Football fans in Turkey have put aside bitter rivalry to unite in protest against the government.Tens of thousands of supporters of the country’s three biggest clubs, Istanbul’s Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas, marched together to Taksim Square in the city.They set off dozens of flares, which streaked into the night sky above the packed square.The protests were sparked by outrage over police action to break up a protest by environmentalists against plans to build a shopping mall in the square.Besiktas fan Kerim Yilmaz, 26, said: ‘We are against injustice. Our friends’ and all of our freedoms are being limited.‘We do not want our green areas to be used for shopping malls. We all want to live freely. We are here to defend our freedom.’The fans, which included groups of hardcore ‘ultras’, chanted ‘everywhere is freedom’ in defiance of the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
‘I have never experienced this friendship, this solidarity among Turks before,’ said Fenerbahce supporter Rustu Ozmen, 29, a lawyer.‘We have to keep coming, we can’t give up because Erdogan hasn’t quite yet.’The protests have now entered their second week and show no sign of waning.Police fired tear gas and used water cannon in an effort to disperse demonstrators who marched close to Mr Erdogan’s office and to parliament yesterday.
They also fired on 5,000 people also gathered Kizilay Square in the centre of the capital Ankara.Three people have died – two protesters and a policeman – and thousands have been injured so far.The protests have become a general condemnation of Mr Erdogan, whom many consider to have grown authoritarian in his 10 years in power.Many accuse him of trying to introduce his religious and conservative values in a country governed by secular laws.