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ISTANBUL: A mob enraged at public alcohol consumption attacked guests at a cocktail party outside an art gallery in Istanbul, leaving five injured, witnesses and officials said yesterday.
Up to 50 men armed with sticks, iron bars, knives and gas sprays, launched a “planned and organised” attack on the event in the downtown district of Tophane late Tuesday, gallery owner Nazim Dikbas told a press conference.
“If the galleries had not rolled down the shutters immediately, it would have become a sort of lynching,” Antonio Cosentino, an artist who was attending the event, told the Haberturk newspaper.
The incident is likely to fuel concern among secularist Turks that the conservative policies of the government are fanning intolerance in the secular country.
The cocktail party was meant to mark the start of an “art walk” at exhibitions that opened simultanously in several galleries clustered in the district.
Organisers refused to blame the incident solely on alcohol consumption, pointing at already high-running tensions with residents of Tophane, a conservative district, over clashing lifestyles.
Dikbas urged the authorities to act, warning that “such attacks may become more vehement and threaten the city’s social and cultural life.”
Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu said seven suspects had been detained. AFP