Turkey sees most violent riots in decades

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 3, 2013

Riots sweep Turkey, slaughterhouse blaze kills Chinese workers, and John Kerry takes on two of the world’s most complex conflicts. Today is Monday, June 3, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police as they try to march to the office of Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, early June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer. Click here for more photos.

Thousands jailed over Turkey’s most violent riots in decades. Protesters rallied in Ankara following days of violent demonstrations by tens of thousands throughout Turkey, prompted initially by the government’s plan to demolish Gezi Park and stoked by citizen concerns that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is taking advantage of his power:

Now in his last term as prime minister, Erdogan is trying to leave his stamp on Turkey by recasting foreign policy, overhauling the constitution and even transforming the ancient Istanbul skyline. But some, including former supporters, accuse him of growing increasingly authoritarian, muzzling the media, tightening his AK party’s grip on state institutions and putting religion at the center of politics in violation of Turkey’s secular constitution.

Hundreds were injured in the weekend clashes as riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators and piles of rubble blocked entry to the area. Steven A. Cook and Michael Koplow write in Foreign Policy that the protests should alert Washington that Turkey is not as democratic as it appears. Erdogan blamed the protests on “extremist elements” and called for calm, as Turkish markets slumped in response to the chaos.

Deadly fire breaks out in Chinese slaughterhouse. A fire that broke out in a locked slaughterhouse in the northeast Chinese province of Jilin killed at least 119 workers and left many unaccounted for, according to Chinese media, causing outrage in a country with a notoriously poor fire safety record:

More than 300 workers were in the plant at the time, with employees reporting hearing a sudden bang and then seeing dark smoke, Xinhua state news agency said… The exact number of people unaccounted for was unclear, as was the cause of the fire, Xinhua said. The Jilin government said 54 people were injured and had been rushed to hospital.

Family members of the victims told Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television that the doors to the slaughterhouse were kept locked during work hours and that there were no fire drills. Chinese President Xi Jinping, currently on a visit to the U.S. and Latin America, issued instructions for the care of those injured and called for an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Kerry biting off more than he can chew? Since becoming secretary of state four months ago, John Kerry has undertaken the ambitious and possibly Sisyphean tasks of solving Syria’s civil war and bringing peace to the Middle East:

The two issues, according to an aide, have consumed the vast majority of Kerry’s time and energy – he has already flown more than 100,000 miles to 23 countries, including four trips to Israel – since he took office February 1. What is unclear, however, is whether all the movement will lead to progress, or whether it will go down as the quixotic, if laudable, efforts of an enthusiastic new secretary of state. Success, or even progress, could increase Kerry’s clout with foreign interlocutors and at the White House. Failure could tarnish his early months and, in the case of Israeli-Palestinian peace, add his name to a long list of chief U.S. diplomats who have tried and then moved on to other challenges.

The next few weeks could provide insight into how Kerry will fare on both fronts, as he said after two days of talks in the region last month that  Israeli and Palestinian officials must soon make tough decisions for the sake of peace, and Syria peace talks between the government and rebel leaders are slated for June or July.

Nota Bene: Anti-capitalism “blockupy” protests in Frankfurt drew thousands of demonstrators outside the European Central Bank on Sunday.

Standouts:

Syrian morass - Reuters News Editor-at-Large Hugo Dixon warns that arming Syrian rebels would be risky. (Reuters)

Deadly competition - A Chinese kindergarten’s principal poisoned two students at a rival school, apparently to harm its reputation. (The Los Angeles Times)

Crikey - Crocodiles are turning up in Australians’ backyards. (BBC)

Fido on the menu - Thailand’s dog meat industry is growing. (CNN)

Widespread vulnerabilities - Nearly two-thirds of Bangladesh’s factories could suffer Rana Plaza-like collapses. (The Guardian)

From the File:

  • Red Crosspushes for access to besieged Qusair in Syria
  • Five men go on trial again for Putin critic’s murder
  • IAEA is concerned it will find nothing at Iran site after ‘clean-up’
  • Suspect in British soldier murder blows kisses in dock
  • Strikers clash with colleagues at Cambodian garment factory

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