RT reporter teargassed in Istanbul’s Kurdish district as police indiscriminately fire on protesters

RT correspondent Lizzy Phelan was tear gassed on camera while doing a report in Istanbul’s predominantly Kurdish and Alevi district of Gazi on Sunday. “Police in the armored vehicles rolled up and started firing at anybody,” Phelan reported.

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RT’s TV crew was interviewing locals over their perception of the failed coup against President Erdogan, which took place overnight into Saturday. According to the latest Reuters report, some 290 people were killed in the violence.

However, there were no demonstrators rallying either in support or against the coup on the scene when police moved into the Gazi neighborhood, blocked off the area and barraged it with tear gas canisters.

“We can’t leave, the police are surrounding us,” Phelan said after she and her operator had to seek shelter from tear gas in a local cafe. She added that “a couple of canisters landed really close” to the RT crew.

The reporter said locals tried to set up more barricades to prevent police from entering deeper into the neighborhood and firing more tear gas.

While “barricaded” in the wash room of the café, Phelan said that police “are just completely and indiscriminately firing tear gas anytime we try out to go into the streets.” On the footage, plumes of white smoke could be seen rising from the tear gas rounds.

People were filmed hiding their faces and running away from the scene. Phelan tweeted a picture of a man she was about to interview but who was hit by tear gas canister. It was not exactly clear what triggered such a response from authorities.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that anyone who supported the coup “will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.” Locals told RT crew that in the wake of the uprising, they are now “fearing more repression on their neighborhood” where large portions of residents generally oppose the Erdogan’s government.

Turkey’s Kurdish minority has been facing a massive crackdown from the state in the past months. Ankara insisted that it only targeted fighters from the banned Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which it considers a terrorist organization. However, locals told RT reporters that hundreds of civilians were killed by the government forces as they repeatedly shelled residential areas in the Kurdish territories in the south-east.

The crackdown on Kurds, along with the pressure on any political opponents in Turkey, was also slammed by the 2016 Human Rights Watch report. “The environment for human rights in Turkey deteriorated in 2015 with the breakdown of the Kurdish peace process, a sharp escalation of violence in the southeast, and a crackdown on media and political opponents of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP),” the report reads.