politics

Turkish police use aggressive force against citizens of Istanbul on the anniversary of Occupy Gezi (31Mayıs 2014)

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31 May 2014- the one year anniversary of the occupy Gezi Park movement.

Unlike the scene one year ago in Taksim Square, the government was prepared for demonstrations. The prime minister of Turkey took massive precautions by maximizing his force by flexing his muscles- his police force. Prime Minister Erdoğan announced a public warning on Friday that he gave strict orders to his security forces and anyone not corresponding to his imposed fear by staying home will face the consequences. Erdoğan closed the roads as well as stopped all public transportation on Saturday to block access to Taksim Square. This complete shutdown of transportation (including all ferry services and the Bosphorus bridge) disconnected the city’s two continents and separated the city into two isolated halves.

he Turkish prime minister applied the same tactics on both halves of the city, but focused more attention towards the European side in which contains the infamous Gezi Park. All over Istanbul, P.M. Erdoğan deployed more than 25,000 police officers, 50 TOMA water cannons, as well as stronger tear gas all in an attempt to stop demonstrators from gathering in Turkey’s commercial capitol.

Most of the action took place on the European side, focused on Taksim- the heart of the Gezi movement. Due to the severe precautions taken by Turkish authorities, Taksim Square was not a battlefield mirroring last year’s successful energy but, rather, it was a territory occupied by the government’s armed men which highlighted the unresolved tensions that has continued to build among Turkish citizens’ dissatisfaction with the actions, policies, and attitudes of the government. The objective of the protestors on the anniversary was peaceful- to simply place flowers in Gezi Park to commemorate all the events that have taken place since the initial protests one year ago as well as to pay tribute to those individuals that lost their lives in the battle against the authoritarian ruling paradigm. The acting authorities and police played a strong defensive position to maintain their guard and occupation of the symbolic park. While the protestors all over the city were executing their traditional methods of displaying their dissatisfaction with the AKP government chanting by “her yer Taksim, her yer direniş” (translation: everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance) and banging pots and pans with kitchen utensils, the police responded harshly by firing tear-gas canisters and spraying water cannons to disassemble the demonstration.

While the defensive mode and corresponding tactics of Turkish security forces were uniform in all neighbourhoods in Istanbul, the protest in Kadıköy (the center of the half of the city that resides of the Asian continent) was much different from its sister demonstration in Taksim. Like most of the anti-government protests occurring in Kadıköy, the crowd of protestors was significantly smaller but was much more aggressive. Throughout the afternoon and night, there were highs and lows. Earlier in the evening, police made a preempted strike with tear gas by attacking locals attempting to enjoy their Saturday evening to scare them into going home and clearing the streets. Later, protestors marched down Moda Caddesi and met at the Kadıköy Boğa and continued to initiate attention and hostility from the police by vandalising public property, burning garbage, yelling as well as making fun of Erdoğan and his police muscle, and banging on everything that was metal. As well as their attempts at directly trying to intimidate the police, other demonstrators made attempts to rally more people by open firing live rounds on Sakız Gülü Sokak- one of the main streets in Kadıköy filled with popular cafes, bars, restaurants, and cinemas. Still, with the preparations and strictly implemented government orders as well as the oppositional forces being greatly outnumbered, the one year marker of Gezi was quieter than other anti-government protests.

Despite one year’s worth of anti-government demonstrations, six deaths, countless injuries and endless violence, Turkey continues to be dominated and corrupted by Erdoğan’s authoritarian regime. After one year of demonstrations and violence without even a slight budge from the religious conservative prime minister, one must ask: is there still hope that the many dissatisfied Turkish citizens will see their desired change?

