Turkey in chaos after police attack sit-in protesters

Istanbul, Turkey is in chaos, and protests are spreading to the Turkish capital of Ankara, after police earlier today used tear gas and water cannons to attack a large group of protesters who have been squatting in a central square in Istanbul, Taksim Square, for 12 days now.

What started as an environmental protest against the planned closure of a public park has turned into a national protest against the government’s move towards religious authoritarianism.  Amazingly, this is a secular protest against conservatism, against Islamic governance, and in favor of freedom.

The Economist walks you through more of the background, including how the Turkish government turned a small peaceful protest into nationwide chaos:

IT BEGAN with a grove of sycamores. For months environmentalists had been protesting against a government-backed plan to chop the trees down to make room for a shopping and residential complex in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. They organised a peaceful sit-in with tents, singing and dancing. On May 31st riot police staged a pre-dawn raid, dousing the protesters with jets of water and tear gas and setting fire to their encampment. Images of the brutality—showing some protesters bloodied, others blinded by plastic bullets—spread like wildfire across social media.

Within hours thousands of outraged citizens were streaming towards Taksim. Police with armoured personnel carriers and water cannon retaliated with even more brutish force. Blasts of pepper spray sent people reeling and gasping for air. Hundreds were arrested and scores injured in the clashes that ensued. Copycat demonstrations soon erupted in Ankara and elsewhere. By June 3rd most of Turkey’s 81 provinces had seen protests. A “tree revolution” had begun.

CNN has had some great coverage as well, with reporters on the ground in the midst of the tear gas.  While there is a violent minority of protesters, the majority are normal Turks, many quite well-educated and mainstream, per CNN.  The government, however, has labeled them as terrorists.

The government’s attempt to evict the protesters a week ago, and again today, makes it difficult not to see parallels between these protests and Occupy Wall Street, but also the Arab Spring.  Even though these protesters don’t necessarily like that comparison, as Turkey is a democracy that holds free elections, albeit a more authoritarian one of late under Turkish Prime Minster Erdogan.

There’s some good background on this over at the BBC, which reports 4 are dead, 5,000 injured (that includes being treated for tear gas), and the authorities say 600 police have been injured.

As for the US interest here, Turkey is a part of Europe and a member of NATO.  But it borders the Middle East, and is a hugely important strategic ally in the region.  Note in the map below that Turkey borders Iran, Iraq and Syria.  For starters.

Map of Turkey via Google Maps

Map of Turkey via Google Maps

Here are a few good videos about the violence today:


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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31 Responses to “Turkey in chaos after police attack sit-in protesters”

  1. Hue-Man says:

    Why hasn’t the gay media reported on the gays who used to “visit” Gezi Park as a safe place to meet?

    “The area is an unofficial LGBT safe space, where Istanbul’s gay community enjoy relative freedom from harassment. Earlier this week, Turkey-based freelance reporter Dalia Mortada met with some gay activists, who told her how the protests have changed them, and how they hope they’ll change Turkey.” http://www.cbc.ca/day6/blog/2013/06/07/post-3/ AUDIO reporting. The interviewees see this as a breakthrough of broader recognition and support of LGBT community and solidarity with other activist groups.

  2. Sweetie says:

    “a plan to suppress demonstrations by developing all
    the squares where crowds might assemble”

    bingo

  3. karmanot says:

    same

  4. karmanot says:

    ‘Midnight Express’ : always was and still is.

  5. cole3244 says:

    all govt are oppressive the only difference is to what degree.

  6. nicho says:

    So basically he was “the lesser of two evils.” Does that ever work?

  7. MyrddinWilt says:

    My point was that he was an improvement on the junta.

    Israel-Turkey relations went sour due to the Netanyahu government’s actions. But they were patched up under pressure from Obama who needs both of them to have any chance of a strategy in Syria.

    Toppling democratic governments in administrations is bollocks. The people who talk about that are self indulgent Marxist fantasists, not progressives. There is a democratic process and Erdogen can be removed through the ballot box.

    Iran is a different matter.

  8. Papa Bear says:

    Thank you.

  9. ispanakca says:

    Every day new pictures

    http://ispanakcom.blogspot.com/

  10. ispanakca says:

    dictator ERDOGAN

  11. ispanakca says:

    please help……………..me alone in istanbul,ankara vb

    #Occupygezi
    #Occupyistanbul

  12. mirror says:

    While I don’t agree completely with your overall analysis, once I read your comments below, I saw that it is coherent.

  13. Bill_Perdue says:

    I’m sure you’ll figure it out at some point.

  14. Bill_Perdue says:

    Gay pride in Istanbul

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZaOxE61Q-RQ

    Turn down the volume – our brothers and sisters in Istanbul and proud and LOUD.

    These are going to be some of the same people who are in Taksim Square. Events in Cairo and Teheran also drew GLBT folks into the leadership of clashes with Islamists and American puppets like Mubarak.

  15. mirror says:

    0

  16. mirror says:

    Huh?

  17. goulo says:

    It sounds like you are seriously suggesting that the US invaded Afghanistan to help Muslims…?!

