Riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators on Friday, injuring dozens in a bid to break up a four-day protest against a major construction project in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square.
Several of the injured were left lying on the ground unconscious after police used tear gas and pepper spray on them, while two people were hospitalised with injuries to the head,
In the most severe case, a Turkish national of Moroccan origin had to undergo brain surgery after fractures to her skull, but she was doing well in intensive care, according to Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu.
Two protestors suffered broken arms and several others had minor bone fractures when scaffolding collapsed as they tried to escape the police intervention on the square.
Thousands have voiced their support for the protesters on social media in recent days, while Amnesty International issued a statement on Thursday condemning use of “excessive force against peaceful protesters.”
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said government was looking into the claims of the use of disproportionate force, without elaborating.
Reporters without Borders urged Turkish authorities on Friday to contain the harsh police action against the protesters and claimed that journalists were falling victim to “targeted attacks” as they tried to cover the unrest.
The strong public reaction comes just days after a new law by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that would restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol, a move that has angered many youngsters and fuelled anti-government sentiment in the country.
Erdogan’s populist government, in power for over a decade, is often accused of trying to make the predominantly Muslim but staunchly secular country more conservative.