The number of protesters has only increased with each passing day and Istanbul’s Taksim Square has become the center of protests. What started as a peaceful sit-in protest soon turned violent when the police force; under direct orders from the government, started using violence to disperse the protesters. Amnesty International observers at the protests witnessed the use of water cannon and tear gas against peaceful protestors. Later in the week, two major trade union members with a huge strength of 600,000 went on a strike to express their support for the protesters facing police brutality.
Testimonies of protesters, lawyers, civil society observers and medical professionals at the scene and video evidence confirm the use of widespread brutal tactics employed by the police at demonstrations continuing across central Istanbul.
Reports suggest that thousands of protesters have been injured and at least three have succumbed to their injuries. According to a press release by Amnesty International on 3 June 2013, “The Turkish Medical Association has said that as many as 4,100 people injured during the police response to protests have been treated in hospitals across Istanbul over the past two days. Two of them had life threatening injuries and five remain in intensive care as a result of injuries sustained at demonstrations in the city.”
For what are the people protesting?
At the face value the protests look like a reaction to save the last green public space in Istanbul, however the causes are more than what meets the eye. According to reports in the Turkish media, the demolition of Gezi Park is to pave way for a Mega Shopping Mall and the Mayor of Turkey, Kadir Topbas from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is the owner of a retail chain that will have an important presence in the mall. Moreover, Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak is believed to have bagged the contract for the development of the mall. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is severely criticized for widespread cronyism and support for those who fund their electoral campaigns. The rising politician-businessman nexus in Turkey has eroded the people’s trust in the government.
Additionally, Ankara’s economy has witnessed a steep fall for the last two years. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Turkey's rate of economic growth slowed sharply to 2.2% in 2012, as weak domestic demand and spillover from the European debt crisis took its toll after two years of rapid expansion that rivaled China.”
Turkish economy’s meteoric fall has brought along with it the perils of inflation, unemployment and a troubled market. The very economy that was hailed for its pace of growth is now experiencing a downward slump, thanks to the spillover of the European debt crisis.
Suppression of journalists and rights activists
Another important factor that has resulted in widespread discontent is the blatant suppression of journalists, human rights activists and lawyers. Turkey tops the list of countries known for brutal suppression of freedom of press and is the first country in the world that has the largest number of journalists imprisoned.
Hundreds of Turkish journalists are languishing in jails and more than a thousand face charges of supporting terrorists and other unspecified charges. Any journalistic activity that criticizes the government, its policy, scandals, etc. is dealt with an iron fist. Several journalists had to leave their jobs or got fired because of pressure from the Turkish government. One of Turkey’s famous journalists, Ertugrul Mavioglu, once said: “You can write anything, but only under constant threats of unemployment, fines, arrest or worse.”
Erdogan’s mischief in Syria backfires
Erdogan’s lust for power and position has blinded him to atrocities towards his own people and the neighboring Syrians. Despite his claims of supporting the Syrians, his real intentions in Syria are not a secret anymore.
One of the biggest allies of the Western-led, Arab-funded and Israel-directed sabotage and regime change operation in Syria is the Erdogan-led Turkish government. Since the beginning of the bloody terrorist insurgency in Syria, the Turkish authorities have done their level best to support terrorism and sabotage across the border.
Ankara has taken the lead in providing training, logistical support and a safe transit way to the terrorists fighting against Damascus. Furthermore, Ankara has hosted numerous conferences in support of the so-called Syrian opposition groups. Naturally, the Turks are opposed to their government’s role in the merciless bloodshed across the border. According to opinion polls, “some 70.8 percent of respondents think the AKP’s policy on Syria is wrong.”
It may be too early to predict Erdogan’s fall, but a careful observation of the recent events in the Middle East makes one wonder whether Taksim Square will turn out to be another Tahrir Square.
I wish Erdogan and others like him learn from Egypt’s Mubarak, Yemen’s Saleh and Tunisia’s Zine Al-Abedine before they end up like Libya’s Gaddafi…