Anger at Turkey’s government boiled over Thursday when thousands went on strike and police clashed with protesters after at least 282 workers died in one of the worst mining accidents in modern history.
As hopes faded for scores more miners still trapped underground two days after the devastating blast, police fired tear gas and water cannon at around 20,000 anti-government protesters in the western city of Izmir.
Turkey’s four biggest unions called a one-day strike, saying workers’ lives were being jeopardised to cut costs, and demanding that those responsible for the collapse of the coal mine in the western town of Soma in Manisa province be brought to account.
“Hundreds of our workers have been left to die from the very beginning by being forced to work in cruel production processes to achieve maximum profits,” they said in a joint statement, calling on people to wear black.
“We call on the working class and friends of labourers to stand up for our brothers in Soma.”
Anger at the disaster has swept across Turkey, where mining accidents are a frequent occurrence. Meanwhile, a video of an aide of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kicking a protester has sparked outrage in Turkey and tarnished the Turkish leader’s image ahead of his expected run for president.
Turkish newspapers published photographs showing an adviser to Erdogan kicking a protester who was on the ground and being held by special forces police.
The incident occurred during Erdogan’s visit Wednesday to a mine disaster in Soma. The prime minister’s office distanced itself from the incident, with one official saying the issue was “his own personnel matter.” The official was not authorized to give his name to the press without authorization, which he did not have.
Watch: Turkish PM heckled near mine collapse site