What inspires Turkey’s protest movement?

Elected government has delivered strong economic growth but activists think prime minister Erdogan has a hidden agenda – Published on AlJazeera, by Umut Uras, June 5, 2013.

Istanbul, Turkey – Nobody predicted that a minor sit-in protest, launched to prevent the demolition of trees in a park in the heart of Istanbul, would soon turn into unprecedented country-wide demonstrations and riots against the Turkish government. Use of force by the police against peaceful protesters in Taksim’s Gezi Park, combined with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s escalating statements about the incident, have been the last straw for many Turks frustrated with the policies of the self-defined conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Nine days after the initial sit-in, the protests have reportedly spread to at least 48 Turkish cities with two deaths and hundreds, if not thousands, of protesters and police officers injured.

How it began:

  • It was a sunny and busy spring day in Istanbul on May 28 when about 100 activists started a sit-in protest in Gezi Park. The goal was to prevent authorities from dismantling one of the only green areas in the heart of the city for the sake of an urban development project.
  • Raiding the park on the morning of May 30, the police used tear gas and water cannons to force the peaceful activists out of the area. This was followed by the burning of activists’ tents and belongings.
  • The activists, most of whom were students, called for help through the internet. Hundreds of supporters rushed to the area and helped re-gain control of the park. The police raid that followed the next morning caused thousands of protesters to pour into the streets leading to Taksim. They were met by police barricades keeping protesters from entering the square.
  • Following mostly peaceful demonstrations, some clashes and the use of much tear gas continued through the night; the police let the protesters enter Taksim Square on Saturday afternoon.
  • The demonstrators included some members of left-wing groups and nationalists, but the majority were middle-class, secular Turks. Some arrived at the protest area wearing helmets and goggles and carrying medical equipment to avoid the effects of tear gas.
  • “The police has surpassed itself in the level of violence,” Emma Sinclair, a senior Turkey researcher of Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera, saying authorities had used excessive force.

Opposition weakness:

  • The government, for its part, apologised for the initial police raid on the camp, saying police officers had indeed used excessive force.
  • Hatem Ete of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a think-tank close to the government, links the riots to the weakness of the opposition parties in Turkey. According to Ete, some groups in Turkish society see themselves as negatively affected by the events of the last 10 years, as certain military, judicial, media and business circles lost ground.
  • “They also perceive some policies of the AK Party as a threat to their lifestyle, and this threat creates an opposing identity,” Ete told Al Jazeera. “Given the opposition parties are far from shifting these concerns to the political arena and far from matching against the AK Party, the concerns of this part of the society keeps growing.”

Youth on the streets: … //

… How did it come to this? … //

… Message has been taken: … //

… (full text).

Links:

The Truth about Erdogan: Turkey’s ‘Other 50 Percent’ Demand a Voice, on Spiegel Online International, by Oliver Trenkamp, June 06, 2013:

In Turkey, there are always at least two truths. On Taksim Square in Istanbul, and on the streets of many other cities in 77 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, the prevailing truth is that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is curtailing civil rights, governing in an autocratic manner and is trying to force his conservative religious values on the population. That is the truth motivating tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets for six days, despite tear-gas and truncheon attacks by police …;

Spiegel’s Photo Galleries:

and in turkish: Göstericilerin Saglik Durumlari / The Health Status Of The Demonstrators, on Türk Tabipleri Birlig / Turkish Medical Association, 06 HAZIRAN 2013;

2013 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX: DASHED HOPES AFTER SPRING, on Reporters Without Borders.

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