While watching the protests taking place in Turkey these days, I am trying to figure out what is really happening there.
The demonstrations started in order to protect the Taksim Gezi Park from the construction of a mall. The protests became widely known through the social media. According to the article Turkey: A social media chronology of Occupy Gezi “Things started to get out of hand after two incidents that went viral on social media. The first was a picture of an unarmed woman protester attacked by the police using tear gas, taken by Reuters photographer Osman Orsal. Later, in a dawn operation, the police burned down the activists’ tents. The incident was captured on YouTube. Police commenced attacks on protestors with tear gas and water cannons. The amount of the tear gas used was excessive. Onlookers reported that police targeted protestors’ bodies when shooting tear gas capsules.”
The woman with the red dress.
In Guardian they wonder: “What is causing the protests in Turkey? What started as a peaceful sit-in to protect one of Istanbul’s last public parks has escalated into nationwide protests. But why are people protesting and what’s causing the continued unrest?“. Readers give their own answers. For example, one reader writes the following:
“Here is a sampling of what the ruling party AKP is doing to create so much reaction from its own public.
1. The constitutional amendment they are trying to pass moving Turkey to a US based Presidential system – This will give AKP another 10 years of electability. Convenient timing as under the current regime Erdogan won’t be eligible to run for PM in the next elections. on.wsj.com/OM2UPQ
2. Restriction on Alcohol use. It started as a bill for a full ban but under public pressure was passed as “restrictions”. Oh and did you know our national drink is now Ayran (Watered down yogurt) instead of Raki? (Anice based liquor widely popular in Turkey). Yup cause Erdogan said so. Because with 1.5 litres per capita consumption a year, the Turkish youth clearly needs to be put in an AA program. bit.ly/1aHmKY2.
3. Turkish Airlines ban on red lipstick for hostesses. bit.ly/165xTnP
4. Subway authorities making announcements regarding “moral rules” huff.to/110P46s
5. Did you know that our PM decides how many kids we should have? The magic number is three. Because clearly there is not enough orphans in the world. bit.ly/18I4sqG
6. Interfering with the freedom of Turkish Press. We have more journalists in jail than Iran. nyr.kr/xaIf3x
7. Imprisonment of the Turkish thought leaders with the “Ergenekon” Operation which accuses them of conspiracy against government. We are never told what specific evidence the government has against these people. nyti.ms/15v3We7
8. Building shopping malls and mosques in historical public spaces, changing the landscape without asking the public. The monument they want to erect in Gezi Park has religious significance and is something that the public did not ask for. bit.ly/1aPJXHI
9. For wanting to name the new Bosphorus bridge after a Sultan that the Alevi minority regard as a mass murderer. This is also example of insensitivity to public opinion. bloom.bg/18DlUwh
10. For meddling with other countries politics and attracting terrorism to Turkey, yet failing to protect its own citizens. Reyhanli attacks were significantly impactful yet got little attention from our government and media. bit.ly/161BBzD
On top of all of this our PM calls his own people drunks, marginals, the others, the mob who should be hanged.
What we see is our freedoms eroding under this government. People are speaking up against oppression and for human rights in Turkey. We are the Public.”
The author of the wordpress Occupy Gezi Park says the following:
“If you guys are wondering why Turks are rising against the government and its diving policies: You probably know Turkey as a moderate Islamic country but we do not. We were founded secular and grew up in a culture that was tolerant to differences. Our women voted and elected to leadership. Religion was NOT a tool for politics. Our grandfathers went to mosques to pray but also drank Raki with their friends and never judged others for their lifestyle. Islam has not been our defining identity until RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN. What Europe and US sees is a strong government, a good example of a predominantly Muslim nation as a shining beacon to Middle East and a growing economy. What we see is our journalists being prisoned, our army dispersed and a government who single handedly changes the constitution to serve their purpose with the intention of slowly taking away our freedoms. We are being pitted against each other based on our heritage, lifestyle or religious beliefs. This is why we are protesting. We want our original founding principals back. We want the whole world to know: The people on the streets are not the TURKS or MUSLIMS or LIBERALS- they are the PUBLIC that claim their uniting identity back. That identity is SECULAR and UNITED as a nation.”
Amnesty International invites us to take an action in order to end violent repression of protests in Turkey, with the following content: “What began as a demonstration to save in Istanbul has turned into a violent wave of repression against protestors throughout Turkey. Tens of thousands of people have attended anti-government demonstrations following shockingly excessive measures used by police to disperse peaceful demonstrators. Amateur video footage shows police officers beating protestors with batons, using tear gas and water cannons. This is an ongoing and serious human rights crisis and Amnesty needs your help now. Call on Turkey to end the use of excessive force on peaceful protestors which has seen at least one protestor die and over 4,300 people injured.”
I really do hope the best for people who live in Turkey. The most important for them is these protests to result in the expansion of their human rights; what should really matter in their case is to achieve less restrictions, less interference and more freedom. That should matter to all of us, after all.