Standing Man

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Report from Another Friend in Turkey

Me and my family are safe now, I appreciate your concerns. But I guess nobody really knows how the process is going to be like afterwards. I just can’t believe how police and government could be this brutal and manipulative so frankly.
There had been 4 deaths so far, more than 10 people lost their eyes, more than 7000 people injured and around 500 people are under custody. Still, government is going on declaring these people as terrorists. Volunteer doctors have been detained now, and it’s been announced by the government that they are not real doctors, they have some criminal record etc.
The link that you liked is actually a news about AKP demonstration from yesterday. They said there were more than 1 million at the demonstration area, but apparently it’s not possible, it was 300.000 at most. We feel they are afraid and anxious about what’s going on, but their anxiety only causes more brutality toward these peaceful people.
Yesterday I was at Şişli. Gezi Park is ‘cleaned’ now, resisters are coming together in several points because of that. Excessive force of police is still going on, but what is worse is people with some sticks and choppers were on streets yesterday night to attack the resisters. We backed off.
Let me know one thing though, why do you think CNN Int has stopped sharing these news? They were following very closely last week for example. But the most powerful attack by police was two days ago, there were children at the park, they were affected by the gas, the park was emptied that day, doctors were detained etc. But it wasn’t that interesting for external media anymore. I wonder why.
We’ll see how it’s going to be like, but I guess the common opinion is to continue the resistance. On 15th, ‘the blackest night’ we call, people at Taksim were discussing how to empty the square, and it was decided to leave only one representative tent. This is how tolerant the government is, they couldn’t stand it.
It seems tough, but it is indeed nice to get to know these people at Taksim. I am honestly proud of them, I don’t know very most of them, but they are so energetic, so clever, so funny, so honest and helpful that you wanna be one of them Only weapon we have is humour.

Report from Latest Crackdown in Istanbul

Dear friends,
I just came home, will try and provide some logistic info to my friends on the streets, cause I can’t take any gas anymore unfortunately. There is another war in Istanbul tonight. Taksim was enormously crowded tonight, with not only protesters but regular people just shopping, people with kids dogs etc. It started suddenly like they came to kill. The police attacked with full force, emptied the square first, then entered the Gezi park, also blocked the main roads to stop people escape. Lots of people got injured, got arrested and the police tear gassed even the hotels, the hospitals where people took refuge. Most of the people escaped to back streets, and now trying to gather again to resist only to be attacked, get dispersed and gather again. This goes and goes on. There are thousands of people coming for support from other neighborhoods – even from the Asian side of Istanbul, just like the 31th of May. Millions of people are gathering in many other cities in Turkey as well. The government is waging war against its own people who have no guns. We had some info about the gas they used, that it burns the skin very badly, and also the water from the cannons contain some chemicals. But people are resisting so bravely and will keep doing so.

Violence Against Police Was Staged, Says Turkish Protesters

detained lawyers occupy gezi

While protesters do not know the exact identities of the four men who threw Molotov cocktails at police in Taksim Square today, they are insisting that they were police themselves.

One source I am close to likened it to a theater play due to the large (and convenient) presence of the Turkish media, who largely ignored the protests during the first week (we are now at least 12 days into this uprising) and aired cooking shows and other minutiae instead. She also pointed out that there was no violent response from police immediately following the attack. Another source mentioned a photo circulating revealing that one of the attackers was carrying a firearm.

This is far from conclusive evidence, but it is nonetheless true that the government of Istanbul and its police forces are using the Molotov cocktail attack as a pretext for not only entering Gezi Park and engaging protesters after previously stating they would not do so, but also for dividing the movement between those who are legitimate (nonviolent) and those who are “marginal” and use such tactics as hurling dangerous objects at police. Even if such a distinction were real in the present context, which is unlikely given reports of the presence of agents provocateurs and disparate views on violence and legitimate resistance (which is only obvious given the divergence in both the power and the interests of the government via-a-vis the protesters), the police have made no such distinction over the last two weeks by attacking all protesters in Istanbul and throughout the country with teargas, rubber bullets, and other weapons that don’t discriminate.

