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Police Attacks Protesters In Ankara, Clashes In Istanbul

By Countercurrents.org

9 June 2013

Taksim Square, Istanbul (8 June)

Taksim Square on evening of June 8, 2013

As anti-government protests in Turkey get into a second week police used tear gas and water cannon to quell more than 10,000 protesters on June 8 in Kizilay Square at the center of capital city of Ankara . Police also clashed with protesters in Istanbul , Turkey 's largest city. Protests continued amid a surging tide of opposition against conservative prime minister Tayyip Erdogan's rule. Demonstrators defied his call for an immediate end to protests. 

Istanbul : They can't stop us

Thousands of protesters shouted slogans against the Islamist government as they gathered for a rally at Taksim Square on June 8, 2013 . Clashes have broken out in other parts of the city.

Police fired teargas and water cannon on protesters overnight in the working-class Gazi neighborhood, which saw heavy clashes with police in the 1990s.

Around Taksim, protesters have built dozens of barricades made of paving stones, street signs, vehicles and corrugated iron clogging part of the city centre.

“Let them attack. They can't stop us,” a member of the Turkish Communist Party shouted through loudspeakers to a cheering crowd from top of a van in the square.

Supporters of three rival football clubs - Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas - set aside their differences to march together to Taksim Square , the epicenter of the protests.

"We're here against fascism, all together, shoulder to shoulder. Actually we should be thanking Erdogan for bringing us together. He united the entire country [against him]," an unnamed Fenerbahce supporter told the AP.

In a rare show of unity, thousands of fans from Istanbul 's three main football clubs marched on Taksim roaring “Tayyip resign!” and “Arm in arm against fascism!”.

Tens of thousands filled Taksim Square June 8 to hold one of the biggest demonstrations since the beginning of the protests.

The ultras of football clubs had called on supporters to join the demonstration and stood in the forefront of the massive protest. Fans joined them at the Taksim square, displaying flares like in the stadiums. The fans shouted “Everywhere is resistance” in unison in an unprecedented scene. 

Some protesters took the roof of the Atatürk Cultural Center to set up flares, creating a firework spectacle. The building, in renovation since years, became another of the symbols of the demonstrations as Erdogan vows to replace it with an opera.

The roads connecting to Taksim were also congested with protesters. Other small-scale demonstrations were organized too in many points around the Taksim Square , such as Siraselviler, Tünel, Elmadag and Tarlabasi.  

The Park became gradually an entity of its own, with its free market, libraries, playgrounds and even makeshift classrooms where students have the opportunity to prepare their approaching exams without leaving the park.  


Ankara protesters at Kugulu Park . DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

In Ankara , thousands of demonstrations had started peacefully at the Kugulu Park since the early-morning. As the protesters filled the park, a crowd marched to Kizilay to continue their demonstration. Protesting people waved flags bearing the image of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey .

Protesters say the government is becoming increasingly authoritarian and imposing Islamist values on a secular state.

No early-election and rulers' inconsistent position

Erdogan ruled out early elections. Celik, a leader of the Islamist-rooted ruling party also said: “Elections are not held because people are marching on the streets.” “There's nothing to respect about people throwing stones,” he said. 

Turkish parliamentary speaker Çiçek and Erdogan held an emergency meeting. No statement has been made after the meeting.

The meeting was expected to focus on the process to draft a new Constitution.

Erdogan had called an extraordinary meeting of the highest decision-making body of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). Although such gatherings usually take place at the AKP headquarters in Ankara , the present meeting was atypically held in Istanbul .

Local and presidential elections would take place next year as scheduled, said an official from Erdogan's AKP. A general election is due in 2015.

The Gezi Park with 600 trees, the last patch of green in the heart of the city, whose conservation fight sparked mass protests will not be turned into a shopping mall, the city's mayor assured protesters, but insisted the site's controversial redevelopment would go ahead.

“It can be... a city museum or an exhibition centre,” the mayor Topbas told reporters.

But Erdogan has vowed to press on with the barracks project. 

Activists have been trying to halt authorities' plans to demolish the park to make way for a replica of Islamic resurgent-style Ottoman-era military barracks and, a shopping centre.

Remain Green

Representatives for the protesters rejected the mayor's olive branch and said they wanted Gezi Park to remain a green open space.

Mucella Yapici, an architect and spokeswoman for the Taksim Platform, criticized the government for pushing ahead with the redevelopment without proper public consultation. “We call on the government not to provoke the people,” she told reporters.

She repeated the group's list of demands, which include a ban on the use of tear gas against demonstrators and the sacking of police chiefs in cities that saw violent clashes.

A ‘delayed revolt'

Turkey 's main opposition leader has slammed Erdogan's stance toward the young people organizing the protests, saying the youth were fed up with the pressure on freedoms. 

“Be sure that if those young people are revolting, this is a delayed revolt. If it's a protest, well this is a delayed protest. The people are fed up. They can't breathe anymore,” Republican People Party (CHP) head Kemal Kiliçdaroglu said during an interview with a private broadcaster aired June 7. 
The CHP leader also denied the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) claims that the main opposition had provoked the protests. “If they go home after I tell them to do so, let me say it from here: Everybody should go home. But when we told them to go to the demonstrations, they did not do it. So when we tell them to stop, don't expect them to do so,” Kiliçdaroglu said. 
He also dismissed conspiracy claims that a coup attempt was being prepared amid the protests. “What coup attempt, for heaven's sake! These youth have not been raised in the coup generations, and they don't have such an intention.”

