WHATEVER its place in the tangle of Middle East power struggles, with revolt in Syria, a truce in the long-drawn Kurdish freedom fight, and the Mavi Marmara case opening -Turkey has been convulsed by an upheaval that has taken commentators by surprise.
Whatever the outcome, two things seem clear. One is the brutality of the police, with their armoured vehicles, water cannon and US-supplied riot gas. Turkey's deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç apologised for their heavy-handed tactics, which he said were "wrong and unjust", but the forces of repression were obviously well equipped and waiting for the chance to use this equipment.
The other side of the barricade sees the red flags of communists, socialists, secularists who see themselves defending Ataturk's heritage, and even some socially-progressive Islamists joining the environmental campaigners whose protest to save a park set off the touch paper. The revolt has spread from Istanbul to Ankara and other cities, and been joined by major trade unions. Though some groups remain uncertain and hesitate to join, it is hard to question the social character of this unrest.
The Left sees the destruction of Istanbul's Gezi Park for a shopping mall as part of the Erdogan government's neo-liberal capitalist agenda, and suspects the government of turning towards Islamic reaction to cover its measures.
Here is a statement issued by the Day-Mer Turkish and Kurdish community centre in London:
On 27th May 2013, a police escorted demolition team arrived at the Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul Turkey to flatten the entire park and destroy all the parkland, including the trees. Despite resistance from local people and environmentalist groups, the site was cleared and demolition work proceeded. The police then clashed with protesters who began to occupy the Park. The activists have been camping there for three days in an attempt to stop the destruction. The demolishing soon grounded to a halt after Sırrı Süreyya Önder, an MP for the Peace and Democracy Party, stood in front of one of the bulldozers for three hours. This led to a wider resistance building up and galvanised a massive stand against the demolition of the site. The determined environmentalists, community groups, members of political parties and trade unionists continued to occupy the park until 30th May 2013.
On the morning of 30th May 2013, approximately around 5am in the morning, the police have used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the crowd. This only increased the support for the protesters and attracted hundreds more from all sorts of backgrounds to make the resistance stronger. Turkish riot police continued to fire tear gas and water cannons into crowds of demonstrators gathered in Istanbul’s Gezi Park on Friday 31st May 2013. Despite the order by an Istanbul court for the temporary suspension of the project to uproot trees in the park, the extensive use of tear gas and water cannons on crowds resulted in serious injuries. Amnesty International has called Turkish government to halt the brutal police repression and investigate all abuses.
Despite this hundreds of working people, students, environmentalists, socialists, trade unionists, ordinary people continued to gather at the Taksim Square to oppose and show their anger against the excessive use of power by the police and the state. The standoff between security forces and protestors, now numbering thousands, has continued well into early hours of Saturday, with its end not yet in sight. Most media organisations have turned a blind eye on what is happening and stopped reporting news to the world. The government have tried to block all 3G mobile phone signals to stop the news spreading over social network sites. But there is now a wider anger against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the police in Turkey.
The unrest has spread to many cities such as Ankara, Izmir, Kayseri, Izmit, Bodrum and many more. Slogans such as ‘Erdogan must go’, ‘Erdogan out,’ and ‘Chemical Erdogan’ have been echoed by thousands of people around the country. Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan and the Istanbul Mayor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, have denied any wrongdoing and defended vehemently the actions of the police. They went as far as labelling the protestors ‘trouble makers’ with designs to use the protests for advancing their political interests. At the time of writing this statement 3 people were confirmed to be killed and resistance of people getting bigger in every city in Turkey.
What sparked this rebellion? Turkey over the past decade has been ruled by the AKP party which is known to be an Islamic-leaning and conservative political party in Turkey. The AKP government, now in its second term in office under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came into power with promises of EU membership, ‘zero-problems with neighbours’ foreign policy, as well as better and peaceful living conditions for all citizens. Over the first term the AKP government has failed on the assurance of EU membership primarily because of having a poor record on civil liberties, as well as not resolving the Kurdish and Alevi issue. Erdogan in his second term in office has failed dramatically over the promises of better relationships with neighbouring countries by either being in war or on the verge of war with countries such as Iran, Iraq, Syria and other Middle Eastern neighbours. Most of these issues were a result of the foreign policy demands of the US from Turkey.
Despite making some efforts on the Kurdish issue, the AKP governments’ hesitance to completely resolve this issue have raised questions concerning its honesty and willingness to resolve this major issue of Turkey. This is in spite of the fact that Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) calling a ceasefire after almost 30 years of guerrilla fighting. Its promise of a prosperous and wealthy society has seen workers up and down the country taking strike actions for better pay and working conditions.
Major strike actions taken by Turkish Airline workers and DHL workers have raised international concerns regarding how workers have been treated by the employment laws imposed by the AKP government. In addition, high profile strike actions have been taken by workers in the manufacturing, coal mining and agricultural sectors against the pay and working conditions imposed by the AKP government. The biggest attack during the AKP reign has been the attacks on civil liberties, particularly on the freedom of expression. Thousands of journalists, lecturers, writers, politicians, intellectuals and ordinary people have been imprisoned and made to wait for trial in prisons in Turkey. Most recently Erdogan and his AKP party has put a ban on alcohol sales after 10pm and continued their transformation of turning the Republic of Turkey into an ‘Islamist heaven’. We need your help in stopping this state and police brutality. Given these important developments, we are urging all our friends in UK to show their solidarity by signing our online petition. This is a petition which demands the end to the violence and release of all people in custody.
This is a petition which demands the end to the violence and release of all people in custody. SIGN HERE