Sunday, 2 June 2013

Turkey: protesting the government and tree demoliations

Old City of Istanbul, Turkey

The Bosporus Bridge connecting European and Asian sides of Istanbul
Old Ottoman mosque and architecture meets Istanbul's sleek business district
Istanbul is a global city visited by millions of tourists from around the world each year, the second largest city in the world (after Beijing) home to 13.8 million residents with a rich cultural heritage and history that spans the world's two great empires Ottoman and Byzantium. Istanbul is also located in a transcontinental country Turkey that spans Europe and Asia. It is also the economic powerhouse of Turkey contributing some 15% to the national GDP.

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What started originally as an environmental protest against the demolition of trees (to a build a shopping mall in the city's last remaining green space) in Istanbul's Gezi park in the neighborhood of Taksim has morphed over the week into a nation wide protest against the government of Turkish Prime Minister Reccyip Erdogan. Police brutality, an increasing rise in a more conservative interpretation of Islam despite decades of being a secular republic and society under Ataturk's secular policies begun 91 years ago, Erdogan's handling of Syria's war, and consequential terrorist attacks in Reyhani, diminishing Press freedoms and violating the rights of journalists and citizens alike among many other policies and actions turned the Turkish people against the once popular government. Despite the economic growth over the last years under AKP (Erdogeon's political part) as part of the coalition government, ordinary Turks still face violence from government forces including the police and the squeezing of rights across the country. The protest against the government has moved from Istanbul to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. The protests are reminisce of Cairo's Tahrir Square or Benghazi protests. However, the Istanbul and Ankara protests have their own unique history and style. This is not the first time protest against the Turkish government brought thousands of people onto the streets. The Turkish military crushed and continues to Kurdish protests for cultural and human rights across Turkish Kurdish areas while the military has been fighting a 30 year old conflict against the PPK or Kurdish Workers Party labeled as a terrorist groups by Turkey, Iraq and Western countries. The diversity protesters show the complexities of the demands at stake: Environmentalists, who were the original protesters against Gezi Park's demolition, Alevis, long persecuted by the state, Kurds, Armenians, Secularists, Gays and LGBTs who face discrimination for their orientation, students, professors, women. The Istanbul province governor has retracted the shopping mall plan in Gezi Park.

Below are cartoons by Carlos Latuff retelling the origins of how the protests first began.

Who are the Protesters? 
The diversity and complexity of Istanbul's Taksim Square protesters and the origins of how a park protest transformed into anti-government revolt
Jadaliyya's coverage of Turkey and its protests in Ankara and Istanbul
Live updates on Turkish protests: 
Turkey Protests live updates
Occupy protesters stage Pro-Turkish rally in New York













Occupiers face down cops in Istanbul's Taksim Square

RT: Thousands to the streets as teargas fills the air




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