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Anti-Government Protests Persist In Turkey


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


I'm Audie Cornish, and we begin this hour with the unrest in Turkey. There have been several days of intense anti-government protests in Istanbul and in the capital, Ankara. A doctor's union is now reporting the first death. A young activist was hit by a car under circumstances that remain unclear.

Turkey's prime minister insists he will not yield to what he calls extremists acting as tools of his political opponents. In a few moments, we'll hear from a Turkish newspaper columnist who has been covering the protests. That's after this report from NPR's Peter Kenyon in Istanbul.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The demonstrations have settled into something of a daily rhythm. In the morning, activists and municipal workers sweep up the glass and the trash from the night before. By afternoon, young protesters stream into the downtown area, chanting anti-government slogans. Then after dark, the more violent groups come out and the tone changes.


KENYON: The numbers of people arrested and wounded continue to climb as both the protesters and the police show no sign of losing energy. But as far as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is concerned, these are not the worst anti-government protests Turkey has seen since his party took power a decade ago. At a news conference before departing on a four-day trip to Africa, Erdogan told reporters that in his view this is an organized operation by extremists prodded by his opponents, led by the opposition party, the CHP.


KENYON: Now, we see the CHP is behind all these events, says Erdogan. They are working in cooperation with marginal groups. If we separate out the young emotional ones lured in by social media, we can see that it's mainly an organized political effort. The fact that Erdogan didn't think the unrest important enough to stay home for is the latest evidence, say protesters, of his arrogance and unwillingness to listen to opposing views.

Activist Changas Temo(ph), one of the core demonstrators trying to protect a downtown park last week and not associated with opposition parties, told Al Jazeera's English channel that calls for Erdogan to step down in the face of some kind of Turkish Spring uprising are misplaced. What Turks really want, he says, is to be listened to.

CHANGAS TEMO: We are not Arab Spring. This is Turkey. We have some kind of a democracy. It's not 100 percent democracy. It's developing. It's going to be much better, I'm sure, but we are not an Arabic country. We only want our voice to be listened by government. That's the only thing.

KENYON: Author and analyst, Mustafa Akul(ph), says Erdogan is right to argue that he's the legitimately elected leader of a democratic state. But Akul says the prime minister needs to learn how to defuse a crisis, not by crushing it, but by giving dissenters a chance to be heard.

MUSTAFA AKUL: I think he should take a lesson from this incident and move on and to try to listen to those who don't agree with him. He has a mandate. He's legitimate, but democracy is not just about the ballot. And particularly for these incidents of two days, Erdogan needs an apology to all those people who have been gassed by the police.

KENYON: This prime minister, however, is more likely to demand apologies than to offer them, analysts say, noting that at his news conference today, he rejected reports that the Turkish stock market was falling because of the unrest. As for what might happen next, Erdogan says he's having trouble holding back his supporters from staging massive demonstrations of their own. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.