 

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Disatisfaction with government grows after minng tragedy in Turkey

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Since the protests regarding the corruption and anti-corruption scandals that encompassed both the dismissal of key alliance figures of the AKP as well as suspicious transactions between P.M. Erdoğan and his son, Turkey has remained rather dormant with occasional murmurs occurring around the Berkin Elvin tragedy, the local elections, and May Day. Recent events have produced another set of hiccups in a quietly tense yet seemingly unactive context that emit glimpses into the true political dissatisfaction of many Turkish citizens as the one year anniversary of the Gezi Park movement approaches.

On 13 May, another tragedy occurred at the mines of Soma- a town 230 south west of İstanbul. As of current, the casualty toll is expected to pass 300 with 18 people still missing which has turned this accident into the worst mining tragedy in the history of Turkey. The reaction of the nation has shown the citizens to respond with profound sadness as they have gathered with candle light vigils as well as a nation-wide mourning period where bars, clubs,and restaurants have closed early which has transformed the chaotic, loud night life of İstanbul into an empty, eerie streets resembling an abandoned ghost town.

Coexisting with this time of mourning has been a critical, disapproval with the reaction of the prime minister to the situation. His initial statement regarding the disaster was that these things are common which sparked outrage among citizens as the death toll continues to rise, These emotions add more flame to a deeper hostility towards the fire of the overall dissatisfaction with the extremely powerful political party and has triggered about round of protests- the biggest ones being in the capital, Ankara, and in the various districts of İstanbul.

As both the one year anniversary of Gezi Park approaches and the presidential elections draw near, it will be interesting to see what will become of the intensifying dissatisfaction of the people of Turkey with their government.

Highly anticipated protests proceeding after boy’s funeral

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After murmurs of revival jerks, the anti-government demonstrations originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park are coming back to life. Yesterday, an innocent 15 year-old became the latest casualty of the government’s controversial use of police force. The boy, Berkin Elvan, was struck in the side of the head by a tear gas canister launched by the Turkish Polis while he was out getting bread. From this extreme contrast of innocence and violence, the young teenager’s image has come to be a symbol for the resistance movement.

The protests commenced after the boy’s parents announced their beloved son’s death on social media. A vigil was conducted outside the hospital he remained in a coma for the past 269 days. Crowds flocked to the scene to pay their respects, but the police immediately resorted to their controversial tactics involving tear gas- even in such close proximately to the hospital’s entrance.

Yesterday’s protests marked as the biggest protests since Gezi Park. Thousands flocked to the streets in several districts all over Istanbul as well as over dozens of cities in Turkey and even around the world.

Do to the role as an organisational tool, social media outlets are seen as threatening to the government. Merely weeks ago, PM Erdoğan passed a controversial censorship law in which he can over-ride and shut down any site at any time- without a just cause. With the protests formulating predominately through Twitter, that site was completely shutdown yesterday evening in an attempt to stop others from taking to the streets. Other main media outlets, such as Facebook and YouTube, are next on the block list.

The protests of yesterday reflect a raw, emotionally charged sentiment and both the protestors and the reaction of the police exemplify this.

The demonstrators consisted of an array of people- transcending age as well as gender lines. Demonstrators marched with pictures of Berkin Elvan as well as carried signs condemning his killers and the assumed man responsible for the operation, PM Erdoğan. As the night progressed, the numbers decreased but protestors that remained became more aggressive by embracing tactics of vandalism, throwing debris, burning trash and public property, banging on buildings, screaming, anything to get the attention of the police and provoke them.

Kadıköy: Berkin Elvan Direnişi (11 Mart 2014)

Turkish Police reacted in a way that has strangely become routine. Crowd control with men on the crowd firing tear rubber bullets and tear gas, men manning the TOMA water cannons, and hundreds waiting in armored police buses on-call. Even with the emotional tension being so pungent one could almost smell it in Istanbul’s air, the insecure government’s right hand could not play a passive role and was forced to play a mildly aggressive one to be a more equally matched and have a chance against the protestors.

Mass protests are expected to increase as the week progresses with foreshadowed images of correlating violence.

