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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Gezi Park’

Turkey: A House Divided

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute

There is no doubt that the Gezi Park demonstrations in May and June, which spread to most of Turkey, represent a seismic change in Turkish society and have opened up fault lines which earlier may not have been apparent. What began as a demonstration against the “development” of a small park in the center of Istanbul ended as a widespread protest against the AKP government — and particularly Prime Minister Erdoğan’s authoritarian rule.

The European Commission in its latest progress report on Turkey has recognized this change when it writes of “the emergence of vibrant, active citizenry;” and according to Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül, who in the report is praised for his conciliatory role, this development is “a new manifestation of our democratic maturity.” The Turkish government, however, has chosen to see these demonstrations as a challenge to its authority and has reacted accordingly.

The report mentions various repressive measures taken by the government, including the excessive use of force by the police, columnists and journalists being fired or forced to resign after criticizing the government, television stations being fined for transmitting live coverage of the protests and the round-up by the police of those suspected of taking part in the demonstrations.

However, there is, in the EU report, no mention of the campaign of vilification led by the Prime Minister against the protesters, or reprisals against public employees who supported or took part in the protests; also, measures taken to prevent the recurrence of mass protests, such as tightened security on university campuses, no education loans for students who take part in demonstrations and a ban on chanting political slogans at football matches.

Not only the demonstrators themselves have been targeted but also the international media, which Prime Minister Erdoğan has accused of being part of an international conspiracy to destabilize Turkey. The “interest rate lobby” and “the Jewish diaspora” have also been blamed. As the Commission notes, the Turkish Capital Markets Board has launched an investigation into foreign transactions to account for the 20% drop on the Istanbul Stock Exchange between May 20 and June 19, which had more to do with the U.S. Federal Reserve’s tapering than the Gezi Park protests.

In August, however, a report on the Gezi Park protests by the Eurasia Global Research Center (AGAM), and chaired by an AKP deputy, called the government’s handling of the situation “a strategic mistake” and pointed out that democracy-valuing societies require polls and dialogue between people and the local authorities.

Polarization

The Commission is correct, therefore, when it concludes that a divisive political climate prevails, including a polarizing tone towards citizens, civil society organizations and businesses. This conclusion is reinforced by the observation that work on political reform is hampered by a persistent lack of dialogue and spirit of compromise among political parties. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the need for systematic consultation in law-making with civil society and other stakeholders.

This division was underlined by Turkish Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek in June, when, at a conference, he deplored the lack of a spirit of compromise in intellectual or political circles. This lack is not only illustrated by the occasional fistfight between parliamentary deputies, but also when the AKP government in July voted against its own proposal in the mistaken belief that it had been submitted by the opposition. Or when the opposition two days later passed its own bill while the government majority had gone off to prayers.

President Gül, in a message of unity to mark the start of Eid al-Fitr (in August, at the end of Ramadan), had called on Turkey to leave polarization behind and unite for the European Union membership bid. But to create a united Turkey will be difficult, given the attitude of the present government. Even the democratization package presented by Prime Minister Erdoğan at the end of September does not indicate any substantive change in the government’s majoritarian approach to democracy.

Irrespective of the Prime Minister’s reference to international human rights and the EU acquis [legislation], both lifting the headscarf ban for most public employees and a number of concessions to the Kurdish minority can be seen as a move to boost Erdoğan’s popularity ahead of the local elections in March.

Erdogan Goes to War; Police Wound Hundreds, Attack Drivers

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Turkish police went to war against protesters Saturday night, using rubber bullets and tear gas to clear thousands from Taksim Square and on pedestrians trying to cross a foot bridge, where drivers also suffered the effects of the gas.

Hundreds of people, including motorists, were injured, while official government statements claimed the number of wounded was 44.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had issued an ultimatum to the protesters to leave Taksim Square in favor of a pro-Erdogan rally scheduled for Sunday.

One hour later, police, backed by armored vehicles, raided the square and attacked pedestrians before they could cross a foot bridge leading to the square.

Turkey’s European Union minister Egemen Bağış said in a televised interview that anyone trying to enter Taksim Square will be treated like a “terrorist.”

He lived up to his word.

“We tried to flee and the police pursued us. It was like war,” Claudia Roth, a German politician who was on the scene to show her support for the protesters, told Reuters. “There are dozens of injured shot with rubber bullets or who couldn’t go to the hospital,” according to the Taksim Solidarity Platform that represents the Gezi Park protesters.

In a statement quoted by Turkey’s Hurriyet News, the Platform added, “The attack with rubber bullets, intense tear gas and stun grenades at a moment when there were a lot of women, kids and elderly people were at the park is a crime against humanity.

“This attack that took place at a moment when there was no demonstration at the park shows that the prime minister’s intention is to increase the social polarization and satisfy his ambition of authority by oppressing his people.”

The Platform and Erdogan struck a compromise Thursday night whereby development plans for Gezi Park would be altered. Erdogan apparently has used the agreement as a signal, or excuse, to clear the protesters and stage his own pro-government rally Sunday.

“We have our Istanbul rally tomorrow. I say it clearly: Taksim Square must be evacuated, otherwise this country’s security forces know how to evacuate it,” Erdogan told supporters in Ankara on Saturday.

Hurriyet quoted sources last week that the Israel’s Mossad boss met with Turkish intelligence officials and that Syria  and/or Iran may be behind the protest movement.

Regardless, Erdogan’s heavy-handed response has only made the protest movement more popular, as has happened in every other Muslim country where brute force has been used to quell protests.

Erdogan, like other leaders of Muslim regimes, cast Twitter and social networks as the villain. He said Twitter was begin used to slander the government and therefore should not be allowed.

However, it was Turkish President Abdullah Gul who took to Twitter Saturday, saying that “everyone should return home now,” and that “the channels for discussion and dialogue” are open.

More than five people have been killed by police and 10 people have lost an eye after being hit by plastic bullets since the protest movement began three weeks ago over a plan to redevelop Gezi Park. The violent response by police resulted in much larger demonstrations against police violence.

Turkish Police Use Tear Gas, Water Cannons on Ankara Protesters

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/turkish-police-use-tear-gas-water-cannons-on-ankara-protesters/2013/06/13/

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