In pictures: Occupy Taksim Square
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A week after Turkish police pulled out of Taksim Square, protesters are determined to turn the Istanbul landmark into a bastion of the freedoms they say are threatened by Prime Minister Erdogan’s conservative Islamist government.
Taksim Square, the hotspot for anti-government protests in Istanbul, is standing strong. On the eighth night of a wave of demonstrations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, the first of its kind, the iconic square was once again filled with people.
However, last weekend’s original demonstrators – those whom Erdogan described as “vandals” – have been replaced by a younger and more mixed crowd that roams Taksim beer in hand. The heart of Istanbul has become a joyfully anarchic meeting point, where secular-minded radicals brought up in the cult of Turkey’s founding father Ataturk mingle with far-left groups and supporters of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
But the various political parties that have jumped on the protest bandwagon are of scarce interest to most people on Taksim’s Gezi Park. These Occupy-styled protesters are sticking to environmental and societal issues, more in line with the French May 1968 movement than the Arab Spring.
They are not only fighting Erdogan’s order to bulldozer the park to make way for a shopping mall, a move that triggered the protests in the first place. They are also condemning the social conservatism they accuse the Islamist-led government of seeking to establish through, among other policies, restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Sheltered by a dozen barricades, demonstrators have turned Taksim Square into an ode to the liberal style of life they are fighting for.