Turks protest over government’s quake response in stadiums, on streets

Turks protest over government’s quake response in stadiums, on streets

Cries of “government resign” rang out from Turkish football stadiums at the weekend as fans criticized the government’s response to this month’s earthquakes that have killed more than 50,000 people in southern Turkey and northern Syria.

At a separate demonstration in Istanbul, riot police moved swiftly to detain protesters, who were handcuffed and dragged into police buses.

Three weeks after the devastating earthquakes, which left 1.5 million homeless, public anger and opposition towards President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is growing, months before he faces the toughest parliamentary and presidential elections of his 20 years in power.

Erdogan has toured shattered cities, promising rapid reconstruction and punishment for constructors who skirted safety regulations but that may not be enough to convince angry survivors who say emergency rescue teams were too slow to deploy.

Thousands are still without basic needs such as shelter and sanitation after the quake.

Fans of Istanbul team Besiktas called on the government to resign as they threw thousands of soft toys onto the pitch to donate to children affected by the earthquake during Sunday’s top tier match against Antalyaspor.

After the match, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party and coalition partner to Erdogan’s AK party, described the chants as irresponsible and disrespectful to quake victims.

“The Nationalist Movement Party strongly condemns the use of sports in dirty politics during such sensitive and painful days for our country,” Devlet Bahceli wrote on Twitter, and called on the clubs to play behind closed doors, to prevent further protests.

Following the Besiktas fans’ protest, Bahceli cancelled his membership of the club, his party announced in a statement.

Fans from Istanbul team Fenerbahce chanted similar anti-government slogans during Saturday’s match against Konyaspor.

“Twenty years of lies and cheating, resign,” Fenerbahce fans shouted during their 4-0 win over Konyaspor.

Some football clubs disagreed with the protests. Caykur Rizespor, the team based in Erdogan’s hometown Rize, called the protests “provocative acts” and protesters “sewer rats” in a statement on Twitter.

“If anyone wants to conduct politics, there will be elections in the coming days,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Twitter.

“But those who want to turn sport into a political arena should pay attention to the efforts of the state, nation and civil society,” he added.

Sports Minister Mehmet Kasapoglu said sport was no place for politics and blamed certain interest groups for engaging in “targeted provocations” to break the country’s unity.

Dozens of members and supporters of the far-left opposition party Workers’ Party of Turkey were detained in central Istanbul on Sunday at an anti-government protest, the party said.


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