'Meaningful' protest: PKK

The leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, in a letter conveyed by Peace and Democracy Party Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas on June 7, has expressed his support of the demonstrators,

"I find the resistance meaningful and I salute it. By all means this stance has created a political rupture," Öcalan said in the letter. It was read by Demirtas after his return from a visit to Imrali island, where the PKK leader is jailed.

"No one should let himself be used by nationalist, pro-coup circles. The democrat, revolutionary, patriot and progressive circles should not let this movement slide under their surveillance," Öcalan added.

"I am myself well aware of my historical responsibilities. My efforts are for more democracy and freedom. I hope that my counterparts will seize the opportunity and pursue the same efforts as me," he said.

NYT's response to Turkish PM

The New York Times has said it accepts advertisements “from all advocacy groups who wish to share their opinions” in response to Erdogan's criticism over a full-page ad placed in the newspaper by Gezi Park supporters. 
“We publish this type of advertising because we believe in the First Amendment, which affords us the right to publish news and editorials, but just as important, guarantees the public's right to be heard,” the NYT said in a statement. 
“Our advertising department and our newsroom are completely distinct operations and the newsroom has nothing to do with the placement or acceptance of advertising messages,” it added. 
The prime minister targeted the foreign media during a speech, accusing foreign outlets of “running stories based on orders with ideological approaches.” 

The ad run under the title “What's happening in Turkey ” and supported the popular resistance following the protests in Gezi Park .  

Turkey 's EU minister Bagis chided the NYT over its decision to publish the ad. 

“When I read the New York Times answer with a mention to the First Amendment, I had tears in my eyes, I was really touched,” Bagis told daily Hürriyet, adding that when he was lobbying in the US, the broadsheet had refused to print an ad that said “A systematic Armenian Genocide did not take place.” 
Read, pray, practice yoga, play or just hang around

<<<< Reading became a major act of resistance with the Gezi Park protests. Libraries and stands where free books are offered in Istanbul as well as in Ankara (pictured). DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Nobel laureate Pamuk ‘worried' about future

Turkish Nobel Laureate author Orhan Pamuk has confessed to being worried about Turkey 's future amid the government's uncompromising attitude.
“I am concerned for my country and I am following the events with sorrow. There is no signal that a peaceful solution [will be reached on] the future between the government and demonstrators,” Pamuk said June 7 at a readers' event organized in Florence by the Italian daily La Repubblica. 
Pamuk criticized the government's insistence on moving forward with a project to construct a leisure complex instead of the park. 

“Everyone who lives in Istanbul has certainly an unforgettable anecdote related with [ Taksim Square ]. I understand and embrace those people [who are protesting]. Taksim has a huge political past. I saw conservatives, nationalists, socialists, social democrats and the military pass from there. So I hope that this will be solved with peace,” Pamuk said.

According to Pamuk, the government should not try to alter a site where so much emotions and political connotations are involved. “The government is making a mistake trying to build a shopping center in such a sensitive place.”
As an author who has put Istanbul at the center of his novels, Pamuk also told Dogan news agency that he wished that everyone would have a say about Taksim's future. “I am very respectful about the anger of the protesters. The whole world understands them as well,” he said. 
Twitter & Taksim

All social media, but mainly Twitter, has played a big role both in the protests in the squares of Taksim and Tahrir, but the source of the tweets differs.

More than 90 percent of over 15 million tweets directly related to the protests against the demolition of Gezi Park in Taksim, over 80 percent of which were posted in Turkish, were sent from Turkey, a recent NYU study has shown, while only 35 percent of the top tweeters during the Egyptian revolution were actually in the country, according to a Colorado University study.
“This is really amazing. Any other country, even Egypt , had not seen such twitter traffic as Turkey did during social riots,” Ismail Hakki Polat, president of the social media department of Istanbul-based Kadir Has University, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Over 15 million tweets using the most popular three hashtags of the protests, #occupygezi, #direngeziparki, and #geziparki, were sent between last Wednesday, when the protests started to become heated, and June 5, in Turkey, according to the data compiled by the Turkish social media researcher Socialdigger.org.

A report of the New York University 's Social Media and Political Participation showed that, the hashtag #direngezipark had been used in more than 1.8 million tweets from June 2 to June 3. In comparison, the most popular hashtag, #jan25, was used in less than one million tweets during the entire Egyptian revolution. The protests had begun by January 25, 2011 in Egypt .


“Given that around 85 percent of geocoded tweets are still being sent from within Turkey , the intensity in the use of social media in this particular protest makes it a unique case from a comparative perspective,” the NYU report said.

Many people have been complaining about the problems in their internet connection via their mobile phones. Some had claimed that mobile operators were ordered to block access to their network.

Turkcell , Turkey 's biggest mobile operator, and TTNET, Turkey 's biggest internet service provider, denied such claims.

Millions of tweets are sent mainly from specific regions and squares for more than 10 days. Mobile operators stated that the data traffic increased around 30 percent in the last week.

A telecommunications expert noted that mobile communication and internet were also interrupted by jammers in the areas where thousands of people came together for protests.

Source: Reuters, AFP, AP, BBC, ITV, Channel NewsAsia, The Peninsula, Anatolia News Agency, Dogan News Agency, Sunday's Zaman, Hürriyet Daily News





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