ASU professor documents clashes in Turkey

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State University professor Jeff Kleim grabbed his iPhone and hit record as soon as he found himself a witness to history in Istanbul, Turkey.

The School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering professor was in Istanbul for an international medical conference when a protest over preserving Gezi Park took a turn last Friday afternoon.

“If you watch, this whole place fills up with tear gas,” Kleim told 3TV, narrating his video. “Everyone had to go inside because the tear gas got so bad.”

But, curiosity drove Kleim out of his hotel. He ventured into the streets to talk to people and witness the clashes between demonstrators and police.

“People were upset with the government already. When they cracked down on the sit-in, it was no longer about the park, but about something different,” Kleim described.

What started as a peaceful demonstration escalated as protesters stood their ground against officers.

“They battled back and forth,” Kleim said. “They [protesters] started throwing tear gas back at police. Eventually what happened is they sort of took over the streets.”

Kleim shot video showing makeshift barricades made of city buses abandoned in the streets. At times, the tear gas got so bad, crowds of people filled the lobby of his hotel to escape. 

“It’s pretty much ground zero right here,” Kleim can be heard saying in his video.

Despite the high emotion and what’s considered unprecedented violence against protesters in Turkey, Kleim says he didn’t feel afraid and couldn’t stay away from such an up-close view of the unrest.

“You could physically watch the social change,” Kleim said. “That’s why I kept going down and talking to the people because, I mean, how often do you get to see that? It’s amazing.”

Kleim left the country on Sunday and knows violence increased since he left. CNN says the Turkish Medical Association claims more than 3,000 people have been injured.

Since his return to the Valley, he’s been following the latest updates and developments in the region.

“The world is watching now,” Kleim said.