October 29, 2012 - 21:12 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of secularists protesting at a banned rally in the capital on Monday, Oct 29 against what they see as an increasingly authoritarian and Islamist government, Reuters reported.
The scenes of chanting men and women draped in Turkish flags and carrying banners portraying the country's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk highlight a longstanding division in Turkish society between staunch secularists on the one hand and more conservative religious Turks on the other.
Although Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan won a third term in power last year with 50 percent of the vote, many secular Turks fear his socially conservative AK Party has Islamist tendencies that threaten the secular republic founded by Ataturk.
The local government in Ankara, controlled by Erdogan's AK Party, banned the rally citing "intelligence" it would be used for "provocation", a move protesters said was designed to silence government opponents.
Waving Turkish flags several thousand people gathered outside the old parliament building in the city center to try to march to Ataturk's mausoleum to mark the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.
"Resign government! Damn you Tayyip!" the crowd chanted, referring to the Prime Minister.
But the marchers were kept back by a barricade of riot police who began firing tear gas and water cannon into the crowd, which included children and elderly men and women, as some people tried to storm the police blockade.