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Protests Continue Around Turkey

By Countercurrents.org

03 June, 2013

Taksim Square has remained calm for the second straight night following days of tension, but clashes between police and citizens protesting the demolition of the square’s park have continued in Beşiktaş, Ankara, İzmir and elsewhere in Turkey.

Citing Hürriyet Daily News a Reuter’s report by Jonathon Burch and Humeyra Pamuk said:

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said there had been more than 200 demonstrations in 67 cities around the country.

The earlier cited Hürriyet Daily News report added:

Beşiktaş has been the site of a second straight day of violence as police battle protesters, particularly around the Akaretler neighborhood, which is close to prime minister Erdoğan’s Istanbul office at Dolmabahçe Palace. Television pictures showed the streets of the neighborhood engulfed in massive clouds of tear gas.

Protesters in Akaretler have formed a kilometer-long chain to pass along materials for the construction of a barricade against the police. Between 3,000 and 5,000 are protesting in the area.

Protesters had erected barricades around Kabataş, which is near Beşiktaş on the coastal Bosphorus road, along with solidarity protests from citizens who have been banging pots and pans to demonstrate against the government and police.

Similar pots-and-pans protests were conducted in neighborhoods across Istanbul and the country.

Elsewhere in the city, police reportedly deployed tear gas against demonstrators in Sultangazi’s Gazi neighborhood, which has long been famous as a crucible of anti-government sentiment.

In Sarıgazi in Istanbul’s Anatolian side district of Sancaktape, police reportedly fired into the air to break up a march that began at dusk. Several people were injured in the clashes, including at least four with broken limbs, according to reports.

Police also reportedly prevented a group of protesters from marching across the Bosphorus Bridge to Beşiktaş in a repeat of an unprecendented action early on June 1.

As the clashes continued toward midnight, there were reports of numerous injuries in Ankara in the areas around Tunali Hilmi, Kızılay and Güven Parkı, as well as news that police had fired gas bombs at a makeshift hospital that was treating wounded demonstrators. Many protesters were also reported to have been detained by police.

Around 1,000 people have been left injured in Istanbul, while another 700 have been wounded in Ankara during the past three days of conflict, the Turkish Doctors Association has said.

Meanwhile, tension has risen in the western province of İzmir and the southern province of Adana as police forces attacked demonstrators organizing solidarity protests. Demonstrators in Adana that police were using harsh methods as they took protesters into custody.

Photos released by Doğan news agency show policemen using batons and pulling young girls' hair while intervening in incidents in İzmir. Some protesters have also been detained.

Around 5,000 people attempted to march from Cumhuriyet Park in the northwestern province of Kocaeli toward a local Justice and Development Party (AKP) building, but they were met by police who fired tear gas, causing the crowd to disperse and seek shelter on side streets. Police subsequently pursued the demonstrators, reportedly taking around 100 people into custody.

There were also reports of clashes in the Central Anatolian province of Eskişehir.

The earlier cited Reuters report (datelined: Istanbul/Ankara) by Jonathon and Humeyra added:

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey's four biggest cities on Sunday and clashed with riot police firing tear gas on the third day of the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years.

The din of car horns and residents banging pots and pans from balconies in support of the protests resonated across neighborhoods in Istanbul and Ankara late into the night, as hundreds of demonstrators skirmished with riot police.

Roads around Erdogan's office in Istanbul were sealed off as police fired tear gas to push back protesters, and police raided a shopping complex in the centre of the capital Ankara where they believed demonstrators were sheltering, detaining several hundred.

Erdogan blamed the main secular opposition party for inciting the crowds, whom he called "a few looters", and said the protests were aimed at depriving his ruling AK Party of votes as elections begin next year.

The unrest erupted on Friday when trees were torn down at a park in Istanbul's main Taksim Square under government plans to redevelop the area, but widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan said the plans to remake the square, long an iconic rallying point for mass demonstrations, would go ahead, including the construction of a new mosque and the rebuilding of a replica Ottoman-era barracks.

"It's entirely ideological," he said in an interview broadcast on Turkish television.

Turkey is due to hold local and presidential elections next year in which Erdogan is expected to stand, followed by parliamentary polls in 2015.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) denied orchestrating the unrest, blaming Erdogan's policies.

"Today the people on the street across Turkey are not exclusively from the CHP, but from all ideologies and from all parties," senior party member Mehmet Akif Hamzacebi said.

The protests, started by a small group of environmental campaigners, mushroomed when police used force to eject them from the park on Taksim Square.