  18. Max_1 says:

    + 1000
    – Kettling nets

  19. Bill_Perdue says:

    Turkey is the site of another great upsurge of the rebellion of Arab and muslim youth, women, workers and the LGBT communities against pro-American or islamist theocracies. These uprisings are the opening stages of a massive struggle by Arab and muslim workers that will, over time and by fits and starts, expel the US from the region and settle accounts with the zionist colony in Palestine.

    Teheran (1), Tunis (2), Manama (3) , Cairo (4) , Baghdad (5), Kabul, Islamabad and now Istanbul (5) and Ankara .

    (1) http://links.org.au/node/1126

    (2) http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52826

    (3) http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2013/03/201331419353482107.html

    (4) http://links.org.au/node/2308

    (5) http://www.cawinfo.org/?p=4342

    (6) http://www.labornotes.org/blogs/2013/06/raising-our-voices-taksim-square-1

  20. BeccaM says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that. I’ll say a prayer during my nightly meditations for him and his family.

  21. Bill_Perdue says:

    Erdogan is hardly a reformer, he’s a cultist and an islamist who wants to do away with the only good thing accomplished by Atatürk’s military regime – the establishment of a secular regime.

    Erdogan, like the military juntas before him, maintains a subservient Turkish role in relation to the US and NATO. Erdogan is a compromiser when it comes to the mass murder and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by zionist thugs.

    “Israel hopes Mr Erdogan will rescue it from its isolation since the downfall of friendly regional autocrats, in particular in Egypt. The two countries may now be able to share copious amounts of natural gas recently found in the eastern Mediterranean. They should resume co-operation in military intelligence. And Israelis may soon again enjoy those tours. Even when relations were at their nadir, military sales continued, as did foreign trade worth $3 billion a year.” http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21574541-warmer-american-relations-israel-help-end-its-turkish-tiff-useful-first

    Hopefully the youth and workers of Turkey can bring his regime down although they may have a period of consolidation to build a revolutionary party of the left, a development underway in both Egypt and Iran.

  22. Papa Bear says:

    I have an old friend in Istanbul who lives two blocks from his shop. He’s shut it down until all this is over — he says he doesn’t want his family on the streets (not even for two blocks)…
    :-(

  23. karmanot says:

    “Like Thatcher and Blair” and Obama.

  24. Indigo says:

    Turkey. Another Islamic brotherhood government in formation. It doesn’t look good for the next 50 years. It’s all making a solid case for us to close our borders and let the wolf pack consume itself.

  25. Houndentenor says:

    It’s not about being criticized or not being criticized. Somewhere someone is always going to disapprove no matter what you do or don’t do. That’s not the issue. America ought to stand for human rights for all. That doesn’t mean we intervene. Sometimes intervention doesn’t really help. but at the very least we ought not be compliant or silent when rights are abused. We screwed up in the 50s and 60s by intervening in places like Iran and we are still paying for it. That’s what I meant. Turkish (musician) friends were tweeting about what is going on in Turkey for a full week before there was more than passing media interest in what is going on. I’m not saying we should be sending in troops. But surely there is something we could be doing (and maybe the administration is doing something quietly behind the scenes. We have no right to overthrown government. We should however, encourage governments not to overreact to peaceful demonstrations.

  26. MyrddinWilt says:

    Until a couple of weeks ago, Erdogen WAS the reformer.

    Not too long ago they had a military junta. This isn’t like Iran or Saudi Arabia where suppression of dissent like this is routine, it is a new thing for this government.

    The real reason they were planning to build the supermarket seems to have been as part of a plan to suppress demonstrations by developing all the squares where crowds might assemble. So its not just an environmental issue.

    The real problem seems to be that Erdogen has become so used to power he has become arrogant. Like Thatcher and Blair it is long past time for him to go.

  27. BeccaM says:

    Yes, it is…and apparently the Turkish police are behaving even more brutally than the NYPD did.

  28. Honestly, I’ve never bought that argument. It’s not like good presidents and good secretaries of state, and we’ve had several, just decide to support bad people for the fun of it. And, we get just as much crap when we intervene. I remember being on a train in Morocco and someone had the nerve to get on my case about Afghanistan, after lecturing me about how America doesn’t get involved to help Muslims. Regardless of one’s position now on Afghanistan, that’s a direct contradiction of the argument that we don’t get involved. We don’t get involved, we’re criticized. We get involved, we’re criticized. We overthrow govts in the 50s, we’re criticized. We don’t over throw in 2013, we’re criticized.

    This stuff is incredibly complicated. Turkey borders Iraq, Iran and Syria. It’s hardly the kind of place you push for a coup and then throw the dice and hope it ends well.

    PS And we don’t get credit for helping Muslims in Bosnia either. Not everything we do is good – though there are reasons for a lot of it – but a lot of folks like to criticize us regardless of what we do.

  29. It’s very OWS.

  30. BeccaM says:

    Have you seen this particular iconic photograph, John? Apparently it’s been burning up the social media for days, and the young woman a symbol of the protest.

    There are several more of the same scene, at different moments in the chronology, at the link here.

    http://www.businessinsider.com/the-lady-in-red-in-turkey-2013-6

  31. Houndentenor says:

    Supporting oppressive regimes has always come back to bite American in the ass. When will we learn?

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