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Founded in 1923, Turkey is a secular republic. Since 1946, it has maintained a multi-party democracy. The AKP (A.K.A. the Justice and Development Party) is an Islamist party elected in 2002 following the economic crisis the previous year. At first, its movements against human rights and freedom of speech were subtle. Now, they re anything but.
Five days ago, a group of protestors started a demonstration in Gezi Park, in the middle of Istanbul's European center, Taksim. The AKP plans to destroy the park and build a shopping mall. Two days ago, the police attacked protestors who were trying to save the trees in the park. The violence did not end there, and Istanbul started to gather in Taksim. The police occupied all of the streets that end at Taksim in the afternoon. My dad, a friend of mine and I somehow made it to Taksim and started waiting for the larger group that was in Istiklal Avenue to enter the square. The group in Istiklal consisted of tens of thousands of people, and they managed to push the police back towards the square. The police attacked the protestors with gas bombs and water cannons. As of now, one man has been murdered by a water cannon with four others dead due to gas bombs and panzers.
In the square, while we were waiting in a restaurant that had opened its doors to protestors, since that was pretty much the only space we could breath in, the police suddenly approached and threw gas bombs into the restaurant and chased the crowd in front of the restaurant into the place with batons. This is not a story I heard and am telling secondhand; this is what happened to me last night.
The battle in Taksim lasted until 3 p.m. today. At 3:30 p.m. the government announced that the police has been ordered to step back. They did not actually step back but the gas fire ceased for a while. Around 4 p.m., millions gathered in Gezi Park. Taksim was filled with people. There were no policemen, but we suffered from gas bombs occasionally thrown from a helicopter.
Around 8 p.m. things got ugly again. Since the police had left Taksim, they moved to Besiktas, which is one of the European centers on Turkey's Bosphorus shore. An actual battle started in Besiktas. Police has threw gas bombs in Bahcesehir University and Mimar Sinan University and State Conservatory. The security guard of Mimar Sinan, who I know personally, has been hospitalized; his face was destroyed by a bullet. The question is whether it was a plastic or an actual bullet. The answer is what we fear.
There is one video taken in the capital city Ankara that shows one policeman in between several protestors. He fears the protestors and wants to go back to his fellow policemen. He is obviously not comfortable being the minority within several meters. To split the crowd and run, he fires his gun three times. Not entirely into the air but a bit higher than a standard height person. One protestor falls to the ground with the gunfire. Were those three real bullets? Or the actual question is: are plastic bullets any different than real bullets from almost no distance?
Around 10 p.m., I heard that one of my high school friends was detained. He arrived home safely after spending around 14 hours in custody. We know that there are 939 people still under custody as of now. Their crime is having protested. Protest is our constitutional right, found in Article 34 of Turkey's constitution.
Right now, thousands still are on their way to Besiktas. The same is happening in Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Edirne, Mersin, Eskisehir, Adana, Kayseri, Konya and in many more cities. If you know a bit about Turkey, you will realize that this list not just of relatively liberal cities, but also very conservative ones like Konya and Kayseri. Furthermore, demonstrations have happened throughout today in San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Chicago, Paris, Munich, Oxford, and Madrid, among other locations.
As of now, 53 people are officially injured, but looking at how many were and are out there, that number is ridiculously low. Additionally, the police continue to gas bomb the places that hold many injured people, endangering their lives, such as the universities in Besiktas that I listed above.
Pharmacies are giving out gas masks and medicine for free. Lawyers and doctors are offering their services for free as well.
This is not happening because trees were being destroyed. This is because we have been stripped of the right to talk, to protest. This is because our journalists are in jail. This is because the prime minister still says his government does not care what we do and they will continue with the Gezi Project. This is because people are in custody because they used their right to protest. This is because the government made the police attack the Gezi protesters.
The government is not serving its people, it's killing them.
This is what's happening in Turkey. I would not call it Turkish Spring: we don't need revolution. This is Turkey, taking its secular democracy back. No more corruption, no more radical Islamism, no more FASCISM!
I would like to clarify two points I mention in my article. First, the number of deaths have been announced to be four exactly, days after I wrote and published this article. For a relatively long time, no one had any idea about how many people had died. Still, I and many other people have difficulty believing that only four people died as a result of this police brutality that we all have been experiencing for 28 days as of today, especially with 9 protestors being missing for days. Secondly, my question about a plastic or an actual bullet in the article has been answered. It is now official that a protestor, Ethem Sarisuluk, with no weapon, was shot by a policeman and got killed with an actual bullet. I refused to edit the article itself and correct those points because these uncertainties in the article show how few information public could access at the time I wrote it.
Copyright 2013 Cansu Colakoglu Verbatim copying and redistribution is permitted under the Creative Commons Noderivs license version 3.0 or later.