20-Year-Old Turkish Man Becomes First Confirmed Death In Istanbul Protests

Istanbul Gezi ParkA Turkish riot policeman uses tear gas as a demonstrator holds a banner which reads that, ‘Chemical Tayyip’, referring to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, during a protest against the destruction of trees in a park brought about by a pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul May 31, 2013.

Following a week that saw demonstrations in Istanbul spread to other cities and an increasingly brutal police response, the first death in Turkey’s anti-government protests has been confirmed.

According to Reuters, Turkish doctors’ association TBB announced today that a 20-year-old Turkish man named¬†Mehmet Ayvalitas died when a taxi drove into a group of protesters on an Istanbul highway.

Four other people were injured in the incident, TBB said, one of them seriously.

Ayvalitas’s death was the first confirmed since violence began last week, though a number of other unconfirmed fatalities have been reported.

Amnesty International put out a statement on Saturday that said that there had been “at least two deaths of protesters” and there have been unconfirmed reports today that a different protester has been left “brain dead” after a gunshot to the head.

Protests began last Monday in opposition to remove a tree-filled park¬†in the city’s central Taksim Square and replace it with a shopping mall, but have since grown into a more general protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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