This sowing of division comes just as Erdogan has agreed to meet with leaders of the protests tomorrow. What could have been a welcome-yet-overdue gesture is likely to end up as an additional weapon in the government’s arsenal. Reports from protesters on the ground suggest that Erdogan and his advisers are choosing whom they want to represent the movement in the coming talks rather than those the movement would prefer to put forward and that the people selected by Erdogan include few youths and women despite the largely youthful and female character of the movement (one of my sources on the ground claims that as many as 60 percent of the protesters are women). It is apparent that after more than 12 days of mass uprising, Erdogan has not changed his paternalistic attitude toward his subjects.

Yet, we are seeing some changes in the Turkish English-language press, with critical reports of a young woman being threatened with rape by police and young men being beaten bloody, lawyers in Istanbul being brutalized and detained by police (with strong condemnation from the bar association), and some much-needed explanation of the infamous alcohol restrictions, largely seen as part of larger pattern of the government’s intrusion into matters of civil liberty, that were just approved by the president of Turkey. The cynical view of this, of course, is that there is no longer any way to avoid the chaos in Turkey and that as much as Erdogan has condemned social media for its major role in informing the world of his crimes as well as the resolve of the protesters, it has forced his own domestic media to take notice — and they have indeed with no going back now. They can no longer claim that this is a minor event that will fizzle as soon as the Twitter spotlight fades into cyberspace, because, as my source on the ground, whose identity I will protect for now, puts it: “The Turkish people are refusing the tradeoff between economic development and freedom.”

UPDATE I:

My sources’ suspicions that the individuals who attacked police yesterday were agents provocateurs was confirmed by The Guardian.

UPDATE2:

Now the governor of Istanbul is saying they have identified the Molotov-cocktail thrower with the gun on his side who protesters have been claiming was a police officer as a member of one of the opposition parties in Turkey.

#occupy gezi – FOLLOW – Crackdown in Istanbul

Chaos in Taksim Square in the 12th day of the mass uprising. The news networks are showing it now. Waiting for updates from my friends and others on the ground. Please stay tuned.

Early reports are that police are trying to force protesters from the square after clashes that resulted in Molotov cocktails being thrown either by protesters or agent provocateurs. Representatives of Prime Minister Erdogan are saying they will meet with leaders of the protesters tomorrow — although they emphasize they will be speaking with the legitimate, peaceful protesters, thus dividing the movement into two camps.

Erdogan’s people are also saying they are continuing to allow the occupation of Gezi Park and only came to remove banners in the morning when the clashes began, but some protesters are claiming that police are now burning tents and trying to clear the park.

There are also reports of sound bombs and more teargas being used against protesters.

UPDATE 1:

There is video of Turkish lawyers being roughed up and detained (as many as 70 total) by police. Protesters are demanding their release.

UPDATE 2:

Firsthand report in the Turkish English-language press of brutal beatings in police custody and threats of rape.

Timeline of Turkish Uprising (as of yesterday)

Amazing (and Disturbing) Photos of the Turkish Uprising

turkish protester

turkish protester2

These are two of my favorites. Click here for more.

What Can I Do For Turkey?

Before outlining different steps that can be taken to help Turkey in these turbulent times, I want make two very important points that can’t be emphasized enough:

  1. This is Turkey’s revolution
  2. This is NOT a war between secularists and Islamists

Whatever you can do to inform the press and your friends/family of these two facts would be a great start. What I mean when I say ‘this is Turkey’s revolution’ is that it should not be seen only in terms of geopolitics or regional trends. It certainly should not be seen only as it may relate to the strategic or economic interests of the West or the United States in particular — a particularly bad habit of the Western media and its elite benefactors. Moreover, its results (should) depend on and belong to the people of Turkey. Although I am a student in Peace and Conflict Studies, I personally am uncomfortable suggesting any concrete solutions other than, like Noam Chomsky, calling for the end of police repression and for dialogue as opposed to escalating violence. No matter what comes from this uprising, the people of Turkey will have to carry the heaviest burden. 

