Turkey is buckling as its youth calls for the resignation of the prime minister and his corrupt regime.
Yesterday’s anti-government protests in Istanbul have quickly spread to almost all major cities in Turkey, totaling over 90 demonstrations thus far. Most of the protesters are youth who are worried that the prime minister’s government is becoming both more authoritarian and more Islamic, threatening Turkey’s secular state.
Their fears aren’t unfounded. Erdogan has been in power since 2002, more than long enough for him to overextend his influence, and just recently, his government passed a new bill that restricted the hours of alcohol consumption at night, almost certainly tied with Islamic notions of propriety.
Friday’s protests began on the relatively-smaller issue of Gezi Park. As one of the last remaining green spaces in Istanbul, many want the park to remain, well, a park. However, Erdogan and his administration have plans to redevelop the area into a giant shopping mall, and they have ignored the public outcry against the park’s demolition. Turkish youth began peacefully protesting the redevelopment plans this morning with singing and book readings in the public space, but as more people congregated, the protest (while still peaceful) began to take on more of an anti-Erdogan theme. And that’s when the police arrived, turning a peaceful protest into what is already being termed Bloody Friday.
Police retaliation against the peaceful protestors was violent, brutal, unnecessary, and inhumane. They were clearly aiming not to diffuse the large crowds, but to hurt as many protestors as possible. Police attacked the large crowds with tear gas grenades, water cannons, and rubber bullets, aiming directly for individuals. Many have been reported to have lost sight, been grievously injured, had brain damage, and even died as a result of these supposed “crowd control” techniques.
But the police didn’t stop there. They actively tried to push crowds into harm’s way. They locked people in metro stations and released tear gas, forcing many onto social media on their smartphones to ask for help. They gassed an emergency room of a hospital that was already overwhelmed with people seeking emergency care from the aftermath of police brutality. They used gas grenades to funnel large crowds into narrow alleys, causing stampedes and making it easier to arrest massive amounts of people (almost 1,000 at last count), who are currently being detained at Turkey’s Anti-Terrorism Bureau.
The prime mnister’s only response to these outrageous police acts is that he will not bow down to “wild extremists” — as if these protestors aren’t the average citizens, but some radical terrorist group. Erdogan briefly considered the idea that the police actions, particularly gassing, were “excessive,” but he immediately erased any hopes of calling them off by following that with an assurance that the police force would continue fighting protestors “with the authority it was given.” And, as any reasonable leader would do when faced with such out-of-hand protests, Erdogan reiterated that he fully plans to continue building a shopping mall on Gezi Park.
The Turkish people are not deterred. Over 40,000 are marching towards Gezi Park, and the protests continued today with chants of “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!” While the media has been forbidden from reporting on the protests or the police response, social media and citizens’ cameras have been documenting the entire debacle.
See the terror the Turkish people face for yourself: