Riot police use water cannons and tear gas to disperse members of Turkish Teachers' Union who were protesting against the government's education and economy policies and corruption, in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 (Photo: AP)
Dozens of demonstrators were arrested on Saturday in the Turkish capital Ankara as police used pepper spray, tear gas and water cannon to disperse a protest in favour of secular education.
Police moved in on the protest, organised by labour unions, in the Kizilay district of Ankara with protesters forced to take cover from the jets of water and pepper spray, an AFP photographer reported.
Some however defiantly stood their ground even as the water jets were fired directly into their chests, brandishing banners supporting Turkey's secular education system.
Police were seen firing tear gas and pepper spray on protesters even as they were led away by officers protected by helmets and gas masks, the photographer said.
Some reports said as many as 100 people were been arrested, including the head of the Egitim-Is education union Veli Demir. It was not immediately clear if they would face any further legal action.
Many activists have been angered by the interventions of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Turkish education system, which they allege have undermined the country's secularity.
The government lifted a ban on female students wearing the Islamic headscarf in high schools and has encouraged the opening of Imam Hatip schools which mix religious education with a modern curriculum.
Opponents accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of imposing a creeping Islamisation on Turkey's officially secular society but the government insists it is merely ensuring equal rights for all Turks.