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Thousands Of Striking Workers, Teachers, Doctors March In Turkey , Death Toll 3

By Countercurrents.org

06 June, 2013

Thousands of striking workers took to the streets of Turkey 's cities on June 5, 2013 , joining calls for prime minister Tayyip Erdogan to step down as mass protests against his rule intensified. In Istanbul , thousands of striking workers held banners addressed to Erdogan reading: "This nation will not bow to you!" and " Taksim Square is everywhere!" As anti-government protests enter their ninth day, Turks continue to stream into public spaces in their thousands.

Bellowing to the din of drums and wailing Turkish pipes, teachers, doctors, bank staff and others marched in a sea of red and yellow labor union flags in the capital Ankara and in Istanbul , where they converged on Taksim Square , the cradle of nearly a week of violent clashes.

"Taksim, resist, the workers are coming!" they chanted, demanding the resignation of Erdogan, who has dismissed the protesters as "extremists" and "looters" as he faces down the biggest challenge to his decade in power.

Fresh clashes erupted overnight, with police firing tear gas and water cannon on protesters in major cities including Istanbul .

"Erdogan needs to apologize, resign and go to court for the things he has done, for the excessive force," said Tansu Tahincioglu, a 26-year-old web entrepreneur in Istanbul . "Before, people were afraid to express their fear publicly. Even tweets are a problem. But now they are not afraid," he told AFP.

The violent police response to the protests has hardened the movement, drawing in the labor unions that represent hundreds of thousands of Turks.

Two major trade union federations, KESK and DISK, launched two-day strikes from Tuesday in solidarity with the street protesters.

"The ordinary workers and the educated are all together to defend a better Turkey , where there is equality and freedom," said Arhan, a 45-year-old doctor, dressed like other demonstrators in a white shirt and cap.

Marching with his wife to Taksim Square , he said he did not believe deputy prime minister Arinc when he apologized on Tuesday to people injured at the start of the protests. "They play good cop and bad cop, but they have the same aim. They want to tame us," said Arhan, who would not give his second name for fear of getting in trouble with his employer.

In the capital Ankara , union workers unfurled banners addressing Erdogan, reading: "This nation will not bow to you!"

The Gezi Park protests saw more police violence in the center of Ankara in the afternoon, despite the government's repeated instructions to the security forces to exercise restraint. Police again used tear gas and water cannon to quell protesters, most of whom were members of unions who had called for a strike in solidarity with the Gezi Park demonstrations. 

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), the Public Workers Unions Confederation (KESK), the Turkish Doctors' Union (TTB) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) as well as members of left-wing political parties and members of civil society organizations were all present at the Kizilay square.

A greater police presence compared to the last two days was noted near the square. Tensions arose as a group unrelated with the unions tried to set up tents on Kizilay Square .

Police fired tear gas and used water cannons against another group of demonstrators that gathered at Kugulu Park . Two journalists working for the Ulusal Channel, Ankara bureau chief Mustafa Kaya and cameraman Serkan Bayraktar were taken into custody, the private broadcaster reported. 

Protesters in Izmir demanded the release of about 30 people arrested for posting "misinformation" on Twitter.

Relatives said those detained - young men and women, mostly in their early 20s - had posted as few as two tweets informing protesters of the location of police activity and roadblocks in the city. They feared they would be charged with criminal incitement.

Third person killed

Ethem Sarisülük, a Turkish activist who was wounded in the head during clashes in Ankara , has succumbed to his injuries, a representative of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) said during a press meeting in Ankara .

Sarisülük, whose brain death was declared earlier, became the third person killed in protests.

What's happening in Turkey ?

Following is the text of the people-funded statement on Turkey 's protests that appeared in a full-page ad in New York Times:

Millions of Turkish citizens have been outraged by the violent reaction of their government to a peaceful protest aimed at saving Istanbul 's Gezi Park .

Outraged, yet not surprised.

Over the course of prime minister Erdogan's 10-year term, we have witnessed a steady erosion of our rights and freedoms. Arrests of numerous journalists, artists, and even elected officials; restrictions on freedom of speech, women's rights, and even alcohol sales have all demonstrated that the ruling party is not serious about democracy. Time and again, the prime minister has mocked and trivialized his nation's concerns while Turkey 's own media has remained shamefully silent.

