Thousands of public sector workers in Turkey are on a two-day strike in support of anti-government demonstrations.
The strike was called by The Public Workers Unions Confederation in response to “state terror implemented against mass protests across the country”. It said the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had “shown once again … enmity to democracy”.
The confederation, which has an estimated 240,000 members in 11 unions, said the strike would last for two days.
Al Jazeera’s Rawya Rageh, reporting from the capital Ankara, said that the strike call was significant: “They are trying to send a message, that this is not just youth on the streets, this is not just about a park or individual demands – this is about something bigger.”
However, she said that the success of the strike remained to be seen: “It has to be said that unions are not that strong in Turkey. This is going to be a test to show that they are able to deliver on what they say.”
The workers’ strike comes in the wake of four days of mass protests against the Islamic-rooted government of Erdogan. At least two people, both men, have died in the demonstrations.
The first was killed in an accident with a taxi in Istanbul. The second man died during a protest in Antakya, close to the Syrian border. The NTV television channel said Abdullah Comert, 22, was shot in the head, but authorities disputed the claim, saying he suffered a blow to the head rather than a bullet wound.
Social media was awash with reports and videos of police abuse. Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation claimed more than 1,000 protesters were subjected “to ill-treatment and torture” by police.
Bulent Arinc, the deputy prime minister, on Tuesday apologised to protesters hurt in the clashes and said that he would meet some of the original organisers of a protest to save Gezi Park in Istanbul. That protest widened to anti-government demonstrations following a harsh police response.
Despite facing the biggest challenge to his rule since he came to office in 2002, Erdogan left Turkey earlier on Monday on an official visit to Morocco, where he insisted the situation in his country was “calming down”.
He earlier rejected talk of a “Turkish Spring” uprising by Turks who accuse him of trying to impose religious reforms on the secular state, and dismissed the protesters as “vandals”, stressing that he was democratically elected.
Erdogan has blamed the protests on “extremists”, “dissidents” and the main opposition Republican People’s Party.
“The situation is now calming down … On my return from this visit, the problems will be solved,” he said in Rabat.
“The Republican People’s Party and other dissidents have a hand in these events.”
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Fadi Hakura, a Turkey analyst at the Chatham House think-tank in London, said: “I think that the prime minister has really adopted a really defiant and confrontational approach towards the protests taking place in Istanbul and across Turkey.
“He has already accused them of being extremists; he has suggested there’s a link between the protesters and foreign plotters.”