Turkish Crackdown Angers Protestors, Worries US

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In Istanbul, an angry quiet has settled in Taksim Square, the place that honors Mustafa Kemal Ataturk -- the man who established secular Turkey nearly a century ago, and the site where protestors were attacked by police with water cannons Tuesday night.
 
Several are dead and thousands have been wounded in demonstrations that started in Istanbul late last month and spread to Ankara, the capital, and more than 75 other cities.
 
It began with a protest over the development of a park, but it has become a secular demonstration of anger against the restrictions of the ruling Islamist Party (the AKP), headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
Turkey is a NATO ally and Erdogan has a close relationship with President Obama.
 
As police tangled with demonstrators Tuesday night on John F. Kennedy street near the U.S. embassy in Ankara, an anti-government demonstrator shouted, "Tayyip Erdogan is a walking dictatorship!  This is a dictatorship!  We are against dictatorship!"
 
Another protestor in Istanbul claimed the demonstrations are partly a spontaneous groundswell from people who have no political axe to grind.
 
"They are not from any movement," he said. "They just feel solidarity with the people who are participating in the protests."
 
Despite the anger in the streets, the government remains defiant, saying it will listen to complaints, but knowing that it retains popular support among Turkey's millions of Islamist sympathizers.
 
On Monday, the country's president, Abdullah Gul, signed a law restricting alcohol sales and banning its advertising.  One day later, the government unveiled its hardball tactics against the protestors.
 
One blaring headline from a newspaper on sale in the Turkish kiosks Wednesday read, "Shame!"
 
As a Sunni Muslim, Erdogan has been among the most vocal world leaders opposing Iranian nuclear weapons.  He has also backed the Sunni opposition to Syria's Iranian-supported dictator, Bashar al-Assad. 
 
Turkey also houses dozens of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons and thousands of American military people on its soil -- all good reasons for keeping an eye on what happens next in the capital of the former Ottoman Empire.

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