(JNS.org) Widespread protests against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan erupted over the weekend, as Erdogan’s increasingly authoritative policies have angered many Turks, especially within the country’s secular community.
The protests began in Istanbul’s famous Taksim Square over government plans to turn nearby Gezi park into a shopping mall modeled after Ottoman-era army barracks, have turned into a widespread rebuke of Erdogan’s decade-long rule, spreading to other major Turkish cities such as Ankara and Izmir as well as several cities abroad with significant Turkish ex-pat populations, the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reported.
Turkish police cracked down on protesters by firing tear gas and water cannon. Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said 1,750 people were arrested since May 28 in connection with the protests.
Erdogan dismissed criticism that he has become a “dictator.”
“I don’t have dictatorship in my blood… I am a servant, I don’t have any interest in making provocation,” Erdogan said, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Many Turks have accused Erdogan of “Islamizing” Turkey through crackdowns on opposition journalists, forced resignations of secular military officials, and increasing Islamic-style laws such as a recent ban on public alcohol consumption.