A teenager fled Turkish police while being attacked with tear gas as she headed home from a visit to see her grandmother in Istanbul.
Melisa Kenber, 19, from Galphay, near Ripon, said she was “lucky to manage to get away” from policemen chasing her across Taksim Square for filming anti-government clashes.
“The policemen shouted ‘no pictures, no pictures!’ and then started chasing me.
“There were people all around including journalists wearing gas masks.
“As I was running to my car I was finding it difficult to breath. My eyes were red and streaming with tears, which is when I realised they must have let off tear gas,” Melisa, who is due to start studying medicine at the University of Leeds in Septmeber, told the Gazette.
Melisa – who has dual Turkish and British nationality and visits family in Turkey every summer – said tensions were mounting in the country’s largest city leading up to the protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamic regime.
Melisa said protests were initially peaceful on Taksim Square with music, barbeques and a “friendly atmosphere”.
But by the early hours of Friday, May 31 – the first day of the protests – police were invading people’s homes with gas canisters and demonstrators were out on the streets, banging on pots and pans and asking people to join in the protest, Melisa said.
“I considered joining the protesters but I had to leave the following morning,” Melisa told the Gazette at her home in Galphay.
“So in the morning when I headed to my bus on Taksim Square I wanted to go and take pictures because I knew I wouldn’t be able to join the protest as I was leaving the country.”
Although Melisa had a lucky escape from Turkish police on the morning of Saturday, June 1, as she got back into her car and caught a flight to the UK, she says she is eager to go back to join the anti-government protesters.
“When I was there I didn’t feel scared, I just felt frustrated like everyone else,” said the former Ripon Grammar School student.
“At the first opportunity I get, I’m going back.”
Protests began in Turkey 13 days ago over the redevelopment of Gezi Park – one of the last surviving green spaces in Istanbul – with demonstrators accusing Prime Minister Erdoğan of becoming increasingly authoritarian and trying to impose conservative Islamic values on the secular Turkish state.
The Turkish Human Rights Foundation confirmed four people have been killed during the demonstrations, including one policeman.
Around 5,000 protesters have been treated for injuries or the effects of tear gas and officials say 600 police have also been injured.