Turks take to the streets

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 11 13:00:05 MDT 2001


April 11, 2001

Turks Protest Financial Crisis

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 2:32 p.m. ET

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Police with nightsticks and water cannons battled
stone-throwing protesters in the capital Wednesday as more than 130,000
protesters in several Turkish cities rallied against the government amid a
financial crisis.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit rejected protesters' demands that his
government resign over its handling of the crisis. Wednesday's protests
were the largest since the lira began plummeting in February, leading to a
half million layoffs.

In the capital Ankara, police fired hundreds of shots into the air and used
water cannons and tear gas to disperse a crowd of 70,000 after
demonstrators threw stones, bricks, and pieces of wood at police and
journalists. The protesters were trying to walk to the parliament building.

Demonstrators smashed the windows of cars, shops, banks and government
offices as they fled from nightstick-wielding police. Officials said 202
people were injured in the protests, including 137 policemen and more than
a dozen news reporters. Police detained 100 people.

At least 40,000 people marched in the Aegean port city of Izmir, where
shopkeepers refused to open their shops, and 20,000 people marched through
the central Anatolian city of Konya. There were also demonstrations in the
southern cities of Gaziantep and Mersin, where protesters set fire to
photocopies of U.S. dollars.

Salih Erdogu, an upholstery shop owner who was demonstrating in Ankara,
said he was forced to declare bankruptcy due to the crisis.

``I had five workers with me. They are all jobless now and so am I. I am
ashamed of this,'' Erdogu said, tears rolling down his face.

Protesters accused the government of doing too little to stabilize the
economy, and political analysts have speculated that Ecevit's government
might fall if the government fails to pass emergency measures soon.

``The government has to offer some kind of urgent and radical relief if it
wants to prolong its death,'' said Ilnur Cevik, editor-in-chief of the
Turkish Daily News.

Economy Minister Kemal Dervis has said he would release a widely
anticipated economic plan on Friday.

Ecevit insisted Wednesday his government would stay. ``I do not believe
that the search for a new government would help the country; therefore I am
staying at my post, and will stay,'' he said.

The demonstrations follow Tuesday's call by the Turkish Union of Chambers,
Turkey's largest business organization, for the government to resign over
its handling of the financial crisis.

Unions had called for a new protest in Ankara on Saturday but Ankara Gov.
Yahya Gur announced late Wednesday that he was banning all demonstrations
in the capital for the next month. In Turkey, governors are appointed by
the central government and not elected.

During Wednesday's unrest in the capital, army commandos surrounded a
military club in the center of the city to protect if from possible
attacks. Police snipers wearing black ski masks deployed in the middle of
the streets holding automatic weapons.

Turkish officials opened talks with an International Monetary Fund
delegation Sunday on the details of a recovery program, and are looking for
$10 billion to $12 billion in foreign loans. The IMF has already promised
to speed up $6.25 billion in loans that were previously pledged.

The military announced Wednesday it was postponing 32 projects worth $19.5
billion due to the economic crisis. It did not specify which projects would
be postponed.


Louis Proyect
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