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Tear-Gassed Dogs And Twitter Arrests In Turkey
June 5, 2013
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At least 25 people have been arrested in Turkey for posting messages of protest on Twitter.

It's not clear what messages or images led to the arrests, but CNN Turk says police have raided 38 addresses, detaining nine people in the city of Izmir and 16 others across the country.

Thousands of Turks are Tweeting messages of protest against their Prime Minister and using social media to organize as police crack down on demonstrations.

According to CNN Turk's report, those arrested are accused of "encouraging rebellion" and "making propaganda." Turkey's state-run news agency said they were arrested for "spreading untrue information".

"If that's a crime, then we all did it," Ali Engin, a local representative of the opposition People's Republican Party (CHP), told the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

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Riot police walk past a burning barricade in Turkey's capital, Ankara, early on June 5 (Photo: Reuters)

What began as a local protest against the destruction of a small park in Istanbul has spread across much of the country, as Turkish people speak out against the 10-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party.

For an excellent overview of the protests and an opinion on why they are taking place, check out novelist Elif Safak's piece for the Guardian, 'The View From Taksim Square: Why Is Turkey Now In Turmoil?'

In a recent interview, Erdogan blamed some of the unrest on Twitter:

"There is now a menace which is called Twitter," he said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society."

Twitter has certainly played a big role in the protests.

Many in Turkey have turned to social media to share information and criticize the government and its response, partly because most Turkish news outlets aren't really covering the story.

SF Gate writes that major Turkish news channels have run nature documentaries and cooking shows without interruption as the riots go on.

Regular newscasts, meanwhile, mentioned the protests in passing, and then moved on to other topics, even though these are the "some of the most severe anti-government protests Turkey has seen in decades."

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A woman is tear-gassed by police in Taksim Square, Istanbul (Photos: Reuters)

Images like the ones above, which show a woman in a red dress being tear-gassed by police, have been shared on social media, spawning graffiti and cartoons across the country, according to The Guardian.

Alongside the people who are facing police, The Atlantic Wire points out that some "accidental protesters" get caught in the conflict.

Here are two photos of dogs caught in tear gas attacks that have been circulating on Twitter and Facebook:

Some people have had trouble accessing Facebook and Twitter - both sites were inaccessible for several hours on Saturday - leading many in Turkey to use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access the internet.

A VPN creates a link to the internet outside the country, allowing people to remain online even if service is shut down inside Turkey.

Last weekend, USA Today says 120,000 people in the country downloaded Hotspot Shield, a free VPN program supplied by U.S. vendor Anchorfree. Normally, the company sees about 10,000 downloads a day in Turkey.

For first-hand accounts of the protests from some of those taking part, check out these interviews in Istanbul's Gezi Park, done by the BBC.

One protester, freelance journalist Cuneyt Goksu, says "This situation will continue until people see a real response to their demands. They want more than just an apology from a minister (Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc) that isn't even embraced by the core leadership. They want tangible results."

Many of those the BBC spoke to said they're surprised by how big the protests have become, and they're sad to see people getting hurt.

But one positive note in many of the interviews is that people are coming together to make their voices heard.

"The only exciting thing for me has been the unity among people from different social and religious backgrounds," said musician Gokhan Aya. "This united front wasn't organised by anyone and it's great to see such solidarity between all parts of society."

Deniz, a computer engineer, talked about the kindness she's seen among strangers:

"All kinds of people got together for a common cause. Complete strangers helped each other. People opened up their houses for those who were running from the police."

Related:

Is Twitter "The Worst Menace To Society?" Turkey's PM Thinks So

THE LIST: Protest Do's & Dont's

Bahrain, One Year Later: One Month Of Protest, 11 Months Of Crackdown

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