Archives For: Gezi Park Protests

Tonight in Istanbul, police made good on Erdogan’s “final warning” this week and stormed Gezi Park, clearing out all demonstrators with more tear gas, water canons, and rubber bullets. Then came the demolition:

Bulldozers moved in afterward, scooping up debris as crews of workmen in hard hats and fluorescent yellow vests tore down the tents. Protesters put up little physical resistance, even as plain-clothes police shoved many of them to drive them from the park. White smoke billowed skyward as a phalanx of riot police marched inside the park on Saturday. They tore down protesters’ banners, toppled a communal food stall, and sprayed tear gas over the tents and urging those inside to get out.

The civilians under fire fled to nearby cafes and hotels to rest and tend to each other’s injuries. Before long, police entered the Divan Hotel and filled the lobby with tear gas (seen in the above video):

[P]olice stormed the hotel beating protesters, while a later assault left the lobby of the luxury hotel thick with gas. The Observer saw two elderly women who had passed out, being carried out on stretchers to an ambulance.

Recent Dish on Turkey’s unrest here.

Turkey Is Still Broiling, Ctd

Jun 13 2013 @ 3:57pm

Protestors in Istanbul’s Gezi Park have appropriated a song from the Le Mis soundtrack:

Meanwhile, the prime minister issued a “final warning” to the protestors earlier today. Ben Judah argues that Erdogan “doesn’t get it because he is still fighting his last battle – the secretive civil war within the Turkish elite”:

[J]ust as Erdogan seemed to have finally defeated the “Deep State,” these protestors have appeared across Turkey attacking his leadership and calling for his removal. He must have felt blind-sided by the spontaneous demonstrations because the last time there were similar mass protests in Turkey, back in 2007, they were organized by the military in alliance with the opposition Republican People’s Party. Those protests brought hundreds of thousands out onto the streets in an effort to block Erdogan from winning the election. Gigantic crowds in Ankara and Izmir numbered more than 350,000 Turkish flag-waving secularists.

Erdogan smells conspiracy because, until 2011, Turkish politics has been nothing but conspiracy.

Koplow adds:

[Erdogan] is quite clearly trying to mobilize his supporters by acting as if his opponents are attempting to carry out a civilian coup, and by repeatedly refusing to stand down and instead upping the ante with tear gas, truncheons, water cannons, and endless tone deaf insults, he is beginning to tear the country apart. There are numerous cleavages in Turkish society that run along fault lines of religious-secular, rural-urban, conservative-liberal, rich-poor, and Sunni-Alevi-Kurdish, to name just a few. Some of these have been more under wraps than others, but this brings them all to the surface in a way that will be difficult to undo.

Recent Dish on the unrest in Turkey here and here.

Turkey Is Still Broiling

Jun 11 2013 @ 3:40pm


This morning (NYT), one day after Erdogan scheduled a meeting with the demonstrators, riot police rushed into Taksim Square and subdued the lingering protestors with tear gas and water canons. By all accounts so far, police were provoked by a few people throwing rocks and molotov cocktails:

Amid Tuesday’s clashes, Erdogan made it more than clear that he had come to the end of his tolerance. “To those who … are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love. But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say: ‘It’s over.’ As of now we have no tolerance for them,” Erdogan said, speaking in the capital, Ankara.

Can Oz, “the owner of the biggest literary publishing house in the country,” was there and fled the scene:

Some say the protesters’ firebomb attack was staged, and while I don’t have certain proof that this was the case, it wouldn’t surprise me: over the past few days I have witnessed so many lies from the police and government that I don’t think I can ever trust them again.

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Face Of The Day

Jun 9 2013 @ 9:30pm

Unrest Continues In Turkey With Anti Government Protests

Thousands of demonstrators attend the demonstration in Taksim Square on the ninth day of the nationwide protests on June 8, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul has seen protests rage on for more than a week, with two protesters and one police officer killed. Initially a protest over the fate of Taksim Gezi Park it has broadened into anger over what has been seen as a heavy-handed response of the police and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government’s increasingly authoritarian agenda. By Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images.

Brian Merchant shares some troubling news out of Turkey:

[Tuesday] night, police raided 38 homes where citizens who had tweeted messages sympathetic to the protests lived—16 were arrested.

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What’s Erdogan’s Next Move?

Jun 5 2013 @ 2:41pm

Mustafa Akyol and HA Hellyer ponder the way forward for the Turkish government, noting a few encouraging signs:

The events of the past few days do not mean Erdogan has to resign – but it does suggest he ought to try to be a force for reconciliation. A good step was taken on Tuesday, when Bulent Arinc, Erdogan’s deputy, gave a press conference in which he promised police restraint, dialogue with the opposition, and “self-criticism” within the cabinet. Erdogan will do a great service, to himself and his country, if he uses similarly calming language on return from north Africa. His visit to that region ought to remind him that the best governments listen seriously to the demands of all citizens, not just those who voted them in. Erdogan’s accomplishments are so significant that the alternative route – of further confrontation and crisis – would be a great pity.

