For the fourth day thousands of Turkish citizens are protesting a government decision to destroy Taksim Square—an Istanbul greenspace—to make space for a shopping mall. Protesters are chanting, banging pots and pans, and occasionally throwing stones. Police are firing tear gas in return. One protester has died, and police have injured about 1,000 and detained 800 around the country.
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the plans for his new shopping center, the public flooded the government with peaceful complaints. Erdogan refused to listen, declaring he is “not going to seek the permission of [the opposition].” Erdogan has made many similar decisions recently and ignored public disapproval of each.
The violent attacks on protesters are part of a growing restriction of free speech in Turkey. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey recently surpassed China and Iran in the total number of journalists in jail, making it the world’s leader in this dubious competition. According to Turkish journalist Hamdiye Çiftçi, imprisoned for publishing photos of police torturing a little boy, “If you work as a journalist in my region, you lie in a bed of nails. Your loved ones bid you farewell each day as if you will not return.”
Erdogan also criticized “a menace which is called Twitter” and called social media the worst source of lies in society. He argues that the majority of Turks support his decisions and the protests are the work of extremist government opposition groups. He calls participating protesters naive and accuses them of blindly following social media. His intelligence service is searching for the responsible parties and Erdogan promises to “settle accounts with them.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.