My heart is breaking for the many protestors in Turkey, as more than a thousand of them have suffered unnecessary extreme police brutality, including death for fighting for their human rights and their freedoms. Those basic rights are being denied by their current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Prime Minister Erdoğan has said many times that he hates social media sites like Twitter and Facebook because of the power it gives to the protestors who are fighting for what they believe in. He has made claims that the protestors are spreading lies about what is going on in Turkey. Many protestors have been arrested for their use of Twitter to post pictures of the violence. These same tweeters have been labeled terrorists. Several Journalists and media has also suffered the wrath of PM Erdoğan.
The initial Istanbul protests were led by about 50 environmentalists against replacing Taksim Gezi Park with a reconstruction of the historic Taksim Military Barracks (demolished in 1940), with the possibility of housing a shopping mall. Those protests developed into riots when a group occupying the park was attacked, with tear gas and water cannons, by police. The main objective of the protests have since broadened to beyond the development of Taksim Gezi Park, developing into wider anti-government demonstrations. The protests have also spread to other cities in Turkey and protests have been seen in other countries with significant Turkish communities. Prime Minister Erdoğan gave a number of speeches widely seen as inflammatory and dismissive of the protestors. On June 3, he left the country on a planned 3-day diplomatic tour of North African countries, a move that has been criticized as irresponsible by opposing political leaders. Unions announced scheduled strikes for June 4-5. The government has been seen as increasingly Islamist and authoritarian in nature, with a party official stating back in April 2013 that he expected the main party to lose liberal support…
Protesters took to Taksim Square in Istanbul and to streets in Ankara as well as Bursa, Antalya, Eskişehir, İzmir, Edirne, Mersin, Adana, İzmit, Konya, Kayseri, Samsun, Antakya, Trabzon, Rize (the capital of the province where Erdoğan’s family is from), Isparta, Tekirdağ, Bodrum and Mardin. Some of the protesters have styled themselves as #OccupyGezi and #OccupyTurkey. The range of the protesters was noted as being very broad, encompassing both right and left-winged individuals.
The protesters have various complaints ranging from the original local environmental concerns to such issues as authoritarianism by Prime Minister Erdoğan, curbs on alcohol, a recent row about kissing in public and the Syrian Civil War. Istanbul mayor Kadir Topbaş stated the environmental campaign had been manipulated by many “political agendas.” According to various independent news outlets, the clashes are one of the most challenging events for Prime Minister Erdoğan’s ten-year rule.
On May 31, police suppressed the peaceful protesters with tear gas, plastic bullets and live rounds. The police brutality suffered by the peaceful protestors has received worldwide attention via social media networks. Many men, women and children out in the streets have suffered serious to fatal injuries inflicted by many police officers. Many protesters had organized and gathered on İstiklal Avenue, reaching thousands by the night. Also according to government sources, more than 1700+ people have been taken into custody, with more than 200 demonstrations in 67 provinces.
People around the world are asking why are the citizens of Turkey protesting. Here’s your answer located in the banner above. On June 4, prime minister regent Bülent Arınç apologized to the protestors for the “excessive violence” used by the police and had announced that the government will ensure full participation of locals to local constructions and developments forth. As a result of the lack of mainstream media coverage, social media has played a key role in keeping people informed with Twitter hashtags #OccupyGezi and #DirenGeziParki (“Resist Gezi Park“) being adopted. In the 12 hours, there were more than 2 million tweets for the 3 leading hashtags, with 88% in Turkish and 90% of geolocated tweets coming from Turkey. Erdogan said in a speech that “There is now a menace which is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
“About half past one the entire city [of Istanbul] started to reverberate. People were banging on pots, pans, blowing whistles,” one eye-witness told BBC News. Deputy Prime Minister Arınç criticized the use of tear gas against demonstrators and stated, “It would have been more helpful to try and persuade the people who said they didn’t want a shopping mall, instead of spraying them with tear gas.”
Some have reported rumors of the police using a novel riot control chemical which some are calling “Agent Orange” against the protesters in Beşiktaş, but these are left as rumors as journalists (CNN, etc.) and experts told people that the police used a colored substance, mostly colored tear gas and a colored gas to identify where the person got hit is. Though bearing the same nickname as herbicides and defoliants used by the US Military during the Vietnam War, the chemical used is believed to be a riot control chemical such as CR gas or the Skunk anti-riot chemical. As shown in the few graphic pictures above and more at the Tumblr blog: “Helicopters have fired tear gas canisters into residential neighborhoods and police have used tear gas to try to smoke people out of buildings. Footage on YouTube showed one protester being hit by an armored police truck as it charged a barricade.”
One photograph taken by Reuters photographer Osman Orsal was of a woman in a red dress being pepper-sprayed. It became one of the iconic images of the Turkey protests: “In her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her shoulder she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party; but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that sends her long hair billowing upwards.”Orsal was later injured by a tear gas capsule.
Prime Minister Erdogan gave a televised speech condemning protestors vowing the following threat “where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party.” Later that same day Erdoğan stated in another speech to the protestors, “I will not seek permission from hoodlums to implement my plans for Taksim.” To help protestors Anonymous and RedHack began a cyber-campaign against the Turkish government, taking down (“tango down”) several government websites including the presidential website to show solidarity. It was reported that protestors had raised a phenomenal $55,000 via crowdfunding in under 24 hours. The money was solely being used to purchase a full-page ad in the New York Times. With 26 days left, the Indiegogo Campaign has met its goal and exceeded it by more than $32,000+.
The Turkish Doctors’ Association reported on that more than three thousand people were wounded in Istanbul and Ankara. These people, including “a large number of citizens who lost their eyes”, were injured as a direct result of water cannons and close-range shots from tear gas canisters and plastic bullets aimed directly at them. Amnesty International said water cannons targeted at peaceful protestors, while the inhumane and “inappropriate use of tear gas by police has been the most devastating on the safety of demonstrators, causing an unknown number of injuries, including serious head injuries when the canisters hit protestors.”
Prime Minister Erdogan’s government relies on tear gas and the constant spraying pf chemicals on protesters. The situation is so bad that he has earned the nickname of “Chemical Tayyip” because of the use of water cannons and tear gas mix. Want to know more? Here’s what you need to know about the clashes in Turkey Click Here. How Democratic is Turkey? Not as democratic as Washington thinks it is Click Here. Why Turks are fighting to take back Istanbul Click Here. Prime Minister Erdogan has took the easy way out and blamed Twitter for protests, calling the site a ‘menace to society’. But who is the real menace oppressing, hurting and killing his own people?
What do you think about the protests in Turkey and the violent tactics being used the the police force? What about the media blackout that is very obvious as social media is still considered to be the main source of the news from the ground. Please share your thoughts, opinions and comments about this very controversial topic below…