The Middle East Channel

Turkish police clear Taksim Square

Istanbul’s Taksim Square was calm Wednesday morning after a night of violent clashes as Turkish riot police worked to clear out entrenched demonstrators. Police detonated sound grenades and fired water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets at the thousands of mostly peaceful protesters who repeatedly converged on the square, until crowds were dispersed early Wednesday ...

AFP/Getty Images/ANGELOS TZORTZINIS
AFP/Getty Images/ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

Istanbul’s Taksim Square was calm Wednesday morning after a night of violent clashes as Turkish riot police worked to clear out entrenched demonstrators. Police detonated sound grenades and fired water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets at the thousands of mostly peaceful protesters who repeatedly converged on the square, until crowds were dispersed early Wednesday morning. Some protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs. Many of the protesters have regrouped in the nearby Gezi Park, the site of the first protests nearly two weeks ago. While officials said they would not intervene in the park, there were reports of police firing tear gas into Gezi Park overnight. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is set to meet with some of the protest leaders, whom he selected, Wednesday afternoon. Some are refusing to attend in light of the police violence. Meanwhile, Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog imposed fines on four opposition television channels, accusing them of incitement for broadcasting footage of the protests. Additionally, between 50 and 70 lawyers who staged a sit-in in support of the protests were detained after skirmishes at Istanbul’s High Court.

Syria

Syrian rebel fighters attacked a village in eastern Syria on Tuesday, killing dozens of Shiite Muslims. According to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, rebel fighters killed an estimated 60 people, mostly pro-government forces, in the majority Sunni village of Hatla, near Deir al-Zour. Many of the fighters were reported to be from al-Nusra Front, and a video posted by rebels showed gunmen carrying black Islamist flags. The move seemed to be in retaliation for a raid Monday on an opposition position by groups from the village. The Syrian government denounced the attack saying it was a "massacre" of civilians. Meanwhile, several rockets launched by Syria hit Lebanese territory Tuesday. About 10 rockets reportedly hit the eastern Lebanese town of Hermel, a Hezbollah stronghold, killing one person. On Wednesday, Syrian helicopters reportedly fired six rockets striking the Lebanese border town of Arsal, wounding one person.

Headlines

  • Austria began withdrawing its soldiers from a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights due to increased security concerns from the conflict in Syria.
  • Former President Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from running in Iran’s presidential election, has endorsed Hassan Rowhani as the "more suitable" candidate.
  • A bomb was found Tuesday under an Italian Embassy car in the Libya capital of Tripoli. 

Arguments and Analysis

 Global Views of Iran Overwhelmingly Negative (PewResearch Global Attitudes Project)

"As Iranians prepare to elect a new president, the country’s international image is largely negative. Majorities in most of 39 countries surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of Iran, and most say Tehran does not respect the personal freedoms of its people. Meanwhile, any nuclear ambitions harbored by the Iranian government continue to draw strong opposition from Western countries, as well as neighboring states in the Middle East.

Unfavorable views of Iran are especially widespread in Israel and much of Western Europe, where at least eight-in-ten in most countries surveyed have a negative opinion of Iran. In the U.S., roughly seven-in-ten express an unfavorable view of Iran.

Majorities in many predominantly Muslim nations surveyed also see Iran in a negative light, including countries such as Jordan (81% unfavorable), Egypt (78%), Turkey (68%), Lebanon (60%) and the Palestinian territories (55%). Only in Pakistan (69%) and Indonesia (55%) do majorities express a favorable opinion of Iran."

Turkey: Summer of the patriarch (The Guardian)

"There is a bitter irony to events in Turkey. The man who told the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak before his fall that "no government can survive against the will of its people" dismissed his own civil movement as looters, riffraff and foreign agents. The man who sent the army back to its barracks, and pushed back the power of Turkey’s deep state, sent in riot police yesterday to arrest more than 50 lawyers protesting at police brutality. The man whose reforms instituted unprecedented democratic freedoms in Turkey can not, apparently, cope with their consequences.

For the second time in 10 days, the response of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an to appeals to listen and compromise has been defiance, teargas and water cannon. Answering the charge that his own reaction to the protests in Gezi Park and Taksim Square in Istanbul have turned a local environmental protest into a national crisis, Mr Erdo?an did a Margaret Thatcher: "If you call this roughness, I’m sorry, but this Tayyip Erdo?an won’t change." Turkey, on the other hand, has changed.

One has to define which Turkey. There are several of them residing within one land. But to take just one of the causes of this crisis – the restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol which were signed into law yesterday – the Justice and Development party measure was a solution to something that was not really a problem. According to the government’s own surveys, only 6% of households spend enough on alcohol to affect their budget. The rest are social drinkers or non-drinkers. In one blitzkrieg of a week, Mr Erdo?an has made selling beer at night at the height of the tourist season an act of political defiance."

–By Jennifer T. Parker and Mary Casey

 Twitter: @casey_mary

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