosphere was far more festive with some chanting for Erdogan to resign and others singing and dancing. There were later clashes between police and protesters near Erdogan's office in a former Ottoman palace in the city.

In the meantime, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) denied orchestrating the unrest. "Today the people on the street across Turkey are not exclusively from the CHP, but from all ideologies and from all parties," senior party member Mehmet Akif Hamzacebi said.

Turkey is a popular destination spot among the British. The Foreign Office has also warned Britons to avoid travelling to areas close to the Syrian border.

Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said more than 1,700 people had been arrested in anti-government protests that have spread to 67 cities nationwide, though most have since been released.

"A large majority of the detainees were released after being questioned and identified," he said in remarks carried by the state-run Anatolia news agency.

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