The second point is backed up well by The Nation, which challenges the portrayal of the uprising as a struggle between Islamists led by Erdogan and secularists rooted in the ‘Kemalist’ ideology of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. I don’t have anything to add to it except to bolster its claim that the protesters represent many, if not all, segments of Turkish society and that although Turkey is undoubtedly a Muslim country, its population is largely uninterested in fusing religion and politics and have a strong secular tradition that can be observed just in the media-hyped debate over alcohol regulations, which would be no debate at all in neighboring Iran. What its population is interested in is something not all foreign to the West — democracy. Erdogan, ironically, once represented a big step in that direction by beating back the secular nationalist ‘deep state’ that made puppets out of politicians of any stripe. Now, the people are holding him to account when he behaves in ways reminiscent of the old order — not to mention that these events in Turkey are occurring within the context of a wider regional and, indeed, global trend toward more participatory (people-oriented) democracy that has yet to be modeled anywhere — in my humble opinion — but represents the best work-in-progress I can point to. So I say to anyone who wants to be on the right side of history: view this as the universal, human struggle that it is and take up whatever (nonviolent) means you have at your disposal to win it!

Click here for a list of other things you can do right NOW

Protesters’ Demands

demands

from a website representing the protesters: http://www.whatishappeninginistanbul.com/

Click the image to get a larger view.

I want to make a quick point here, as this question of “demands” came up repeatedly during what we hoped would be the ‘American Autumn’ (the Occupy Movement). When someone, particularly the elite media apparatus, presupposes that the onus falls on the protesters (which could be used as a synonym for victims when the truncheons and teargas guns come out) to outline and defend their case for demonstrating, he is in effect siding with the oppressive government or assuming its innocence in a sense. This has largely gone unexamined, but if you consider that in a democracy the government is supposed to represent the people, it does not stand up to scrutiny. The onus falls squarely on the government to outline and defend its case for either cracking down on the protests, creating the conditions that gave rise to said protests, or both. To see it the opposite, in my view, is to support tyranny.

Orhan Pamuk’s Statement of Support for Gezi Park Occupation

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/06/memories-of-a-public-square.html

In order to make sense of the protests Taksim Square, in Istanbul, this week, and to understand those brave people who are out on the street, fighting against the police and choking on tear gas, I’d like to share a personal story. In my memoir, “Istanbul,” I wrote about how my whole family used to live in the flats that made up the Pamuk apartment block, in Nişantaşı. In front of this building stood a fifty-year-old chestnut tree, which is thankfully still there. In 1957, the municipality decided to cut the tree down in order to widen the street. The presumptuous bureaucrats and authoritarian governors ignored the neighborhood’s opposition. When the time came for the tree to be cut down, our family spent the whole day and night out on the street, taking turns guarding it. In this way, we not only protected our tree but also created a shared memory, which the whole family still looks back on with pleasure, and which binds us all together.

Today, Taksim Square is Istanbul’s chestnut tree. I’ve been living in Istanbul for sixty years, and I cannot imagine that there is a single inhabitant of this city who does not have at least one memory connected to Taksim Square. In the nineteen-thirties, the old artillery barracks, which the government now wants to convert into a shopping mall, contained a small football stadium that hosted official matches. The famous club Taksim Gazino, which was the center of Istanbul night life in the nineteen-forties and fifties, stood on a corner of Gezi Park. Later, buildings were demolished, trees were cut down, new trees were planted, and a row of shops and Istanbul’s most famous art gallery were set up along one side of the park. In the nineteen-sixties, I used to dream of becoming a painter and displaying my work at this gallery. In the seventies, the square was home to enthusiastic celebrations of Labor Day, led by leftist trade unions and N.G.O.s; for a time, I took part in these gatherings. (In 1977, forty-two people were killed in an outburst of provoked violence and the chaos that followed.) In my youth, I watched with curiosity and pleasure as all manner of political parties—right wing and left wing, nationalists, conservatives, socialists, and social democrats—held rallies in Taksim.

This year, the government banned Labor Day celebrations in the square. As for the barracks, everyone in Istanbul knew that they were going to end up as a shopping mall in the only green space left in the city center. Making such significant changes to a square and a park that cradle the memories of millions without consulting the people of Istanbul first was a grave mistake by the Erdoğan Administration. This insensitive attitude clearly reflects the government’s drift toward authoritarianism. (Turkey’s human-rights record is now worse than it has been in a decade.) But it fills me with hope and confidence to see that the people of Istanbul will not relinquish their right to hold political demonstrations in Taksim Square—or relinquish their memories—without a fight.

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