Claire Berlinski feels more pessimistic:

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Face Of The Day

Jun 4 2013 @ 6:50pm

Tensions Grow As Demonstrations Against The Government Continue In Istanbul

A protestor wears a mask at the Gezi Park in Taksim Square on June 4, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. The protests began initially over the fate of Taksim Gezi Park, one of the last significant green spaces in the center of the city. The heavy-handed viewed response of the police, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government’s increasingly authoritarian agenda has broadened the rage of the clashes. By Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.


Pablo Barberá and Megan Metzger examine how social media is being used during the current protests:

What is unique about this particular case is how Twitter is being used to spread information about the demonstrations from the ground. Unlike some other recent uprisings, around 90% of all geolocated tweets are coming from within Turkey, and 50% from within Istanbul (see map below). In comparison, Starbird (2012) estimated that only 30% of those tweeting during the Egyptian revolution were actually in the country. Additionally, approximately 88% of the tweets are in Turkish, which suggests the audience of the tweets is other Turkish citizens and not so much the international community.

Oray Egin highlights how, more and more, the country is turning to the tweets:

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The strange parallels:

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In our first video from Fareed, he explains why he’s not worried about the ongoing protests:

Henri J. Barkey points out that the country’s only opposition party is a mess:

[T]he Republican People’s Party, [or CHP,] is a party in name only. It has proven incapable of appealing to voters, organizing itself to contest elections; and, most importantly, offering alternative policies to the AKP. Instead, it is in a state of constant turmoil as cadres fight for spoils that can at best be described as crumbs. The hapless state of the opposition propels the demonstrators: people have found out that they cannot count on the opposition to fight for their rights. Hence, the only outlet they have is the street.

He also notes Erdogan’s increasing insularity:

Having surrounded himself with yes-men (and yes, they are all men), he has become a victim of groupthink.

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The View From Their Insurrection

Jun 3 2013 @ 1:39pm


A reader on the ground in Turkey shares his perspective:

I’m in Istanbul at the moment, and until this morning I was staying five minutes’ walk from Taksim Square. When I arrived there was tear gas everywhere, floating down the side-streets and punishing practically the entire Beyoglu neighbourhood. I can’t help but feel that this kind of collective punishment is doing plenty to turn people who would otherwise be content to sit aside against Tayyip Erdogan and his government. The protestors have been incredibly destructive to people’s property, especially down the main Isklidal street which is Istanbul’s main shopping avenue – but this hasn’t met with the kind of revulsion I saw a couple of years ago during the London riots, I think because the Istanbullos feel the protestors are defending rather than attacking the city. Whenever a crowd of protestors – who now wear gas masks as a badge of pride wherever they go – pass through town on their way to Taksim, ordinary, non-protesting people nevertheless stand up and applaud them as they go. There’s a quite diverse range of protestors – you have the usual anarchists and eco-warriors plus Kurdish nationalists, and I’ve even seen a couple of Hizbullah graffitos (though that’s probably just mischief-making) but on the whole it is just a range of ordinary people without any kind of political affiliation.

(Photo: Protestors clash with riot police near Turkish prime minister’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan office, between Taksim and Besiktas in Istanbul, on June 3, 2013, during a demonstration against the demolition of the park. By Gurcan Ozturk/Getty Images.

Turkey’s Broken “Model”

Jun 3 2013 @ 12:59pm

Istanbul Protests Continue

When it comes to Washington’s stance toward the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan government, Steven A. Cook and Michael Koplow point out the divide between hope and reality:

In the midst of the endless volley of teargas against protesters in Taksim, one of the prime minister’s advisors plaintively asked, “How can a government that received almost 50 percent of the vote be authoritarian?” This perfectly captures the more recent dynamic of Erdogan’s Turkey, where the government uses its growing margins of victory in elections to justify all sorts of actions that run up against large reservoirs of opposition. … Turkey’s anti-democratic turn has all taken place without much notice from the outside world. It was not just coercive measures — arrests, investigations, tax fines, and imprisonments — that Washington willfully overlooked in favor of a sunnier narrative about the “Turkish miracle.” Perhaps it is not as clear, but over the last decade the AKP has built an informal, powerful, coalition of party-affiliated businessmen and media outlets whose livelihoods depend on the political order that Erdogan is constructing. Those who resist do so at their own risk.

They argue that while the current protests will likely lead to much needed change for Turkey’s troubled democracy, the US must pursue a new approach as well:

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Erdogan’s Paternalism

Jun 2 2013 @ 7:42pm

Louis Fishman paints a picture of the prime minister’s arrogance that would make even Mike Bloomberg blush:

From implementing policies encouraging women to have three children, to his goal to raise a ‘moral’ generation of youth that will sign up to his interpretation of what a good Muslim is, more and more Turks have become tired of a Prime Minister who promotes policies that interfere with their daily lives. Just before the protest began new laws were enacted aimed at curbing alcohol consumption in the public sphere. It should be clear it is not that so many Turks would be affected by the laws; even if drinking Raki (and beer to some extent) is considered by many as a Turkish pastime, actually a low percentage of them actually drink on a regular basis. Rather, it was in the very condescending way Erdogan related his disdain for those who do drink, inferring that they were all drunks.