Today marks a new day- Berkin Elvan’s funeral service is this afternoon which will be followed by expected violence from the same force that took the youngster’s life. Already, the voice of sirens echo round the city and over power the call to prayer. As the work week wanes, it can be anticipated that protests will get progressively worse.

The protest commenced today (12 March 2014) at 12:00 as it surrounded Elvan’s funeral service at Okmeydani Cemevi. The funeral procession will proceed from Şişli Square to Feriköy cemetery at 15:00 followed by protests increasing in size as the day progresses. 

 

 

 

(Şişli/Feriköy, İstanbul, Türkiye)

Latest Gezi Park casualty, 15 year-old Berkin Elvan, sparks the latest protests in Turkey (11 Mart 2014)

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Today, Istanbul is somber. This grey, dreary day marks the death of the latest casualty of the Gezi Park protests. 15-year-old Berkin Elvan sustained a head injury on the 16th of after being struck by a tear gas canister by Turkish police while he was out buying bread in the Okmeydanı neighbourhood of Istanbul. After 269 days in a coma, the boy lost the fight and died at 07:00 at a hospital in Yenibosna, a district of Istanbul outside the center of the city on the European side.

His heartbroken parents tweeted the following this morning:

“To our people: We lost our son Berkin Elvan at 7 a.m. in the morning. Condolences to us all.”

Since his brutal attack, Elvan’s image has become one of the symbols violence faced by protesters throughout the nationwide protests. This young boy’s death marks as the eighth death in the political protests of Turkey’s Gezi Park demonstrations and has caused another roll of thunderous out-roar for citizens across Turkey, especially in Istanbul.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the hospital where Elvan laid idle for the past nine months, organised by social media outlets.

Even within the morning hours, tension immediately escalated between the demonstrators and the police. The time of day accompanied by the location of the protest (the hospital’s entryway) showed to be useless factors against the opposition for the resortment of the usage of tear gas was immediately used in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

Medla Onur, a lawmaker and key member of the CHP (Republican people’s party of Turkey), was quoted as stating the following as he participated in the boy’s vigil:

“Riot police arrived in front of the hospital as the funeral was ongoing to be sent to the forensics department. Some people also went that way and protested against the police. A scuffle occurred. The police officers did not restrain themselves at all from using gas. They once again used disproportionate force.. Tear gas even entered inside the hospital.”

Despite the initial reaction to the vigil and demonstration of the morning, the call to protest has grown significantly and has consequently resulted in the organisation of dozens of large-scale protests throughout Istanbul and around the entire country. The protests of the 11th of March have now become the biggest demonstrations since the Gezi Park protests of last spring as thousands have taken the streets in various districts.

As a reactionary jerk to the mass organisation via social media outlets (most notably being both Twitter and Facebook), the censorship law that was passed a few weeks ago has been used by the current acting powers of the government to completely over-ride sites and shut them down in an attempt to keep people from taking to the streets. After the hashtag #BerkinElvanÖlümsüzdür (“Berkin Elvan is immortal”) started trending in Turkey, Twitter, the biggest organising force was completely blocked follwed by live feed cameras around the city and freelance, alternative news sources.

As tensions will continue to rise throughout the night and continuing to the boy’s funeral (scheduled tomorrow in proximity to the family’s neighbourhood in Feriköy), the protests will develop and the efforts of the police in terms of attempting to contain the masses are virtually unpredictable. Stay tuned for updates of the demonstration’s developments as well as further analysis. 

(For those in Istanbul: Take caution and conduct your actions and coordinate your plans with your best interest and safety as priority. Foreigners especially, don’t take these protests light-heartedly. Reduce your ignorance and keep yourselves informed)

Student march from Beşiktaş to  Taksim (Taken with iPhone 4s)

Beşiktaş

Taksim

Kadıköy

Turkey: The life of a battered woman

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Turkey: The life of a battered woman

Turkey is one of the world’s worst countries to be a woman. Between 2002 and 2009, the murder rate of women skyrocketed by 1,400 percent. An estimated 28,000 women were assaulted in 2013, according to official figures. Of those, more than 214 were murdered, monitors say, normally by husbands or lovers.

Kadıköy de Havai Fişekli Direniş Coşkusu · Occupy Kadıköy (5 February 2014)

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Enthusiastic Protest with Fireworks in Kadıköy

Diren Kadıköy Video (5 February 2014)

Today, the murder trial of Mehmet Ayvalıtaş provoked thousands of people to gather outside the courthouse this afternoon. The police attacked the protestors at the courthouse and they eventually relocated the demonstration to the center of Kadıköy (Boğa Heykeli). The community of protestors decided to walk to the AKP’s regional builiding in the district of Kadıköy where the police predicably reacted with the TOMA water cannons as well s tear gas. The third demonstration in Kadıköy was conducted this evening as a heightened, enthusiastic response by the protestors with the usage of fireworks. Kadıköy has not been the centre of a protest of great size since October (with the exception of the “corruption” riots of December). This is significant for protestors to face the coldness of Turkish winter to get their message across.


 

 

Democracy, sh-mock-cracy

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The fabled ideal conception of “democracy” has been defined as being a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally which is supposedly done either directly or through elected representatives. This idea encompasses social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the “free” and “equal” practice of self-determination in terms of politics.

This concept is arguably controversial in all contexts where it has been executed and in its various abstractions, interpretations along with all of it corresponding glories , short-comings and failures.

In my observations abroad, the pillars of debate in regards to Turkey (with additional respects to Egypt and Tunisia) are as follows:

Majoritarian versus Representative forms of democracy.

1.Majoritarian Democracy

This concept refers to the form of democracy that is based upon the majority rule of a nation’s citizens and is the “conventional form” that which is used as the basis of political social structure in many modern states.

This common form is not universally accepted for it has been greatly criticized posing the threat of becoming a “tyranny of the majority” whereby the majority (ruling class) of a society could oppress or exclude minority groups. Contrasting this fearful idea, consensus democracy was developed as an antithesis of such for it emphasizes rule by as many people as possible tin order to promote the ideal to make the government inclusive (this is executed with a majority of support from society merely being a minimal threshold). It differs from trends of fascism for the it assumes equality of citizens and they claim that it is a form of authoritarian democracy (that represents the views of a dynamic organized minority of a nation as opposed to  the disorganized majority).

2. Representative (republican) Democracy

Contrasting the former is representative democracy (also referred to as “indirect democracy or “republican democracy”) which based on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. This variation transcends to all modern “Western”-style democracies such as theUnited Kingdom (a constitutional monarchy) and Poland (a parliamentary republic). This contains elements of both the parliamentary and presidential systems of government as well as is it is generally curtailed by constitutional constraints such as an upper chamber. As it modifies certain aspects of the ideal definition of democracy as I first states, this has been further described and identified by some political theorists as being a polyarchy.

Keeping the terms defined in mind, it goes without saying that the road to democracy is a process rather than being an event that occurs instantly overnight– it requires an ongoing struggle.

Struggles, conflict, and confusion are, unfortunately, all inevitably linked. Within the political atmosphere that clouds the Middle East is a distinguishable fog that rains an undeniable conceptual confusion of conceptions that on wets the acute political alienation of the societal elements that feel subject to both a governmental leadership as well as a policy agenda that bleeds the ideal color s of democracy and leaves hostilities to their particular interests and values as residue. The worst environments for such a glum forecast are where they are most prevalent– in the “one-man shows” that consequently allows for the correlation of both adoration and demonization.

Specific national contexts reflect history, culture, values, and such referring to an ideal zeitgeist in which empowers and unites the nation’s identity and resonates in its psyche. Paralleling these are the relating sense of common experiences and similarities that are both skeptical and critical of certain Western “hegemonic” conceptions of modernity, constitutionalism, and governance. I have found the archetype of such abstraction in the illustrated representation in Turkey.

