- Photograph of the woman turning from the tear gas has become defining image of Turkey’s days of violent protest
- Women feel threatened by official promotion of the Islamic headscarf and concerns about women’s rights
- Many have joined in the street fighting raging in Turkey since Friday
- Deputy Prime Minister apologised for police brutality as Ankara appeared to soften its stance against protestors
- Bulent Arinc due to meet protest organisers today in bid diffuse tensions after days of heated demonstrations
- Large trade union due to stage walkout today as protest movement gathers support
- Turkish police arrest 25 people for ‘spreading untrue information’ on Twitter and provoking protest
t has thrust Turkish academic Ceyda Sungar into the limelight but she says her experience is typical of people in her country who fight for their rights.
Ms Sungar, an academic in city planning at Istanbul Technical University, told Turkish newspaper Radikal: ‘Every citizen defending their urban rights, every worker defending their human rights, and every student defending university rights has witnessed the police violence I experience.’
The academic, who part of the Taksim Solidarity Platform protesting against the redevelopment of the park, has since declined further interviews as she is believed to be uncomfortable with her position as the focal point of the movement.
But it has become a galvanising force for feloow protestors.
‘That photo encapsulates the essence of this protest,’ says maths student Esra at Besiktas, near the Bosphorus strait – one of the many centres of this week’s protests.
‘The violence of the police against peaceful protesters, people just trying to protect themselves and what they value.’
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- In one artist’s rendering which has been plastered on walls in Istanbul and elsewhere the woman appears much bigger than the policeman.
‘The more you spray the bigger we get’, reads the slogan next to it.
The U.S. and the European Union as well as human rights groups have expressed concern about the heavy-handed action of Turkish police against protesters.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan branded the protesters on Monday extremists ‘living arm in arm with terrorism’, a description that seems to sit ill with the image of the woman in red.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has apologised for police violence and was due to meet organisers of the demonstration against plans to build a replica Ottoman-era barracks on Istanbul’s Gezi Park in Taksim Square.
But he refuses to talk to unnamed groups he accuses of exploiting anger over police action against the original protest to foment broader violence.
He is in control of the government after Prime Minister Erdogan flew off to a state visit to north Africa on Monday.
Erdogan did not comment on domestic matters at a news conference in Algiers on Tuesday.
Divided: A masked man tries to avoid a missile, left, while another protestor is led away by riot police
Erdogan, who has won three successive elections and has a huge parliamentary majority, has been accused of taking an authoritarian turn after initial economic advances and early democratic reform.
Leader: Erdogan, a pious man who denies Islamist ambitions for Turkey, rejects any suggestion he wants to cajole anyone into religious observance
Critics accuse him of pursuing an ‘Islamist’ agenda by easing restrictions on the wearing of headscarves in state institutions, limiting alcohol sales and promoting broader religious projects.
Erdogan denies any ambition to undermine Turkey’s secular constitution.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the secular republic formed in 1923 on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire, encouraged women to wear Western clothes rather than headscarves and promoted the image of the professional woman.
Ironically, Erdogan is seen these days as, for better or worse, the most dominant Turkish leader since Ataturk.
After first sweeping to power in in 2002, he remains unrivalled in popularity, drawing on strong support in the conservative Anatolian heartland.
The weekend demonstrations in dozens of cities suggest however his popularity may be dwindling, at least among middle classes who swung behind him in the early years of political and economic reform that cut back the power of the army and introduced some rights amendments.
‘Erdogan says 50 percent of the people voted for him. I’m here to show I belong to the other 50 percent, the half of the population whose feelings he showed no respect for, the ones he is trying to crush,’ says chemistry student Hasine.
‘I want to have a future here in Turkey, a career, a freedom to live my life. But all these are under threat. I want Erdogan to understand,’ she adds.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last night said only Turks can solve the problem of anti-government protests sowing unrest in Turkey. But he says the U.S. is concerned and isn’t indifferent to the outcome. Read more: