Istanbul in Civil Strife on May Day

Water cannon and tear gas at Taksim Square in Istanbul, May Day, 2014

Water cannon and tear gas at Taksim Square in Istanbul, May Day, 2014

“Riot police in Turkey have used tear gas and water cannon to prevent demonstrators defying a ban on protests on Istanbul’s central Taksim Square.

The Anatolia news agency said several demonstrators were injured and at least five detained.

Intensive security measures were in place, and roads and streets near Taksim Square closed to traffic from the early morning.

Turkish media said some 40,000 police would be deployed in the city on 1 May.”


More at BBC

The Turkish Culture Wars

Nice piece by Andrew Finkel in the NY Times, from Istanbul

“By dint of their imagination, humor and self-possession, [the young] are proving themselves to be just the kind of people who should make up the “new” Turkey that Erdogan’s party promised to create when it came to power in 2002. When Erdogan says he hasn’t got an inkling what the children of Taksim want, that may be all too true, but it’s his confusion not theirs.

One poster on the square, since cleared away by the police, subverted Erdogan’s exhortation that Turkish women have at least three children: “Do you really want two more like me?” Yes, please.”


And don’t forget the demonstrations have not just been in the capital city:

According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey around 640,000 people had participated in the demonstrations as of 5 June.[149] Protests took place in 78 of Turkey’s 81 provinces.[150]

Human Rights Foundation Daily Report

(06/032) Actions against the interventions of the government to the fundamental rights and freedoms and the right to the city…

The protests that had spread all over Turkey went on 7-8-9 June 2013 especially in İstanbul and Ankara Provinces.

Police teams severely attack on the protest in Gazi Quarter of Sultangazi Distrrict of İstanbul Province. It is claimed that 300 people were wounded in Gazi Quarter since the beginning of the protests. On 8 June 2013 Murat Çetinkaya (19) was seriously wounded with the hit of the gas bomb canister.

Police teams severely attack on the protest in Ankara Province on 8-9 June 2013 and arrested 12 people.

On 9 June 2013 14 people were arrested in synchronised home raids on the grounds that they had shared information on the protests using on charges of “helping and harbouring an illegal organisation” under Article 220/7.

(06/033) Extra-judicial killing allegation in Şanlıurfa Province…

Hasan Kaya (14) was killed and Ömer Dağ (16) was wounded in the accident that took place after the stop warning of the police team to the two juveniles riding a bike in Şanlıurfa Province on 6 June 2013. The authorities has been coercing the families not to talk to media. Ömer Dağ claimed that the police officer had kicked the bike and caused the accident.

Turkey:The Woman in Red

Turkey Woman in Red ” In her red cotton summer dress, necklace and white bag slung over her shoulder she might have been floating across the lawn at a garden party; but before her crouches a masked policeman firing teargas spray that sends her long hair billowing upwards.

Endlessly shared on social media and replicated as a cartoon on posters and stickers, the image of the woman in red has become the leitmotif for female protesters during days of violent anti-government demonstrations in Istanbul.

“That photo encapsulates the essence of this protest,” says maths student Esra at Besiktas, near the Bosphorus strait and one of the centres of this week’s protests. “The violence of the police against peaceful protesters, people just trying to protect themselves and what they value.” Times of India


In the NY Times, Seyla Benhabib, who was a child in Istanbul and is now a professor of philosophy at Yale, neatly summarizes the issues and their intersections.

The real problem … is Mr. Erdogan’s “culture war” against the country’s secular classes and the illiberal form of democracy that he is advancing. I’ve heard many Turks, both devout and non-observant, say: “If consuming alcohol is a sin, let me reckon with my own maker. The government cannot force us not to sin.”

Mr. Erdogan’s attempt to forge a Muslim moral majority is evident also in his government’s stance on abortion, which, until recently, had prompted no theological or political controversies. Islam, like Judaism, gives priority to the mother’s life and health over that of the fetus, but Mr. Erdogan, borrowing a page from America’s Christian right, has introduced legislation to curb the availability of abortion through Turkey’s national health insurance system. And he has compounded such measures, which would hurt poor women more than the wealthy, with nationalistic calls to increase the population of the great Turkish nation by recommending that all women have at least three children.

This moral micromanagement of people’s private lives comes amid an increasingly strident government assault on political and civil liberties. Turkey’s record on journalistic and artistic freedoms is abysmal; rights of assembly and protest are also increasingly restricted.

The more you spray the bigger we get.

The more you spray the bigger we get.

Anti Authoritarians Rise in Turkey

The news of civil unrest is not diminishing.

Violent protests against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan engulfed Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, on Saturday and spread to other cities, including the capital, Ankara, as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in a second day of civil unrest and faced the tear gas and water cannons of a harsh police crackdown.

 …the protesters presented a long list of grievances against Mr. Erdogan, including opposition to his policy of supporting Syria’s rebels against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, his crackdown on dissent and intimidation of the news media, and unchecked development in Istanbul.

As we all know, nothing is certain once a well ordered train leaves the rails.  As the article points out, the demonstrations have been spontaneous, with nothing like an organizing force emerging.  Energies will certainly drain from the exuberation of the first manifestations; repression may rise or, if the government is as smart as it has been up to now, co-option will begin.  Promises to stop the development at Taksim Square would be an obvious first step.

The stakes are high, of course, with Syria imploding next door, and sectarian religious violence beginning to heat all over the area.

On Turkey

On Sectarian Violence

May Day in Istanbul

Just back from 3 weeks in Turkey (and 1 without internet connection) and my eyes sweep the news for what is going on there. Dang! This would have been interesting to participate in. Taksim Square, when we were there, was the end of a touristy street-car run up Istiklal St, and filled with week-end strollers.

Tens of thousands of union members and leftist political activists gathered Saturday for the first legally-sanctioned May Day celebration in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square in 30 years.

Participants included relatives of at least 34 people killed when clashes erupted in Taksim between leftists and police on May Day in 1977. May Day rallies have been banned in Taksim Square since army generals swept into power in a military coup in 1980.

And from Huriyett Daily News, in Turkey, this.