ANKARA - Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse thousands of secularists protesting at a banned rally in the capital on Monday against what they see as an increasingly authoritarian and Islamist government.
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.
"They are trying to turn us into another Iran or some kind of neo-Ottoman Empire. We are against this," said retired 64-year-old Erdem Sevinc.