The people protesting bravely throughout Turkey are the proud inheritors of Atatürk's legacy. We are not looters or extremists. We are students, teachers, workers, mothers, fathers. We represent various ethnicities and creeds, religions and ideologies. We stand united now because of our concern for Turkey 's future.

We demand an end to police brutality.

We demand a free and unbiased media.

We demand an open dialogue, not the dictate of an autocrat.

We hope that you will join the conversation and stand with us in solidarity.

The Trio and the people

The way people are participating in movement against the conservative Turkish regime is reflected in the following report by Raya Jalabi from New York (guardian.co.uk, June 5, 2013“Turkish trio who took out New York Times ad: 'It's really not about us'”):

US-based Oltac Unsal, Murat Akhtihanoglu and Duygyu Atacan say their campaign goal was to get the world's attention:

Turkish protesters in Istanbul.

Turkish protesters in Istanbul . The trio's Indiegogo campaign reached its fundraising goal within 18 hours. Photograph: Sedat Suna/EPA

Oltac Unsal, Murat Aktihanoglu and Duygu Atacan, three US-based Turks who launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to raise money for a full-page ad in the New York Times in support of their fellow citizens.

"We were frustrated," Unsal said of his fellow campaign leaders. "Murat and I were traveling back from South Africa and were disconnected from the world for 18 hours. We got back to New York and immediately realized what was going on in Turkey – we got so riled up with wanting to do something."

What is the best platform to raise money for taking a full-page ad in Washington Post from the Turkish people?

— Murat Aktihanoglu (@muratny) June 2, 2013

The group posted on Twitter, asking followers for advice about the best online crowd-funding platform. Within 20 minutes of receiving an answer, they'd set up the campaign on Indiegogo and promoted it on social media, with donations coming in almost immediately. Within 18 hours, the campaign had surpassed its fundraising goal of $53,800, becoming the second-fastest political campaign to reach its goal in Indiegogo's history.

Donations have come in from at least 50 countries, across six continents with an average contribution rate of $39 per donor. Within the first 21 hours, the campaign was taking in $2,561 an hour.

The success of this campaign could be considered surprising given the leaders style themselves "accidental activists", and prior to this, had not had any experience with fundraising or political activism of this level.

"I've been apolitical all my life," said Atacan, at 26 the youngest of the three. "But it was too difficult to see what was happening in Turkey and not be able to do anything."

The three campaign leaders express similar disillusionments and frustrations with Erdogan's government as the protesters on the ground. They describe the AKP leader's slowly emerging autocratic dominance as the focal point of collective distress.

"I come from a secular, liberal tradition," said Aktihanoglu, "but I said 'Let me give this government a chance,' especially since I think some of what they have done has been good, particularly in the economy. But it – and he – gradually became more and more extreme."

"The Turkish people have just been pushed too far," Aktihanoglu said, "and we have shut up for too long."

The trio has known each other for several years through their work in the tech sector.

The goal of the campaign, the trio said, was to get the world to pay attention.

The idea was to generate engagement as well as money. "We had the idea, but anyone could have done this," said Atacan. "So we wanted everyone to get involved, it's not really about us."

They sought contributors and commenters' help with everything from drafting the text to choosing where to place the ad and even, to coming up with a catchier name for the campaign.

"People really came together to help structure it. Shockingly, there wasn't even a single nasty word from the entire community."

The campaign's insistence on transparency even extended to using Google Docs to edit the text, showing real-time updates to those interested.

On Tuesday, the trio asked donors to vote on six mock-ups of the future advert, with 4,080 responses flooding in. Second-round voting on the final two favorites took place Tuesday evening, this time with over 1,344 voters pushing their choice.

The group eventually settled on the New York Times over the Washington Post because the former promised a front-section placement for the ad by the end of the week. The group plans to disseminate the ad on social media, to generate "more action and dialogue" of the issues at hand.

Three days in, and the campaign stands at over $93,000. The trio, continuing in their vein of grassroots collectivism, has asked supporters to suggest on Reddit ways to use the leftover money.

"People have suggested continuing the PR campaign or sending gas masks to the protestors," said Aktihanoglu. "We're open to any suggestions."

