Turkey: We’re together

Posted: June 19, 2013 in news
Tags: , ,

“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Thomas Jefferson

Recent protests in Brazil and another countries against the social, political and economic conditions are being repressed by government forces with violence and lawlessness. There’s no freedom of speech or human rights when governments use force to try to silence their opponents.


Currently, Turkey has been experiencing a period of protests against government policy. Peaceful protests against reconstruction of the Gezi Park at the Istanbuls landmark square Taksim, tuned in to protests against Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Over milion people nonviolently resist police brutal force. Started in Istanbul, protests spread in 10 days to over 82 cities of Turkey. Significant violence from the police side is manifested by using the tear gas, and rubber bullets. Many people was arrested for just standing at the square.

Gezi Park

The initial cause of the protests was the plan to remove Gezi Park, one of the few remaining green spaces in the center of the European side of Istanbul. The plan involved pedestrianising Taksim Square and rebuilding the Ottoman-era Taksim Military Barracks, which had been demolished in 1940. Development projects in Turkey involve “cultural preservation boards” which are supposed to be independent of the government, and in January such a board rejected the project as not serving the public interest. However a higher board overturned this on 1 May, in a move park activists said was influenced by the government.

Gezi_Park_from_the_Marmara_hotelGezi Park as seen from the Marmara hotel on Taksim Square.

The ground floor of the rebuilt barracks was expected to house a shopping mall, and the upper floors luxury flats, although in response to the protests the likelihood of a shopping mall was downplayed, and the possibility of a museum raised. The main contractor for the project is the Kalyon Group, described in 2013 by the BBC as “a company which has close ties with the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party.”

The Gezi Park protests began in April, having started with a petition in December 2012. The protests were renewed on 27 May, culminating in the creation of an encampment occupying the park. A raid on this encampment on 29 May prompted outrage and wider protests. Although Turkey has a history of police brutality, the attack on a peaceful sit-in by environmentalists was different enough to spur wider outrage than such previous incidents, developing into the largest protests in Turkey in decades.






turkey-protests-10A man holds a flag bearing the image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded modern, secular Turkey on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923 and encouraged the country to throw off its religious traditions.

The Woman in Red

On the morning of 28 May, around 50 environmentalists were camping out in Gezi Park in order to prevent its demolition. The protesters initially halted attempts to bulldoze the park by refusing to leave. Police used tear gas to disperse the peaceful protesters and burned down their tents in order to allow the bulldozing to continue. Photos of the scene, such as an image of a young female protester (later nicknamed the “woman in red”) holding her ground while being sprayed by a policeman, quickly spread throughout the media across the world. The Washington Post reported that the image “encapsulates Turkey’s protests and the severe police crackdown”, while Reuters called the image an “iconic leitmotif.”



turkey-woman-in-red-3The photos shows how the unknown woman first faces off with the massed ranks of riot police before one steps forward to spray the gas right into her face.



turkey-woman-in-red-6Standing up for her rights: The brave woman is forced to retreat coughing and spluttering as the gas-wielding riot policeman goes on to spray the crowds of demonstrators behind her, leaving them in agony. Photos: Reuters.

On 31 May Police carried out another raid on the encampment in the early morning of 31 May. The police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters to surrounding areas and set up barricades around the park to prevent re-occupation. Throughout the day, the police continued to fire tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons at demonstrators, resulting in reports of more than 100 injuries. Sırrı Süreyya Önder was hospitalised after being hit in the shoulder by a tear gas canister. Some protesters threw rocks at the security forces. The executive order regarding the process decided earlier had been declared as ‘on-hold’ on 31 May 2013. 10,000 gathered in Istiklal Avenue. According to governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu, 63 people had been arrested and detained. The police use of tear gas was criticised for being “indiscriminate.” The interior minister, Muammer Guler, said the claims of the use of disproportionate force would be investigated.


Turkish riot police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators during protest against destruction of trees in park brought about by pedestrian project, in Taksim Square in central Istanbul



On 17 June a general strike and protests took place on almost every part of Turkey.

The Turkey Standing Man

Nonviolent resistance (or nonviolent action) is the practice of achieving goals through symbolic protests, civil disobedience, economic or political noncooperation,satyagaha, and other methods, without using violence. It is largely synonymous with civil resistance. Each of these terms (“nonviolent resistance” and “civil resistance”) has its distinct merits and also slightly different connotations, which are briefly explored in the entry on civil resistance. The modern form of non-violent resistance was popularised and proven to be effective by the Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi in his efforts to gain independence from the British.

Against the violence of the governments forces we can’t react with more violence, but with inteligence by many other modes of expression to make us understood without using a single word or action. In these days, a man showed us one of these forms. A silent, standing protest by performance artist Erdem Gunduz has been taken up by hundreds of anti-government demonstrators and spread to several Turkish cities. Mr Gunduz appeared in Istanbul’s Taksim Square at around 18:00 (15:00 GMT) on Monday and remained there until 02:00 when police moved in.

His protest quickly captured the imagination of the protest movement. The hash tag “duranadam” (“standing man”) dominated Turkish-language Twitter on Tuesday morning. Hundreds of people in Istanbul and Ankara took up the protest on Tuesday.




We are the people and the people should not be afraid of their governments, but governments should be afraid of their people.


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