Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Protesters occupy the streets in Turkey: Demonstrating against their authoritarian Government

from Dangerous Minds (over the weekend)


Thousands of people have continued to demonstrate for a third day against the government in cities across Turkey.

The demonstrations are against the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian and “pro-Islamic policies,” which protesters believe will limit their freedom.

Crowds gathered in Taksim Square, where demonstrations originally began over plans to build a shopping mall, but soon broaden out into anger at the way in which the country is being governed.

Many demonstrators stayed overnight in the square, camped-out around a monument to Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Today in Kizilay Square, Ankara, more than a thousand protesters were fired-on by the police with tear gas and water cannon.

There have been 235 demonstrations in 67 cities across the country.

According to Amnesty International, 2 protesters have been killed, while dozens have been injured, 1 critically. Over 1,700 people have been arrested.

In an interview with Press TV, Barcin Yinanc, the associate editor for the Hurriyet Daily News in Istanbul explained some of the background to the situation:
Yinanc: Well it’s not a secret that the prime minister is a conservative person. He is a pious Muslim and I think in his mentality he has some kind of a standard definition of how Turkey should be, how the citizens should behave.

So, more and more he is trying to impose his vision of how people should behave, how Turkey should be upon the people.

Press TV: But, is that a democracy as you used the word correctly, imposing his will regardless of what his personal beliefs may or may not be. In a democracy, should it not be decided by the people themselves?

So, as you had said that he is going more and more in this authoritarian direction. Do you think that we are going to continue seeing protests like we have already witnessed. Or, do you think that it will put enough pressure on the prime minister that we will see him backing down from some of these decisions that he has made?

Yinanc: Well it is very hard to say. What I can say is that this is huge. It has been a long time since we have seen anything like that. There is this huge civil disobedience movement going on in Turkey.

Let me add that although the Turkish prime minister has implied that these are marginal groups, throughout the day, I have been in the streets, and really there is nothing marginal about these groups. They don’t carry anything. They have no violent intentions. They are just coming to protest at what they see as interference to their lifestyle.

At the end of the day, this comes as an ideological problem, because more and more people feel that the government has been too much interfering with their lifestyle and over the years this was coming step-by-step, but there was not this kind of organized reaction. So this is really a first and there is no one group dominating these demonstrators. Really everybody that has an iPhone or an internet have heard it and have come out.

So it is not representing any particular political party, but it is of course hard to say whether this will continue because - as I said - it is not oriented or organized by certain groups. It is really a lot of people coming there by their own. So it is hard to guess whether this will continue like that or not.
In an interview with Turkish state television, Prime Minister Erdogan rejected claims he was a “dictator” and said he was “committed to serving the nation.” He also said Twitter was “a curse,” and that “social media as a whole is a pain in the side of society.”

However, it should be noted that if Erdogan is serious about entering the EU, he will not be able to use excessive force to quell demonstrations, as this would breach the Human Rights of his citizens—which are guaranteed by the EU.

Amnesty International has condemned the “disgraceful” use of excessive of police force against protesters. A post on its website reads:
Urgent steps must be taken by the Turkish authorities to prevent further deaths and injuries and allow protesters access to their fundamental rights, as well as ensuring the security of all members of the public, Amnesty International said following reports of more than 1,000 injuries and at least two deaths of protesters in Istanbul.

Amnesty International kept its office, which is close to the Taksim area of Istanbul, open as a safe haven for protesters escaping police violence throughout the night. Twenty doctors are currently in the office and treating injured protestors. Other civil society organizations have taken similar actions.

“Excessive use of force by police officers can be routine in Turkey but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful. It has hugely inflamed the situation on the streets of Istanbul where scores of people have been injured,” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International for Europe.
Today, across Europe, solidarity demonstrations in support of the protesters have also taken place in Belgium, Spain and Germany. According to Euronews:
Holding up anti-government banners and chanting “Resign,” the crowds called for Turkish premier Tayyip Erdogan to step down from what many now see as his increasingly authoritarian rule.

One protestor in Brussels told euronews, “We would like to get rid of this government first and get more freedom, freedom of speech. And at the end of it all, we’d like a better government, perhaps with the ideas of Ataturk, which we’ve had in the past.”

A Tumblr site Turkey Not Alone has been set up to show world-wide support for the demonstrators, which can be viewed here.


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