As word spread online, the demonstrations drew in a wide range of people of all ages from across the political and social spectrum.

Helicopters fire tear gas

Helicopters have fired tear gas canisters into residential neighborhoods and police have used tear gas to try to smoke people out of buildings. Footage on YouTube showed one protester being hit by an armored police truck as it charged a barricade.

The handling of the protests has drawn rebukes from the US, EU and international rights groups.

On Friday, the US State Department said it was concerned about the number of injuries and on Sunday, Laura Lucas, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, reiterated the importance of respect for freedom of expression, assembly and association.

For much of Sunday, the atmosphere in Taksim Square was festive, with some people chanting for Erdogan to resign and others dancing. There was little obvious police presence.

There were similar scenes in Ankara's main Kizilar square.

Critics point to authoritarianism and religiously conservative meddling in private lives in the secular republic.

Tighter restrictions on alcohol sales and warnings against public displays of affection in recent weeks have also provoked protests. Concern that government policy is allowing Turkey to be dragged into the conflict in neighboring Syria by the West has also led to peaceful demonstrations.

On Sunday, Erdogan appeared on television for the fourth time in less than 36 hours, and justified the restrictions on alcohol as for the good of people's health.

A BBC report said:

Mosques, shops and a university have been turned into makeshift hospitals to deal with the injured.

Protesters tore up paving stones to build barricades, and police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

Officials say more than 1,700 people had been arrested during protests in 67 towns and cities, though many have since been released.

The BBC's Louise Greenwood in Istanbul says several thousand people took part in the protest outside the recently decommissioned Besiktas football stadium.

She says some of the protesters were coughing violently and vomiting after police fired gas canisters into the crowd.

According to the Turkish Doctors' Association, 484 protesters have been treated in hospitals in Istanbul since Friday.

Many of the protesters in Istanbul appear to be young, urban middle class, annoyed at what they see as Erdogan's move towards Islamisation.

Erdogan, speaking in a televised interview on Sunday, strongly criticized social media sites, singling out Twitter, which he said was "an extreme version of lying".

People’s mood

BBC's James Reynolds assessed the mood on the streets of Istanbul. The report said :

Late at night, in Istanbul, women lean out of their apartment windows to clang their pots and pans as loudly as they can.

They wave Turkish flags and show their support for the demonstrators who've taken on the police, and taken over Taksim Square and Gezi Park. The clangs are joined by the beep of car horns. The noise echoes across the rooftops.
A few blocks away, demonstrators wander past the wreckage of trucks and cars. Several roads are blocked by makeshift barricades. Some protesters pose in front of a burnt-out police van.

They even take turns to sit in the driver's seat and pretend to change gears. One man raises a glass of beer in defiance of the government's new restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

"I'm here because of Erdogan - we are against him," says Yasemin Cakici, a teacher.
"He's a dictator. Whenever we want to say our beliefs he always says: 'No you can't speak. You are lying and you are very little.'"

Demonstrators fear that, bit by bit, Erdogan is trying to turn Turkey into an authoritarian, religious state. They worry that their freedoms, and their public spaces, are under attack.

In Taksim Square, rows of students sit along the pavement. Some hold flags, others take in the sun.
"I have some problems with my education," says Ersin Gultekin, an 18-year-old secondary school student.

He speaks quietly: "In the exams there are lots of fake points for the supporters of the government. If you support this government, you can pass the exam."

Some protestors believe that the sight of burnt-out cars will not help their cause. Others have no doubts whatsoever.

"I've been here almost 13 hours, I haven't slept yet, I haven't gone home yet," says an architect who identifies herself only as Gamze.

"I've been supporting my friends, my people, and whoever thinks the way that I'm thinking. We're going to go work and we're going to come back. I don't care, I don't go home, I sleep on the ground, I sleep on the grass. I don't care. We're going to keep doing this till he [Erdogan] resigns."

The protesters insist that they have to carry on. They want their voices to be heard. But, at this point, they also face an important question: can they turn their anger into a lasting political movement?


[1] “Gezi Park protests continue in Beşiktaş, around Turkey”, http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/gezi-park-protests-continue-in-besiktas-around-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nID=48087&NewsCatID=341

[2] June 2, 2013, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/06/02/turkey-protests-idUKL5N0EE0NG20130602
[3] http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=447&GalleryID=1425&gpid=1#2173

[4] June 2, 2013, “Disaffected Turks vow to remain on streets of Istanbul”,






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