Turmoil Re-Escalates in Turkey

On Sunday a 22 year old man in the ancient city of Antioch, now called Antakya, in southern Turkey where it dips below the east-west border with Syria, was killed by a tear gas canister to the head.  Ahmet Atakan had joined a demonstration against highway construction and calling for remembrance and justice for a 14 year old boy, still in  coma from a tear gas hit to the head in the June, Gezi Park demonstrations when he died.  Protesters have now added his name to the growing grievances against the government, particularly its heavy-handed police response to outpouring of feeling against the growing authoritarianism and the turn to religion of the regime.

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Although the June demonstrations, triggered by an government urban redevelopment plan for the popular public park in Istanbul, had simmered down after a pull back of police and a promise not to develop there, the underlying seismic forces were still in play.  In Antakya the mixture is even more explosive as a substantial number of Alevis, a sect of Shiism, itself the largest minority in Sunni dominated Turkey, live there.  Atakan’s family is Alevi, which not only is a minority within a minority in a country recently encouraging the majority religion, it also has affinities with the Alawites of Syria — at the center of the Assad war against non-Alawites.  Turkey, in the form of Prime Minster Erdogan, has been a prime mover in taking on Assad.  The demonstrations, at least in the Antakya area, have merged the anti-Erdogan , anti-authoritarian feelings of young Turkish liberals with anti-Erdogan, anti-intervention, fellow-feeling with Assad’s base.

The result of increased frustration, increased police violence, a serious dose of sectarian religious fervor have turned the demonstrations more violent, with hurled stones, burning barricades, more tear gas and strip searches of young protesters.  At least 8 journalists have been reported injured.

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To add to the turmoil, several Turkish F-16 fighter planes scrambled from a base near Antakya after a massive explosion across the border in Syria set the region on edge.

More at The Washington Post

 

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