" Gezi Park is a political carnival"

The Gezi Park clashes unite the arts and culture scene in Istanbul . Artists, writers and TV stars gather at the park to support the protests

Lots of events, concerts and also art gallery openings have been canceled and postponed. The arts and culture world is upset about the Gezi Park events and lots of TV series actors have gathered and walked to Taksim Square while artists also took part in the Gezi Park clashes and protests.

Festivals set to happen over the weekend have been canceled. Istanbul International Arts and Culture Festival, the 41st Istanbul Music Festival, the Electronica Festival, DJ or live performances in all the bars in Taksim and everywhere in Istanbul , openings in many art galleries in Istanbul have cancelled their shows/performances/exhibitions.

An artist's note

Kendell Geers, an artist, added a note for one of the cancellations: “As a former anti-Apartheid activist who never gave up the fight to leave the world a better place for future generations, and with the curiosity of a contemporary artist, I found myself at the forefront of the protests upon my arrival in Istanbul . I still believe that art will change the world! Dedicate my exhibition ‘Stealing Fire from Heaven' to the streets of Istanbul, to the people who are revolting for a better future, and to the trees and plants in the little park that await to be rescued as living monuments and reminders of commitment to life. I dedicate my exhibition to those who still believe and don't give up hope.”

C.A.M Art Gallery has decided to carry its opening on June 6 to Taksim Gezi Park . The opening of the exhibition titled ‘START! Art within Reach' will take place at Gezi Park .

Gezi Park is now a utopic ‘ Freetown '

Çetin Cem Yilmaz writes in Hurriyet Daily News (excerpts of the article with the above headline):

“ Istanbul 's city center is now a timeless place after the police withdrawal. Closed with barricades, Gezi Park and Taksim now solely belong to the people and ideologies previously deemed closed to the mainstream

Two people walk beside a wrecked police car left on Taksim Square. Istanbul's city center is now a surreal, timeless place after being completely occupied by people following the police withdrawal. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

A wrecked police car on Taksim Square . DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

“Since the police withdrawal from the city center on June 1 … the Taksim district has been occupied as could never have been predicted. Closed with barricades, the central district now solely belongs to the people, and to ideologies that were previously deemed completely closed to the mainstream.

“… On the Taksim Square , it feels like the post-apocalypse has met the day after revolution. A wrecked NTV van and a crashed police car were left like the Berlin Wall remnants – open for photographing. The iconic Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) has been covered with flags: Legendary 1970's revolutionary Deniz Gezmis looks down on the area, while next to him are posters of left-wing groups and a “shut up” call to prime minister Erdogan.

“Just a week ago, even the thought of such a scene was impossible. Now, with the occupation, it has become the reality.

“… It is the mobilization of thousands who do not find themselves represented in the Parliament. The protests were more about people, mostly youths, making themselves heard by a government that enjoys too much comfort from its majority and forgets to hear the concerns of the minority.

“As a crowd that was complaining of discrimination, the Gezi people are embracing their differences beautifully. On June 1, slogans were silenced when a prayer call was heard. ‘From now on, respect for every belief will prevail', one said. That approach was again used yesterday, when they asked people not to drink alcohol out of respect to the sacred night of Lailat al–Mi'raj.

“Inside the Gezi Park , the utopian feeling is multiplied. There are open buffets for people feeding themselves, yoga sessions in the morning and now, a library. Every morning, after the police withdrawal, protesters got the area squeaky clean. People have fun in their own way and nobody intervenes: Kurds dance their halays, Laz people do their horon dance, and a group with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk flags chant their slogans - All this happens within a few meters' distance.

“There are lots of differences, but no conflict. There's no police, but it's safe. No hierarchy, but a humane order.

“For a country where the democratic tradition is about rights being given from the top to bottom, it is about reversing the order.

“It is about sharing, kindness, and reasoning. So romantic, for sure; but it is there.