Parallel to this, Erdogan’s personal dictation of the policies of urban renewal and of massive infrastructure projects have taken their toll on the Turkish population. It seems that no power is strong enough to stop a project that the Prime Minister supports; whether it is the third Bosphorus bridge, the new mega-airport, or the numerous dams that are flooding cities throughout the Anatolian heartland. In fact, it was due to this very reason that the Erdogan’s obsession to replicate an Ottoman armory, even stressing his wish that it be used as a shopping mall, irked so many, regardless of political affiliation or social background. As high rises replace shanty towns, and shopping malls blossom at the speed of flowers in the spring, the 606 trees at Taksim Park turned into a real issue for many.

Earlier Dish on the protests in Turkey this weekend here and here.

A comparison of the Turkish vs international coverage of Saturday’s protests:

Media Censorship

Juan Cole defends Erdogan’s democratic mandate and record:

[His government] was last elected in June, 2011, at which time [his AKP party] received about half the votes in the country (an improvement on past performances). The elections appear to be on the up and up, and [AKP] seems genuinely popular in the countryside and in many urban districts. The economy has grown enormously in the past decade under Erdogan’s rule, Turkey is now the world’s 17th largest economy (by nominal gdp) according to the IMF. It has been averaging 5 percent growth per year at a time when neighbors in the EU like Greece and Spain are basket cases. It has a huge tourism sector that has benefited from the troubles in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon. The economy will likely only grow 3% this year, but that is still a good number given Europe’s doldrums.

However, Cole also links the fate of the country’s democracy to the Erdogan government’s exceptionally poor treatment of dissent and the press:

The protests were not mainly about the environment or retaining green parks but about police brutality. Turkey’s political tradition has never been particularly tolerant of dissent, and unfortunately the AKP is continuing in a tradition of crackdowns on political speech it doesn’t like. Reporters without Borders ranks the country 154 for press freedom, and it has 76 journalists in jail, and “at least 61 of those were imprisoned as a direct result of their work.” Observers are astonished to find that Saturday morning’s newspapers in Turkey are virtually silent about the protests. Editors have clearly been intimidated into keeping quiet about these events.

… By preventing peaceful assembly and deploying disproportionate force, and by an apparent imposed news blackout on the protests, the Turkish government is raising questions about how democratic the country really is.

Elsewhere, Aaron Stein surveys the makeup of those who support Turkey’s ruling AKP party:

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Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in more than a dozen cities this weekend following a brutal police crackdown on an Occupy-style sit-in aimed at preventing a popular Istanbul park from being bulldozed:

Protesters lit fires and scuffled with police in parts of Istanbul and Ankara early on Sunday, but the streets were generally quieter after two days of Turkey’s fiercest anti-government demonstrations for years. Hundreds of protesters set fires in the Tunali district of the capital Ankara, while riot police fired tear gas and pepper spray to hold back groups of stone-throwing youths near Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s office in Istanbul.

Istanbul’s central Taksim Square, where the protests have been focused, was quieter after riot police pulled back their armored trucks late on Saturday. Demonstrators lit bonfires among overturned vehicles, broken glass and rocks and played cat-and-mouse on side streets with riot police, who fired occasional volleys of tear gas.

The unrest was triggered by protests against government plans to [demolish Gezi Park and] build a replica Ottoman-era barracks to house shops or apartments in Taksim, long a venue for political protest. But it has widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

As of this morning, more than 900 protesters have been arrested and more than 1,000 injured across at least 90 protests throughout the country. Taksim Square remains occupied, although with a smaller group than yesterday. Considering how quickly the demonstrations materialized, Zeynep Tufekci highlights the extensive role social media has played, also noting that while Turkey is no stranger to political protests, she has never seen one this large or spontaneous before. Elif Bauman makes a related point about Turkey’s vibrant protest culture, and why this one seems different:

The feeling of unreality and disconnect is at the heart of the Gezi [Park] demonstrations. Istanbul loves to demonstrate; I can’t remember ever walking through Taksim without seeing at least one march or parade or sit-in, and on weekends there are usually several going on at the same time. Usually, they are small, peaceful, and self-contained, and the police just stand there. For some time now, the demonstrations have had a strangely existential feel. Again and again, people have protested the destruction of some historical building or the construction of some new shopping center. Again and again, the historical building has been destroyed, and the shopping center constructed.

Nearly every slogan chanted on the streets right now addresses Erdogan by name, and Erdogan hasn’t been talking back much. On Wednesday, he told protesters, “Even if hell breaks loose, those trees will be uprooted”; on Saturday, he issued a statement accusing the demonstrators of manipulating environmentalist concerns for their own ideological agendas. It’s hard to argue with him there; there’s little doubt that the demonstrations are less about [Gezi Park's] six hundred and six trees than about a spreading perception that Erdogan refuses to hear what people are trying to tell him.

In addition, Erdogan and the AKP recently rushed through a law to limit alcohol sales and even targeted kissing in public, moves widely perceived to be theocratically motivated. Regarding the government’s ongoing development plans for Istanbul, Firat Demir explains the outrage:

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