Turkey protests: Union to start two-day strike

Footage shows protesters digging up roads to block the police, as Julie Peacock reports

One of Turkey's big trade union groups is staging a two-day strike to support continuing anti-government protests in a number of cities.

The left-wing Kesk trade union confederation, representing some 240,000 workers, accused the government of committing "state terror".

Protests and clashes with police continued into the night on Monday.

A second death in the protests has been confirmed by the governor's office in the southern city of Antakya.

Abdullah Comert, 22, a member of the youth wing of the opposition Republican People's Party, was "seriously wounded... after gunfire from an unidentified person," the governor's office said, adding that he died later in hospital.

Earlier, the Turkish Doctors' Union said 20-year-old Mehmet Ayvalitas was hit by a car on Sunday which ignored warnings to stop and ploughed into a crowd of protesters in the Mayis district of Istanbul.

Bulent Alireza of Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington: "Longer term. people might review their image of Turkey from positive to negative"

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan went ahead with a trip to Morocco and insisted the situation was improving.

The strike, which will last for two days from 12:00 on Tuesday (09:00 GMT), is expected to affect schools and universities along with government offices.

In a statement, Kesk said: "The state terror implemented against entirely peaceful protests is continuing in a way that threatens civilians' life safety."

The confederation, representing 11 unions, accused the government of undermining democracy.

Mr Erdogan remained defiant on Monday in the face of continuing violence, dismissing any suggestion of a "Turkish Spring".

In a televised news conference he said: "The main opposition party CHP has provoked my innocent citizens. Those who make news [and] call these events the Turkish Spring do not know Turkey."

After arriving in Morocco, he insisted the situation was "calming down".

Analysis

The latest wave of protests against the government has highlighted the rift between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul.

While Mr Erdogan is accused of "polarising rhetoric", Mr Gul is considered more conciliatory.

Turkey's parliamentary system gives the president a ceremonial role leaving the prime minister with executive power.

With presidential elections looming, these two former allies differ in their perceptions of the presidential system.

Mr Erdogan wants to implement a presidential system similar to that of the US. Though he has not declared it openly yet, all the signs indicate he wants to become head of state.

However, Mr Gul wants to remain in post.

In the 2002 parliamentary elections, Mr Erdogan could not run because of a political ban and the government was formed under the short-lived leadership of Mr Gul.

After less than a year in power, Mr Gul passed the premiership to Mr Erdogan in March 2003 and reverted to being foreign minister.

It was a sign of the close alliance between them which now seems to be fading. And recent disturbances in Turkey look set to sharpen the rivalry.

"On my return from this visit, the problems will be solved," he told reporters.

In contrast, President Abdullah Gul, adopted a more conciliatory tone, defending the right to protest while urging calm.

"If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural that being able to voice those differences," he was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency.

More clashes

There were further clashes on Monday between police and protesters which continued into a fourth night in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Thousands of demonstrators again gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square, the focus of the protests.

Many protesters shouted "Tayyip, resign!" while waving red flags and banners and blowing whistles, and tear gas could be seen wafting over the square.

Police also used tear gas again to disperse protesters near Mr Erdogan's office in the Besiktas district of the city.

Hundreds of protesters were reported to have gathered in the early hours of Tuesday in Ankara where they were met by more tear gas and water cannon.

Officials said more than 1,700 people have been arrested in demonstrations in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been released.

Share values in Turkey were hit badly by the unrest, with the main share index falling by 10.47%, although it did recover some of the losses in early trading on Tuesday.

Gezi Park

  • The demolition of Gezi Park - the issue which sparked the protests - is a part of a wider urban redevelopment project in Istanbul
  • The government wants to pedestrianise and ease traffic around Taksim Square; Kalyon Group, a company which has close ties with the government, has been contracted to carry out the project
  • The project also includes building a shopping centre which PM Erdogan says would not be "a traditional mall", but rather would include cultural centres, an opera house and a mosque
  • The plan also includes rebuilding an Ottoman-era military barracks near the site and demolishing the historic Ataturk Cultural Centre
  • The government has been making ambiguous and inconsistent statements about the project, which is causing concern among protesters who oppose replacing the green city park with grey concrete

The cost of insuring Turkish debt rose to a two-month high.

In a sign of continuing concern in Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke of "excessive use of force" by the police.

"We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force," he said.

The protests began on 28 May over plans to redevelop Gezi Park near Taksim Square in Istanbul.

They soon mushroomed, engulfing several cities and including political demands.

Unrest was also reported on Sunday in the western coastal city of Izmir, Adana in the south and Gaziantep in the south-east.

Protesters accuse the Turkish government of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

They fear Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to impose conservative Islamic values on the officially secular country and infringe on their personal freedoms, correspondents say.

His opponents see moves such as recent restrictions on the sale of alcohol and legislation last year which allowed children to enter Islamic schools at a younger age as proof of this agenda.

An investigation into hundreds of coup plot suspects has also been seen as undermining the influence of the military, which has traditionally considered itself as guarantor of the country's secular constitution.

However, supporters point to the fact that he has been elected with a convincing majority, and that many Turks still back him.

Map of protest locations in Turkey and Istanbul

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