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Turkey Protests Intensify

By Countercurrents.org

5 June 2013

Turkish police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters gathered in Istanbul for a fifth night. It followed a government apology for "excessive violence" against protesters during the deadly unrest. Fresh violence erupted early Wednesday in Istanbul , Ankara and Hatay as protesters defied a government plea to end days of deadly unrest, the biggest challenge yet to prime minister Erdogan's decade-long rule. The violence came after a second major trade union confederation announced it would join protests against the government, calling a strike for Wednesday.

The tear gas and water cannons were deployed late on Tuesday after hundreds of protesters defied police warnings to disperse.

Water cannons were also fired in the capital Ankara against anti-government protesters gathered outside the prime minister's office.

Thousands gathered at Taksim Square for a sixth day Wednesday, yelling defiance at Tayyip Erdogan. "The vandals are here! Where is Tayyip?" yelled the crowd. They accuse Erdogan of imposing conservative Islamic reforms on the constitutionally secular nation.

But the festive atmosphere in the square was a change from the tense rallies of the previous five days. Turkish pipe music and singing blared over speakers as the crowd clapped along. Even fans from rival football teams Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce linked arms, united in protest.

People have been chanting "Have you heard us?" in the hope the government is listening to their demands.

In the city of Izmir , there was a festive atmosphere and police kept their distance, though some young protesters earlier smashed security cameras and threw bricks

Already the Islamist government in Turkey has arrested several thousand people. In Izmir , police detained at least 25 people early Wednesday for tweeting "misleading and libellous information".

An official from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Ali Engin, told Anatolia they were being held for "calling on people to protest".

Turkey has faced international condemnation over its violent crackdown, with police accused of using excessive force to break up protests.

Government expresses regret

Speaking on behalf of the Turkish government on Tuesday, Turkish deputy prime minister Arinc a news conference in Ankara regretted "the excessive violence that was used in the first instance against those who were behaving with respect for the environment." He told it was "wrong and unfair. I apologize to those citizens."

"The government has learnt its lesson from what happened," he added. "We do not have the right and cannot afford to ignore people. Democracies cannot exist without opposition.

The comments stand in stark contrast to prime minister Erdogan's insistence on Monday that the protesters were "extremists" and "vandals."


The main public sector union federation, the leftist KESK, which represents 240,000 members, launched a two-day strike on Tuesday, originally called over workers' rights, to protest at the police crackdown.

Another trade union confederation, DISK, has said it will join the strike on Wednesday.


Turkish television station NTV has apologized for failing to cover the initial protests.

Protesters have turned to social media to spread their message and coordinate demonstrations.

Festive mood, peaceful

The protests across Turkey that were brutally repressed by the police over the past week should continue in a festive mood, according to the deputy who became an iconic figure after he stopped the demolition of the trees in Gezi Park 

"I explained about the mistakes that were made and what problems arose. I explained the excess, the recklessness and the senselessness of the state violence," Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Sirri Süreyya Önder told reporters on June 4, after an unscheduled meeting with the Turkish president Gül. 

He added that the government, although slowly and too late, was starting to realize the seriousness of the situation.

Önder said that deputy PM Arinç is set to talk with the organizers of the Gezi Park protests June 5, vowed to initiate an integration of the city into the decision-making process.

Investigations will be launched into the police officers who used excessive force against protesters.

Önder also said that an investigation should be opened into Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu. "I have spoken with him and I can say that even an ordinary subordinate would have acted with more common sense," Önder said, emphasizing that the resistance should be managed democratically and peacefully.

Books for protesters

Taksim Gezi Park now has a public library, thanks to protesters and the support of a number of publishing houses.

Gezi Park now has a public library, thanks to protesters and the support of a number of publishing houses

One of the major acts of resistance for protesters occupying Taksim Gezi Park has been to pick up a good book and read it - preferably in front of a police officer. Now, thanks to an initiative launched by publishing houses to organize book distribution, they are assured to have lots of material in the coming days.

Sel Publishing House on June 4 called on other publishing houses to step up the organization of the book aid by creating a makeshift library in the park, asking all publishers to send books and support the movement with some good literature. 

"Books are one of the essentials of the resistance," the publishing house said. More than 15 publishing houses have responded to the call.  

Food from people

Turkey's leading food delivery chain has said it has received over 1,000 orders to be delivered to Gezi Park. DHA photo

Turkey 's leading food delivery chain has received orders to be delivered to Gezi Park . DHA photo

Turkey 's leading food ordering chain, yemeksepeti.com, received more than 1,000 orders to be delivered to Gezi Park , in an act of solidarity with the protesters in central Istanbul .

More than 1,000 people ordered food from their home computers to send lunch to protesters in the area, including pizzas, hamburgers, and wraps.

“We have received orders from all over the country and even from outside Turkey ,” Nevzat Aydin, CEO of Yemek Sepeti (“Food Basket”).

Water for protest-control?

Antalya Metropolitan Municipality refused to provide water for the riot control vehicles, called TOMAs, which are being used by the police against protesters, according to Dogan news agency.

The municipality, led by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Mayor Mustafa Akaydin, refused to allow police to tap into the water tanks belonging to firefighters to use on protesters, citing future trouble in case a fire broke out in the city.

Police forces then turned to Kerpez officials, a district municipality, represented by a ruling party member, and used the water stored in tanks for the watering of parks and gardens.

A representative from the governor's office, Turan Eren, soon intervened in the process, however, and instructed public offices to provide the TOMAs with water under official orders. While municipalities are elected under the Turkish political system, the governors are state-appointed, which could cause tension in cities where there is a multi-party presence.


AFP, AP, Reuters, Deutsche Welle, The International News, Anatolia , Hürriyet Daily News, Dogan News Agency






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