Protesters clashed with police firing teargas and water cannons in a fourth day of protests across Turkey on Monday. FRANCE 24 correspondent Jasper Mortimer reports on the growing anger towards Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey's Islamist-rooted government faced growing pressure on Monday after angry protesters clashed for a fourth day with police as part of a nationwide wave of demonstrations.
Police fired teargas at some 1,000 protesters in central Kizilay square calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to resign.
President Abdullah Gul urged calm and promised demonstrators that their message had been received.
"Democracy does not only mean elections," Gul said, quoted by the Anatolia news agency. "The messages delivered with good intentions have been received."
But Gul also called for protesters to abide by the law, and warned against allowing extremists to hijack the message.
"I am calling on all my citizens to abide by the rules and state their objections and views in a peaceful way, as they have already done," Gul said, adding that "illegal organisations" might infiltrate the protests.
Manipulation of figures for injured?
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said earlier that more than 1,700 people had been arrested in days of nationwide unrest, though most have since been released.
He said 58 civilians and 115 security officers had been injured over several days of protests, although rights groups have put the number of injured higher.
According to FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Istanbul, Jasper Mortimer, one “factor the protesters resent is that the government seems to be manipulating the casualty figures, saying twice as many police have been injured than civilians”.
“Usually, it’s the other way around,” said Mortimer.
A doctors' union in Ankara said more than 400 civilians had been injured there, including some with serious head wounds.
Rights groups have denounced the violence that police meted out to demonstrators and Turkey's Western allies have appealed for restraint.
Amnesty International said some protesters had been left blinded by the massive quantities of tear gas and pepper spray used by police.
Human Rights Watch said the number of injured was higher than official figures suggested and that one protester had lost an eye after police shot him with a plastic bullet.
Turkey's NATO allies Britain, France and the United States have all urged the Erdogan government to exercise restraint.
They were joined Sunday by the European Union, whose foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton released a statement condemning the "disproportionate use of force" by police and calling for dialogue.
Turkey's southeastern neighbour Iraq on Sunday warned of the implications for the region.
"Adopting violence will cause it to spread, which will affect the situation in the region," said Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in an emailed statement.
"We call for restraint and for avoiding violence."
The unrest began as a local outcry against plans to redevelop Gezi Park, a rare green spot near Taksim, but after a heavy-handed police response the protests spread to other districts – and then to dozens of cities across Turkey.
Accused by critics of pushing an increasingly conservative and authoritarian agenda, Erdogan's government is facing the biggest protests since it took power in 2002.
Erdogan on Sunday renewed his call for an end to the disturbances.
"If you love this country, if you love Istanbul, do not fall for these games," he said in televised comments.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned in a Twitter message: "The continuation of these protests... will bring no benefits but will harm the reputation of our country which is admired both in the region and the world."
The prime minister had insisted on Saturday that his government would press ahead with the park redevelopment, although he said it may not include a shopping mall, as protesters fear.
He also admitted "some mistakes" in the police response and called off the police from Taksim on Saturday.
An unwanted mosque
On Sunday however, he confirmed a plan to build a mosque on Taksim Square – a sensitive issue as he faces growing accusations of trying to impose an Islamic agenda.
“The prime minister deciding [these tens of thousands of mostly secular demonstrators] need a mosques is exactly the mindset they are protesting against,” FRANCE 24 correspondent Mortimer noted
Erdogan's populist government is often accused of trying to make predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular Turkey more conservative.
A controversial new law introduced by his ruling Justice and Development Party aims to restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol.
"It's not about the Gezi Park project anymore. It has become a movement against the government which is interfering more and more in our private life," said Hamdi, a protestor in Ankara who would not give his family name.
The government has also been criticised for its crackdown on opponents including Kurds, journalists and the military establishment.
"They call me a dictator," Erdogan said in a speech on Sunday. "If they liken a humble servant to a dictator, then I am at a loss for words."
His AKP party has won three successive parliamentary elections, grabbing almost 50 percent of the vote the last time around in 2011.
But one indication of the growing resistance to his agenda has come at nine o'clock for the last few evenings.
Across Ankara and Istanbul, residents open their apartment windows to rattle saucepans, blow whistles and shout anti-government slogans into the streets below.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-06-03