Turkish riot police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a demonstration led by Kurds who blamed the government for Mondays terror attack in Suruc.
The protesters gathered in solidarity with the victims of the attack that killed dozens earlier in the day and were angry that central authorities were not able to prevent the terrorist act committed in a border town by a suspected Islamic State suicide bomber.
Kurds in Turkey have been enraged by what they see as Ankara’s failure to do more to stop ISIS, calling on President Erdogan to crackdown on Islamic State activity.
Kurdish leaders have accused Erdogan of using the Kurds as a buffer against ISIS, and even backing the jihadists in their destruction of the autonomous Kurdish area, which has sprung up in northern Syria since 2011 when the conflict began in the country.
The military wing of the Kurdish independence movement, the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) accused the government of “supporting and cultivating” Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), following the attack which killed at least 31 people and injured scores of others in the town of Suruc, on the southern border with Syria. The Kurdish parliamentary wing, the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) which increased its vote share in the parliamentary election earlier this summer, agreed, despite the Turkish government publicly condemning the suicide attack.
“The administrators in Ankara who hurl threats at the HDP and pat the heads of IS are partners in this barbarity,” said a statement by Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP co-chair.
A suspected Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a group of university-aged activists in the mostly Kurdish town of Suruc in southeastern Turkey earlier on Monday.
Once news of the fatal explosion spread, thousands of predominantly ethnic-Kurdish Turks gathered in the Gazi district of central Istanbul. Several members of the group chanted “[President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is a killer” and “Erdogan is a collaborator,” as well as vowing “Vengeance for the PKK.”
A large contingent of riot police was ordered onto the streets immediately, using water cannon, tear gas, and flash bangs to force the protesters on the run. Eyewitnesses claimed the measures were “disproportionate” and “indiscriminate,” but there were also reports of protesters lobbing stones at police stations.
The violence appeared to dissipate after the initial crackdown, only to resurface after sunset, with eyewitness videos suggesting ongoing running clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers.