Turkey protesters mark five years since mass anti-Erdogan rallies

Demonstrators mark the fifth anniversary of the Gezi Park protests. The protests which began in May 2013, were sparked by the heavy-handed eviction of demonstrators staging a sit-in protest against the redevelopment of the area and grew into often violent clashes with police as people demonstrated against much broader issues concerning perceived infringements of civil rights. (AFP)
Updated 31 May 2018
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Turkey protesters mark five years since mass anti-Erdogan rallies

  • The protests began in late May 2013 in response to plans to build a shopping complex on Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
  • What began as a grassroots protest against the redevelopment of one of Istanbul’s rare green spaces rapidly turned into a nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan.

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday marched through the center of Istanbul to mark five years since mass rallies broke out in a major challenge to his rule.
The protests began in late May 2013 in response to plans to build a shopping complex on Istanbul’s Gezi Park, just off the central Taksim Square, modelled on an Ottoman-era barracks that had previously stood there before being demolished.
But what began as a grassroots protest against the redevelopment of one of Istanbul’s rare green spaces rapidly turned into a nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan, then prime minister, with rallies across the country.
Watched by a large contingent of anti-riot police, protesters marched in the direction of Taksim Square, brandishing the slogan “the darkness will go, Gezi will stay,” AFP correspondents said.
They were unable to reach Gezi Park itself, which had been blocked off by police barricades since the afternoon. But as Turkey prepares for key June 24 elections, there was no major confrontation between police and protesters.
“We are the Gezi protesters, they (the government) are about to go,” read another slogan.
Eight people were killed nationwide in the violence as the police cracked down on the protests, which fizzled out by the end of June 2013. A handful of police officers were later jailed in isolated cases but activists have complained it was far from enough.
Protesters at the Istanbul march held placards with the names and the faces of those killed in the protests.
Among those killed was 15-year-old Berkin Elvan who died on March 11, 2014 following 269 days in a coma after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by Istanbul anti-riot police. He has now become a modern icon for protesters against Erdogan.
His mother was among those present at the protest, reports said.
Half a decade on, opinions remain divided over the Gezi Park uprising, with those who took part in the protests expressing nostalgia for a time when they felt able to take to the streets and express themselves.
“Gezi was a rebellion and a protest where the people and workers in Turkey felt themselves free for the first time,” said protester Fatma Yildirim. “It is very important to be here after five years.”
Erdogan and government supporters scorn the Gezi protesters who they accuse of blocking a needed urban project and being used by his political opponents.
But analysts agree that the Gezi protests, along with the failed coup of 2016, were key turning points in Turkish modern history. Protests on any large scale are now rare with unauthorized gatherings often dispersed by police using water cannon and physical force.


Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

Updated 19 February 2019
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Two police officers killed after terror suspect blows himself up near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo

  • The blast also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen
  • Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability

CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.

The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.

The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.

Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.

“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”

Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.

In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.

Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.

Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.

But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.

Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.

The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.

In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.

On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.
 

(With AFP)