Turkish police on Thursday fired tear gas and water cannons on protesters hiding behind barricades made from paving stones and roadside signs, in the capital Ankara.
Thousands of protesters gathered at Kugulu Park in Ankara, to support Gezi Park demonstrations in Istanbul, then hundreds of them marched from the park to the Kennedy Avenue near the United States embassy, where they erected barricades to block the armored police trucks carrying water cannons.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said a referendum might be held on the future of Gezi Park in Istanbul, ruling Justice and Development Party deputy Chairman Huseyin Celik told the press.
Celik said, following Erdogan’s five-hour meeting with representatives of the Gezi Park protesters in Ankara, that the referendum, if held, would only include the Gezi Park, not the nearby Ataturk Cultural Center, which may also be on the demolition list as part of a program to revamp Taksim Square.
“Those with bad intentions, seeking provocation and persisting in staying at the park will be facing the police,” he warned.
The government’s move came after more than two weeks of nationwide anti-government protests in solidarity of the demonstrators at Gezi Park, which witnessed fierce clashes between police and protesters.
The protests have left at least three people dead, nearly 5,000 injured and thousands detained.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has chosen to take the road of deposed or embattled Muslim leaders in the Middle East as the protest movement in Turkey seems to grow to the same degree he ridicules it.
Tens of thousands filled Istanbul Square Sunday to demand his resignation, and they clashed with riot police, backed by hovering helicopters. Instead of addressing them directly, he appeared at the Ankara airport, where he was applauded in one of several planned rallies.
Erdogan charged that the protesters are nothing but vandals who drink beer in mosques and insult women wearing headscarves.
He already has referred to demonstrators as “anarchists and terrorists.”
“Tweeter is an enemy,” he says.
Who else ridiculed social networks? Qaddafi, who was killed in the revolution, Mubarak, who was arrested and jailed in the revolution, and Assad, who still remains in power but has been isolated by the entire world except Iran, Hezbollah and, for the time being, Russia.
And how did Erdogan refer to a police officer who was killed in clashes with protesters? He was ”martyred.” That is right out of the book of Hamas, which, by the way, Erdogan for some strange reason continues to praise.
Erdogan has deepened the rift in Turkish society by turning the protest movement into a “me or them” issue, fueling what could have been a small and weak protest movement with the dynamite it needs to engulf others who don’t like the government, particularly those who are nervous about the government’s potting Islam in the forefront of its agenda.
Anyone who protests apparently is an enemy to Erdogan, who demonstrates the same insecurity of dictators, past and present.
A Turkish doctor has charged that her patients who have suffered from tear gas fired by police show signs associated with CR gas, classified by the U.S. Army as a combat class chemical weapon that can cause serious side effects and can be lethal.
CR gas was developed the British and was used in Northern Ireland and is used in riot control today in Egypt and Israel, but its use in Turkey was not documented until Wednesday. The use may be legal, but if it is being deployed, the Erdogan government has kept it under wraps and prevented people from knowing.
Police sprayed gas, either the usual CS tear gas or CR gas, on protesters Wednesday as the riots continued after nine days, and the death toll has climbed to three.
The government had instructed police to use restraint, but police violence was seen in Ankara where unions called for a solidarity strike in sympathy with Gezi Park demonstrations.
Police also used water cannons to disperse demonstrators, and among those arrested were the Ankara bureau chief for a television channel and a cameraman.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following the pattern of Hosni Mubarak and Basher al-Assad, among others, has called protesters “terrorists” and has placed the blamed for the riots primarily on users of social networks. His police arrested 25 people early Wednesday for the high crime of tweeting “misinformation.”
“This is a protest organized by extremist elements,” Erdogan said Monday a press conference.
“Have they already banned freedom of opinion and I have not heard about it?” tweeted one user, (at)CRustemov, as the news spread. “What on earth does it mean to get detained over Twitter!”
Thousands of people have been detained since the beginning of the protests, but most of them have been freed.
“We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism.”
Hopes by Erdogan that the violence would end, after his deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc apologized for police violence on Tuesday, have evaporated.
No one expects Turkey to follow Middle East countries that have seen revolutions topple their rulers following Arab Spring demonstrations, but Erdogan has been acting like the deposed rulers.
“He’s not been behaving rationally at all,” Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based researcher with the Silk Road Studies Program at John Hopkins University, told US Today Wednesday. “He appears to be becoming almost delusional and refusing to accept the reality that these protests are mainly spontaneous and are being organized by small groups of people who’ve never engaged in politics before.”
His behavior should come as no surprise. He has been living in his own dream world for the past Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, while reducing diplomatic relations with Israel to a their tier level.
He has since realized that choosing Ahmadinejad and Assad as friends was the wrong decision, but Erdogan still is a cheerleader for Hamas and wants to visit Gaza.
Years of promoting Turkey as a shining example of prosperity, democracy and tolerance have gone up in smoke.
Property damage and massive injuries, many of them from CD or CR gas, have forced an Istanbul mosque dating back to the Ottoman empire to be converted into a makeshift field hospital.
The Government of Israel, we learned yesterday from a Turkish source, has delivered Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) equipment by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, that gives military aircraft protection from electronic attacks. Not only will the AWACS planes, in the wording of the Today’s Zaman article, “greatly increase [the Turkish air force's] dominance over Turkey’s own airspace” but they will also be useful to it in the Syrian civil war and vis-à-vis “tensions with Israel and Greek Cyprus over the issue of gas drilling.”
Israel Defense continues: “There are voices within the Israeli defense establishment calling for the end of the Marmara crisis vis-à-vis Turkey, by finding a formula of apology, in order to return to the Israeli-Turkish alliance against Syria and Iran.” Ankara ordered the systems years ago but the Israelis held them back following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010. In part, the Israeli decision to deliver them resulted from pressure from Boeing, manufacturer of the AWACS planes. But in part, it has to do with a hope in Israel that the Turks will again become friendly; this move comes in the context of back-channel talks between the two governments and the decision last week, by Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, in the words of Israel Defense, to “allow the entry of Turkish experts and construction materials for the largest Turkish hospital building in the Gaza Strip, ahead the visit of Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan in Gaza.”
Comments: (1) As the Turkish newspaper itself notes, the AWACS will potentially be used against Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. (2) This move fits into a larger pattern of an Israeli and more broadly a Western reluctance to recognize the AKP-dominated government of Turkey as hostile. Neither appeasement nor seduction will work. The time has come to come to see Erdoğan & Co. as the opponents they are.