News from Turkey, from my friend Bahar Sayan#Turkey #turkeyprotests #OccupyGezi #solidarity
This is a summary of the events in Turkey, and the underlying reasons as to why so many peaceful people have decided to take action, in case anyone wonders. The information on the media is somehow lacking and at times, biased.The trigger
What started as a peaceful protest against the building of a shopping mall (in the form of an Ottoman-era military barrack demolished almost a century ago) in Gezi Park the last piece of green area in the center of Istanbul turned into a city-wide protest against the Islamist AKP government which has been in power for a decade now. Protests have been mildly going on for over a year against the demolishing of Gezi Park. When the construction workers started to destroy the trees four days ago, protesters started to camp at the Park to prevent further damage. The protesting group has no affiliation with any known political or environmental group and consisted of people from different walks of life and beliefs and included several members of the parliament, artists/actors etc. The police tried to disperse the peaceful group with tear gas/pepper gas to no avail. Later Friday evening, a court order was issued for stay of order concerning the building of the shopping mall a mild attempt to appease the protesters but the police force was not backed.Escalation of the protests
A few days ago, the PM Tayyip Erdogan made a statement that they would build the barrack "no matter what people said". Things started to escalate when the police made an early morning raid on Friday, 31 May at 5 am burning down the tents and gassing the people away. Enraged by the police violence against a totally peaceful protest (protesters had no guns, tools etc to attack) trying to protect the park, the event started to turn into a city-wide clash with more people joining from all parts of the city and the police using excessive force against them. People around the Taksim district (the center of the city, a touristic destination and also where the park is located) and the adjoining pedestrian Istiklal Street were gas-bombed and water cannoned. The 4-thousand people group turned into tens of thousands in a few hours and protests started in major cities like Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir as well as many others. The police forces tried to prevent people from supporting Istanbul from other cities and those in Istanbul trying to reach Taksim. Gas bombs were carelessly used in the subway to stop people from getting out to Taksim not discriminating whether there are minors, passers-by and elders.The background
It is obvious that tens of thousands in a city (even the country) would not riot against the government for a single park. The AKP (ruling party) came into power over a decade ago promising justice (the party's name translates as Justice and Development Party) for everyone and created a false hope for Turkey where human rights violations have been an ongoing issue for decades. The AKP was supported by foreign countries as well as Turkey's mostly Islamic-rooted population. However the promise of democracy (about which they said "democracy is a train and they could get off at whatever stop they wished") and freedom transformed into a counterattack against the secularist state and its supporters. Education system was changed to benefit Islamic schools; the entire media was suppressed (for example there is no coverage on TVs and newspapers about these events except a few minor ones); hundreds of journalists, intellectuals, writers, musicians have been arrested on grounds of plotting against the government, while they were simply exercising their freedom of speech; the ever-powerful military was suppressed arresting tens of generals and officers with no apparent proof; the justice system was overtaken by the AKP-supporting people who would act with super powers in favor of the government; immunity for politicians was not lifted as AKP promised before coming into power and on the contrary AKP's and personally the PM Tayyip Erdogan's supporters have seized the opportunity to become incredibly rich and powerful with laws put into immediate effect by the government to benefit them and the list goes on. The country which had been undergoing continuous economic struggle for decades saw a false hope of stability in AKP's single-party power which was also shared globally by other governments and endured the negative effects of the government's policies until now.Why Now?
While AKP and Erdogan have become more powerful during years, the secular nation started to become aware of the importance of their and the coming generations' freedom over economy; have seen that the government would in no manner refrain from exerting oppression and violence against its people to protect its own interests. The people of a "secular" republic, which had been secured by the loss of countless lives in the Independence War, objected to the reign of a dictator under the guise of an elected PM.
Swashed with agitated political differences since the proclamation of the republican state, people of Turkey (which is composed of different ethnic minorities such as Kurds, Armenians, Turkish Greeks, Circassians, Laz people and religions/sects such as the Sunnis, Alevites, Jews, Catholics, Orthodox, Yazidis) have never found a cause to act in unison historically since the Independence War. Now people of Turkey have realized that they would be more powerful in securing their freedom and democracy when they are together, not against each other after almost a century has passed. This makes it all the more important and an exemplary moment in the country's history.Reports from Friday and Saturday
The police have been ceaselessly gassing and water-cannoning their own people since Friday afternoon. Contrary to official counts in the Turkish and international media, not "12" but hundreds of people have been seriously wounded by the attacks as a result of excessive use of gas bombs which were even directly aimed at people's bodies. Two are dead, many have been brutally beaten. The police even gas bombed people at the Taksim Hospital's Emergency Entrance. Not knowing where to find security and rescue, people rushed around to evade police brutality and late in the night, some hotels (even a few luxury ones), some leading private high schools, the military's guest house in the Taksim district opened their doors to the wounded. They were joined by NGOs, cafes, pharmacies, voluntary doctors, lawyers. An unknown number of people (full of many buses) have been detained. Public transportation was halted to prevent people from coming to Taksim for support. 3G access has been prevented; many cafes and people are sharing their Wi-Fi freely with the streets. Istanbulites who are not on the streets, support the protest from their homes banging on cans, drums, clapping hands; whistling and booing the government. As reported on Facebook and Twitter, some policemen have resigned their posts claiming they can not bear this anymore and some are seen to throw away their gas masks and join the protesters. In Izmir, the police applauded the people and backed off (from Facebook).
PM Erdogan issued a statement today, June 1 saying that they would not back off from building the mall and they would also demolish the Ataturk Cultural Center, the city's only opera house which has been idle for many years on grounds of restoration which never started, to build a grander one. However, everyone would remember their wish to build a mosque in its place many years ago. He also added that the Ministry of Interior Affairs would investigate excessive use of pepper and tear gas by the police forces as if they acted on their own. Undercover police members are seen to demolish ATMs and set fires in Taksim to support the government allegations that protesters are destroying peace. Forces have started to use a different chemical gas (Orange Gas) in addition to pepper and tear gas.
Right now at 6 pm Saturday, people are rushing from everywhere in thousands and have taken over Taksim Square. People rest and rush out again. There is no official account of the protests in the media. The only up-to-date source about what's going on is social media (Facebook, Twitter and some newly appearing blogs and sites).
This is not a street riot, it is people rising for their hardly earned rights and their beautiful country.
Please read and share.