A San Diego woman currently working as a professor in Istanbul, Turkey, has found herself in the middle of massive protests and violent government backlash.
Clashes between demonstrators and Turkish police began earlier this week with protests in Istanbul over a plan to redevelop a popular park and city square into a mall. The initially peaceful demonstrations soon became larger, anti-government protests and police retaliated violently.
On Saturday, more than 900 activists were reportedly arrested.
A San Diego woman who currently teaches in Istanbul spoke exclusively to NBC 7 San Diego on Saturday about the civil unrest and she’s experiencing in the country.
Due to the seriousness of the situation and to protect her identity, she wanted to share her story under the pseudonym “Caroline Caracalla.”
Caracalla says she’s playing an active role in the protests, which have rapidly grown over the last few days.
“I got shot with a tear gas canister yesterday and probably have a bruise that’s about a foot long,” she told NBC 7 in a phone interview from Istanbul on Saturday.
Caracalla has been capturing footage on her cell phone of the uprising on the streets in Istanbul, which she shared with NBC 7.
The footage depicts loud, screaming crowds and police throwing things at demonstrators.
Caracalla was part of Monday’s original occupation of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, where she says the actions of the Turkish police turned a peaceful event into a violent riot.
“The police gassed all the people who were sleeping. It’s like a pepper gas; it cleared the tents. Then the police burned protestors’ tents,” she explained.
Since then, Caracalla says Turkish police have escalated their tactics by allegedly shooting Agent Orange at protestors, a powerful herbicide used by military during the Vietnam War era.
“If you get gassed, you run down the street, People are spraying with counter gas. They started and fought off police all night,” she added.
On Saturday in San Diego, approximately 250 local residents – many of them Turkish immigrants – gathered at Balboa Park to support the people of Turkey and raise awareness about the violence happening on the streets of the country.
Holding signs, local demonstrators wanted to send their own messages to the Turkish government.
“We’re asking the government to do the right thing and take care of citizens instead of attacking citizens,” one participant at Balboa Park told NBC 7.
“We don’t want the government making decisions for us, we want the government making decisions that we want,” said another participant.
One local fears that the civil unrest will continue to grow.
“It’s really hard to stop a revolution, and that’s what people are calling this,” he said
From local protestors, to Caracalla in Istanbul, they all say the continual reduction of civil liberties by the Turkish government has gone far enough, and now they’re standing up for human rights.
NBC 7 has also learned that several local college students studying abroad in Turkey are also caught up in the middle of these protests.