Night of “shocking violence” in Turkey’s major cities results in wave of silent demonstrations
SHAGHAYEGH TAJVIDI, TRNN PRODUCER: According to Bianet, an independent Turkish news source, there are now more than 450 people missing in Istanbul and approximately 7,822 injured, with nearly 60 people sustaining grave injuries. In addition to these numbers, 169 remain in police custody.
GAYE, PROTESTER: These detained people may be released, some of them may be released in three days, because detention period is limited with only three days. We don’t know what will happen next. We don’t know whether they will be taken to the courts or not. If they are taken to the courts, they will be judged under terror laws. This is very dangerous, very dangerous for them, because these are very simple protesters, very innocent.
These are democratic rights [incompr.] government totally deny all these rights for the moment.
TAJVIDI: Those such tolls are changing frequently. The landscape in Turkey has undergone a drastic shift since over the weekend of June 15 and 16 Prime Minister Erdogan called for the dismantling of the Gezi Park occupation and warned protesters to go home. In an AKP rally on the weekend, he famously stated, I say this very clearly: either Taksim Square is cleared, or if it isn’t cleared, then the security forces of this country will know how to clear it. He further told his supporters, you are here and you are spoiling the treacherous plot, the treacherous attack, signifying that forces outside the country had conspired to bring about the demonstrations.
GAYE: Well, they are saying that everybody is against us, all states, all countries are enemies. So this is not something organized by young people, this is not something organized inside; actually, this is something organized by outside. It was done by the U.S., it was done by E.U., it was done by all our enemies, and so on. You know, this is [incompr.] easy for them. By saying this, they try to convince their supporters as well.
TAJVIDI: On Saturday, June 15, severe police clampdown began at the park at a time when families with children were having picnics and engaging in peaceful activities such as painting. These activities reflected the alternative autonomous community created in the park since the earliest days of the resistance, where demonstrators set up a library, first aid stations, a theater, kitchens with free food, and more.
With Erdogan declaring the end of the protests and the clearing of the park, police move quickly to set up roadblocks and ban journalists and further demonstrators from entering the area. Once they had denied access to those outside, they evicted people from the tents and attacked the population inside the park indiscriminately, including children, who had been tear gassed and sprayed with chemical water. People had sought refuge in nearby hotels, though they were infiltrated by police shortly after and also tear gassed.
EMRE, PROTESTER: And there were many people who came to this Gezi Park with their children, with their mothers, with their fathers as a family. So it was not violent. The protest was not violent. The protest was wholly peaceful. But the level of the intervention was so harsh.
So people started to get out from Gezi Park, and also Taksim Square, due to these water cannons and tear gas. And there is a hotel just near to Taksim square called Divan Hotel. They opened their doors to protesters as an infirmary. There were volunteer doctors helping people. [incompr.] that police has even gassed–I mean, they fired tear gas into the hotel. This is something that we don’t understand. I mean, this shows how ruthless, how violent was the attack.
TAJVIDI: Other footage circulating social media include that of a TOMA vehicle spraying chemical water into a hospital entrance. And though much attention is on Istanbul, police intervention took place in other major cities, particularly in Ankara.
Reporting on both cities, Amnesty International called the night of June 15 socking.
In AKP rallies following the Saturday crackdowns, Erdogan defended his decision to send in the police, declaring it was his duty to evict the park. His speech was delivered to thousands of his supporters, whose attendance at the rallies was mobilized by the government itself. For instance, the AKP provided free transportation via buses and ferries, as well as free meals and time off work to ensure turnout.
The extreme weekend violence resulted in the announcement that the government might call in the military to quell the protests. Though this news made international headlines on Monday, the Army, or Jandarma in Turkish, was already on the scene throughout the weekend.
Here footage shows TOMA vehicles belonging to the military backing up the police in Harbiye, Osmanbey, which are neighborhoods in Istanbul.
EMRE: Well, as I said before, Gendarmerie is actually–is responsible against the minister of the domestic affairs, according to Turkish law, during peacetime. So it is something legal, let’s say, that they’re inviting Gendarmerie to the squares to intervene or help the police.
But the implication of this is different, because in the past, AKP claimed that they’re also opposing to military’s dominance over political system. The implication of Gendarmeries coming to square is that now AKP’s started to do what they have been criticizing since their inauguration.
TAJVIDI: Two developments arose from the weekend. A wave of silent protests held by groups calling themselves “standing people”–duran adamlar–and a general strike in solidarity with the protesters called on by labor unions on Monday.
While the recent general strike lasted one day, protests continue throughout the country in defiance of Prime Minister Erdogan’s fiery speeches, which are now also being met with growing numbers of silent standing demonstrators.
For The Real News Network, Shaghayegh Tajvidi.