“We know that it won't be forever. Enjoy it while it lasts. k HDN

Atypical day of protest at Gezi Park with religious ceremony, Quran reading

The day in Taksim Square started with the distribution by volunteers of the delicious 'kandil simidi,' specially baked on religious holidays. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

The day in Taksim Square started with the distribution by volunteers of the delicious 'kandil simidi,' specially baked on religious holidays. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

As the 9th day of demonstrations the Lailat al–Mi'raj - known as Miraç Kandili in Turkish - protestors decided to mark this religious event through several activities.

The day in Taksim Square started with the distribution by volunteers of "kandil simidi”, a simit that is baked for this specific religious day.

Social media campaigns also declared the park a no-alcohol zone for the night, to further deepen solidarity with all sections of society. Concerns that ignoring the religious event and consuming alcohol could be used as a counter propaganda to demonize the demonstrations by conservative and pious supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) also played a role in the decision.

The protestors are believed to be largely made of the younger generation with a secular world view.

Social media posts have been calling for a peaceful ceremony for days, warning protesters against drinking in order to “embrace everyone” during the demonstrations. 

All through June 4 and 5, people shared and posted announcements that encouraged protesters to bring snacks and pastries, including the “kandil simit,” and to take part in a peaceful celebrations of the Islamic event, for which a Quran reading was set to take place at the park. 

The plans came several days after conservative publications published photos of empty beer bottles allegedly left inside a Besiktas mosque, where around 100 protesters had taken refuge on June 3, turning the religious site into a temporary hospital and treating protesters who were wounded at the hands of police. Some reports have accused protesters of drinking and smoking in the mosque and of causing severe damage to the building. The imam of the mosque told daily Radikal that the protestors behaved well, he had not seen anyone drinking, and he did not know how the single bottle of beer found later entered the mosque.

'Protesters welcoming crowd: Islamic scholar'

Islamic scholar Ilhan Eliaçik, part of the “Anti-Capitalist Muslims” group, warned conservative crowds against possible provocations ahead of the gathering at Gezi Park, dismissing such accusations as “attempts at keeping conservative people away from the park.” 

Eliaçik said the Taksim protesters had been a welcoming crowd from the start, which contained believers and atheists alike. “They are trying to make it look like non-believers are there. That is not the case. Football fans are at the park, girls with headscarves are there. There is a respect for belief at Gezi,” he said. 

“I encourage everyone to look into the crowd and pick out someone who seems different than themselves, and then go say hello,” Eliaçik said. 

The Gezi protests have been unique in their nature, combining various sections of society, bringing together people of different beliefs and political allegiances.

Mob assault Gezi Park protest supporters in Erdogan's homeland

A woman was injured during the incidents, Anatolia news agency reported. AA photo

A woman was injured during the incidents. AA photo

For the first time since the beginning of the countrywide protests, a crowd attacked the supporters of the demonstrations June 5 in the Black Sea town of Rize , homeland of Erdogan. 

A group of the Turkish Youth Union (TGB) members were staging a protest in support of the Taksim Gezi Park demonstrations when a crowd violently attacked the group. After the police's intervention, the group took refuge inside a building as the crowd blocked an avenue and started to chant slogans. 

The crowd attacked the TGB members again while they were being taken out of the building by the security officers. A woman was injured during the incident. 

Muslim Brotherhood's accusation

Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt accused Turkish protesters of receiving foreign funds from entities which they claim “want to make the highly successful Islamic project fail,” according to local Egyptian media reports.

Hussein Ibrahim, secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), blamed “foreign groups” who wish to “manipulate internal issues to serve international interests.” He did not clarify.

“Learnt lesson”: Erdogan

Forced to deal with the unrest Erdogan promised that the government had "learnt its lesson", but protesters ignored his plea to call off the demonstrations.

The premier is accused of seeking to force conservative values on Turkey , a constitutionally secular nation.

In the meeting, protest representatives urged the government to fire the police chiefs of Istanbul , Ankara and other cities where security forces used excessive force to quell the unrest.

They demanded Ankara release all the arrested demonstrators and ban police from tear gassing demonstrators. Rights groups say thousands have been injured.

The UN has voiced concern about reports of heavy-handed police action.

NATO-member Turkey is a key ally for the US and has backed it notably in opposing President Assad in Syria .


AFP, The Nation Pakistan, Occupy Gezi, guardian.co.uk, BBC, Hürriyet Daily News, Anatolia News Agency, Albawaba







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