Hundreds of merchants closed their shops, blocked roads and staged anti-government marches across Turkey on Saturday, April 7, to protest a severe economic crisis and skyrocketing prices, Anatolia news agency reported.
Police detained more than 60 people during the demonstrations, which were spearheaded by small businesspeople but joined by many other frustrated citizens.
In the capital Ankara, riot police disrupted a march in the impoverished Mamak district on the grounds that the demonstrators did not have prior permission from authorities to stage the rally. All 54 participants were detained after some of them got into scuffles with security forces.
One shopkeeper in financial trouble locked himself in his car in front of the presidential palace, demanding a meeting with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and threatening self-immolation, the NTV news channel reported. The man, who pasted anti-government slogans on the windows of the car, gave up his demand after negotiations with police.
In the central city of Kayseri, several hundred people poured into a main boulevard, disrupting traffic, kicking vehicles and burning signs, Anatolia said.
Truncheon-wielding police prevented the protestors from advancing to the city square and detained some 10 people who disobeyed orders to disperse. Shopkeepers demonstrated in several districts in Istanbul, calling on the government of embattled Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit to step down, symbolic red cards in their hands.
The main opposition pro-Islamic Virtue Party (FP), meanwhile, held a meeting at Istanbul's main square, which attracted several thousand party loyalists. "Enough is enough," "Down with the government," their signs read.
Massive demonstrations swept Turkey in the past week, reflecting growing public frustration with the government's handling of heavy economic turmoil.
Ankara was forced to float the Turkish lira on February 22 in the face of a financial shake-up, triggered by fears of political instability following an unprecedented public row between Ecevit and Sezer over the fight against corruption.
The currency has so far lost more than a third of its value against the dollar, pushing inflation up. The government has pledged to announce a new economic reform plan by mid-April. — (AFP, Ankara)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)