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Turkey PM Meets with Protesters, Bulldozes Park Anyway

Turkey PM Meets with Protesters, Bulldozes Park Anyway

At the end of last week, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the leaders of protesters who had been occupying Gezi Park, the last green space in the center of Istanbul. He made what seemed to be a concession, that he would hold off on redeveloping the park until a court could review the case. Representatives of Taksim Solidarity who attended the meeting said that a referendum would be held if the court ruled in favor of such.

Then on Saturday, Erdogan sent in riot police with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to force the protesters out of the park. Police detained doctors and nurses who had helped treat injured protesters as well as the owners of luxury hotels who had allowed protesters to enter their lobbies and ballrooms and arrested at least one foreign journalist.

Erdogan cracked down on protests in other cities, including the capital of Ankara and held a mass rally of his own supporters at an outdoor arena on the Sea of Marmara on Sunday. At this, he proclaimed “if anyone wants to see the real picture of Turkey, this is Turkey,” dismissed those who had occupied Gezi Park for 18 days as “vandals” and “terrorists” and mocked the BBC, CNN and Reuters on the grounds that they had “fabricated news.” Meanwhile a myriad of people waved flags with photos of Erdogan’s face and the logo of his Justice and Development Party (known as A.K.P. from its Turkish initials).

On Monday, trade unions called a strike that was to converge on Taksim Square. After calling on Erdogan to resign, demonstrators dispersed when riot police turned water cannons against them.

Erdogan’s Harsh Response Draws Opposition Together

After ten years in which parliamentary opposition to him has been weak, Erdogan’s autocratic response to the protests has enabled “liberals, secularists and minorities” to find a “common cause.”

Turkey was founded in the early twentieth century after secularists defeated Islamic Ottoman forces. The secularists continue to frown upon references to Ottoman rule such as the replica of a 19th-century Ottoman barracks that had been part of Erdogan’s original Gezi Park redevelopment plan. A survey in a Turkish newspaper, Today’s Zaman, says that growing numbers of Turks are concerned that their government is becoming more authoritarian and, in particular, imposing “lifestyle choices” that limit personal freedoms such as a recent law restricting alcohol use.

Erdogan has frequently pointed  to Turkey’s economic growth and rising standard of living under his rule. Certainly he has more than plenty of supporters who minimize the extent of the protests and attribute them to foreigners. But with Turkey seeking entrance into the European Union, Erdogan should be aware that his harsh response could “undermine Turkey’s image as a rising global power and a model of Islamic democracy.” While not saying that talks involving Turkey’s accession into the EU should be called off, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed shock at Erdogan’s crackdown and said that “what’s happening in Turkey at the moment is not in line with our idea of the freedom to demonstrate or freedom of speech.”

“National unity, done his way.” This is the path Erdogan has chosen, say the BBC; one Turkish government official has spoken about calling in the army if necessary. Workers have already planted flowers and brought in fresh sod into Gezi Park and police have regained control of it and Istanbul’s central Taksim Square. But Erdogan’s brutal, authoritarian clamp down on three weeks of civil unrest in Turkey has only coalesced and “solidified opposition against him.”


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Photo of Gezi Park via Burak Su/Flickr

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10:27AM PDT on Jun 23, 2013

It sounds like Turkey is no different than America in that malls, parking lots, apartment complexes, etc mean more than parks, playgrounds, green places.

2:18PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

He seems to be a vile person & as a muslim of whatever type likes to weald power & ntalks about the Quaran as the only source of knowledge A real Shite.

2:14PM PDT on Jun 20, 2013


2:15AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

12:32PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

This is just dreadful. When I worked in Ankara, then Istanbul and Izmir, (In the '60s) It was delightfully cosmopolitan, modern, almost sophisticated. One rarely saw a head scarf, and I worked in nightclubs as a show girl, where there were belly dancers and great singers. Restaurants everywhere were affordable or extravagant, there were wonderful bazaars, as well as modern European boutiques, like Benetton and more.
This awful Erdogan is trying to drag the populace back a few centuries and I am not surprised that the people don't like it! I have a young 'pen-friend' on fb, who asked to 'friend' me, so he could practice his English. His girl friend's photos are of a normal woman, tight jeans, tee shirts and tank tops, denim jackets. What any of us would consider normal. I hate to think that all this might be crushed under this dictator!

12:29PM PDT on Jun 19, 2013


10:52AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Totalitarianism at his best! |I can just see his face, mocking the people: I don't give a horse's behind on your parks or your lives, for that matter...

9:21AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

There is a growing movement around the world where the "elite" who have been channeling wealth and power to themselves for decades think that they are untouchable. I think we can prove them wrong at the polls. Also, remember that the purpose of destroying the park is to build a mall. What happens when no one will go there in protest of what has happened? That would be the best response. What if no workers would apply for the shops? What if no contractors would build the buildings? What if no firm would bulldoze the park? Remember, We should never fear our government; our government should fear us.

9:18AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

@ Micha S. - The American Revolution did not take place because people were hungry. It wasn't the major factor in the Egyptian, Tunisian, or Libyan revolutions, either. Pay attention.

At any rate, there goes their tourist trade.

8:24AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

There are pictures on the Internet of chemicals being added to the water tank trucks before spraying down the people. Will the US intervene here too since chemicals are being used?

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