Stop Violent Police Repression: The Second Great Mass Disobedience in Turkey

In my previous ZNet article dated 11th June, (see “Gezi Park Resistance in Turkey: Reasons, Lessons and Possible Consequences” at http://www.zcomm.org/gezi-park-resistance-in-turkey-reasons-lessons-and-possible-consequences-by-taylan-tosun-1) I tried to expose both the background motivations and the actual situation concerning Gezi Park resistance in Turkey. Today is 16th June and we are living through another popular uprising since last night. Turkish police are behaving significantly more harshly compared to previous events, using some means that can be classified as “chemical weapons” and some that are very serious human rights violations. That’s why I chose such a title.

About one week ago, the solidarity committee of Gezi Park resistance had declared the following demands:

·         Gezi Park should be left as it is and no building whatsoever should be constructed there.

·         All the protesters in custody or detained should be released and should not be prosecuted in any way.

·         The governors and police chiefs of the big cities where police killed at last two protestors, caused losses of limbs and serious injuries should resign and be prosecuted.

·         All the public squares around Turkey that had been closed to popular rallies and demonstrations should be re-opened to secure the democratic protest right of citizens.

Since then, Prime Minister R. T. Erdogan and the government took only one ambiguous step. He declared, after a meeting with some artists and representatives of the solidarity committee, that even if the court decision [there is a pending lawsuit against the government’s Gezi Park plan] would be in support of their plan to rebuild an already destroyed barracks and kind of a shopping mall within it, they still offer a plebiscite to decide the fate of the Gezi Park. The trick was obvious: As the ruling AK Party’s voter base in Istanbul is strong, they would probably win the plebiscite. On the other hand, if the solidarity committee representing Gezi Park’s resisters were to reject the offer, they would say that although they offered a “democratic solution”, the resisters didn’t accept it, which would mean that they have illegitimate targets – such as overthrowing the government – so they should be evacuated from the park.

Saturday morning the Gezi Park solidarity committee, after holding a very long discussion meeting, declared that they refuse the government’s plebiscite offer and until their four demands will be met, they wouldn’t leave the park.

Meanwhile the solidarity committee also decided to set up only one large tent representing the resistance, to lift the separate tents of all political organizations in the park (leaving the decision of whether or not to lift their tents to the environmentalists and other groups themselves). This decision, I think, was aiming to continue to the resistance on a more representative level, to reduce the occupied area in the park, to lift the political organizations’ flags and thus to delegitimize a possible police intervention.

However, as far I as know, it is difficult to say that the Gezi Park resisters could succeed in building really democratic and participatory self-management. I admit that it’s not so easy to build self-management in a park where thousands of people visit to show their solidarity. But if you can’t build a democratic and participatory self-management, then it becomes almost impossible to agree on at least some least common denominators and to make swift decisions according to changing circumstances.

So if the very harsh police intervention that I will talk of below hadn’t took place and the government had pursued a more subtle policy, it would be difficult to maintain the energy of the resistance and to preserve the feeling that we had forced the government to step back.


Very Harsh Police Intervention and Gross Human Right Violations

A few hours after the declaration of the Gezi Park Solidarity Committee, Prime Minister Erdogan harshly warned that the resisters should evacuate the park or the security forces would intervene.

Then came the very harsh police intervention, just three hours after the Prime Minister’s speech. Police officers entered the park, used tear gas indiscriminately on resisters as well as on supporters who came to help the resistance and also on ordinary citizens. Saturday evening was the most crowded time in the park — there were thousands of every age and families with children.

There is big hotel very near to Gezi Park. Many people, including families with children, took refuge inside the hotel. There was also a makeshift hospital where volunteer doctors, nurses and medical students were treating wounded demonstrators. Police also entered the hotel and attacked the protestors — the already wounded ones as well ones at the doctors. Many people and children who took refuge in the hotel were wounded by police. Police also attacked another makeshift hospital, detaining a doctor and three nurses. As everybody knows, police intervention into a makeshift hospital and detention of health workers who are treating wounded people is a very severe human rights violation and is also against the law of warfare.


The Second Big Massive Civil Disobedience and Protest Since Eighteen Days

As ZNet readers will remember, the first massive civil disobedience had occurred following the brutal police attack on Gezi Park resisters eighteen days ago. The second harsh and inhumane police intervention that took place Saturday evening caused a second massive civil disobedience movement in Turkey’s history. Tens of thousands again took to the streets near Taksim square and Gezi Park. Police used heavy tear gas and water cannons on them, then barricades were built and clashes began. Although thousands of police officers have tried to end the protests, there were so many young people in different quarters of Istanbul that the police couldn’t succeed until late in the night.

The massive civil disobedience and protests continued today (16th June, Sunday). Very large numbers of protesters again took the streets to protest police intervention in Gezi Park. The protests spread to Ankara (capital of Turkey), Izmir (the third biggest city), Adana (also a big city), Eskisehir, Mersin, Denizli and to some other ones.


Do People Protest Only The Harsh Police Intervention in Gezi Park? No…

As I have noticed in my previous article “Gezi Park Resistance in Turkey: Reasons, Lessons and Possible Consequences” concerning the first massive protests which began on 30th May, I think that this second police intervention in Gezi Park was also the last straw that broke the camel’s back. This second massive protest and reaction is also against the one party dictatorship of the AK Party, which violates the basic human rights of large minorities in Turkey like Kurds, Alawites and increasingly restraining the sphere of freedom of the secular population.    

I also think that this second popular explosion is a reaction to Erdogan’s several speeches during the last week. Prime Minister Erdogan launched a defamation campaign against the Gezi Park resisters. He uttered vile slander against Gezi Park resisters which need not to be repeated here. The masses rose against this humiliation. Some journalists call this mobilization “a struggle for honor”.

Two progressive confederations of trade unions, one of public employees (KESK) and the other of industry workers (D?SK) announced today that they will organize a general strike tomorrow (Monday 17th June) to protest the violent police repression. Though such a strike could of course have a very positive impact, I’m very doubtful that DISK will organize a real general strike. These are currently highly bureaucratized structures.

Gross Human Rights Violations During Protests

Detention of volunteer health staff helping the resisters is a new step in the escalation of repression. Another one is mass detention. As of Sunday evening more than 100 people have been detained and this number will probably be increased during the night. This is also a new step in the government policy of escalating the violence.

A third step in the escalation of police violence is the detention of some journalists working in dissident TV’s. Another one which also constitutes a major human rights violation, I think, is the use by water cannons of a liquid which once touches to some part of human body, strongly irritates the skin, increases the body temperature and the damage can be healed only by medical treatment.

A fifth step in increasing police violence is more widespread use of plastic bullets to the protestors. As is well known, plastic bullets can have deadly impacts. Another new kind of severe human rights violation, also reported by Amnesty International (AI), is that police are refusing to acknowledge that they have people in custody following mass detentions carried out during the night in Istanbul. This of course causes concerns about ill treatment and even torture by police of the detained protestors. According to IA there are credible reports about ill treatment for those detained.  


Please Help To End Violent Repression of Protesters in Turkey

Among many other things that you can do to stop this police violence in Turkey, you can also sign a petition prepared by AI calling urgent action to end violent repression of protestors.

Follow this link: http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/Turkey_Protests for signing the petition.

For a detailed information about human rights abuses in Turkey during last two days, you may also read a news article reporting on site observations of AI’s researcher on Turkey, Andrew Gardner: “Turkey: End the incommunicado detention of Istanbul protesters” at http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/turkey-end-incommunicado-detention-istanbul-protesters-2013-06-16.

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