The conflicting sentiments of above in the context of Turkey has generated turmoil as well as it has highlighted both the dangers and passions of lethal polarization.This was formulated, initially, within the drama of Gezi Park and its repercussions and has now grown into the incomprehensibly enormous clash between Prime Minister Erdogan and the exiled Islamic leader Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey’s situation is very unique in a peculiar way for two distinct reasons:

1. The economy of Turkey has grown exponentially within the past eleven years. The development has subsequently produced a flourishing middle class as well as a dominant business community that has a lot at stake if both investor confidence and currency exchange rates steeply drop. This reality is complicated by the fact that part of those that have gained economically have been aligned with the AKP, and by the degree to which the Turkish armed forces are also major stakeholders in the private sector.

2. Another critical achievement of the past eleven year reign of the AKP leadership has been to depoliticize the role of the Turkish military. This has been partially justified to protect itself against interference as well as another factor being that of meeting the standards of the EU accession criteria.

From Turkey’s situation, which applies to mutual tensions in nearby Islamic nations, are elements of absence of common, political community, past preoccupations and

With these distinctions that shape Turkey, alienation fused with emotional distress have become symptoms (rather than explanations) for justifying the existence of such a strong political charge.
These conflicts are about religion, social stratification, class, status, political style, and varied opinions of governmental control. Complimenting this is an additional source of public antagonism that is the unresolved (and sketchily unacknowledged) debate about the true nature of democracy as the ideal for “good” governance. One perplexing element is language, especially its use by politicians concerned with public opinion.

One side of the argument contains the strong desire to base the legitimacy of governmental on pleasing the citizenry while the other side insists upon constitutionalism as well as fidelity to law. Both sides are motivated by stubborn, unchangeable convictions and they both refuse to take into account the others position as being valid or legitimate which makes compromise a far-fetched whim. In synthesis, “good governance” is virtually impossible without a sense of community. From this, social unity is currently unattainable in the presence of the sort of alienation that grips the public sector of Turkey and beyond.

Other aspects of the controversy are simplified into the difference of opinion over the ideal nature of democracy and which elements are necessary to make a government legitimate. The two opponents in Turkey being those  of majoritarian and representative distinctions of democracy.

The central tension within this is as follows:

The publicly conceived myth (in all countries that deem themselves to be “modern”) is that legitimacy lives in endorsing the republican tradition of “limited government” as well as internal checks and balances. Political culture says otherwise for it is decidedly ambivalent for it can spontaneously legitimize the majoritarian prerogatives of a popular leader with strong societal backing. Those displaced, lament authoritarian tendencies that never troubled them in the past when they held the reins of governmental authority.

An element of the most recent confusion entails that, on occasion, the authoritarian tendency gets corrupted to the breaking point where it loses support with the people that share both its class and ideological outlook; from this, a reformist enthusiasm emerges. This has not happened in zTurkey but nearby Egypt, the tenure was short lived as its adherents (whom were drawn from the ranks of the urban educated elites) quickly realized that their values along with their interests were dangerously jeopardized by the “new” order– more so than it had been by the excesses of the “old” order. This was not, however, the case in Turkey. In Turkey, the situation is more subtle yet exhibits analogous features. Despite the outcome of elections that brought the AKP to power initially in 2002, it was subsequently reinforced by the stronger electoral mandates in both 2007 and 2012 (although the majority of the opposition never accepted these results as legitimate). In the background of this alienation, there was an implicit and feared belief that the AKP was mounting a challenge to the strong secularist legacy of Kemal Ataturk (an under-ratedly powerful idea). With political acumen, the AKP acted pragmatically and created a rapid-growing economy where it proclaimed its fidelity to the secular creed. From this, it gradually subjected its armed forces to civilian control. Despite the magnitude of these achievements the AKP , the prime minister never gained respect from the anti-religious opposition. Strangely, this “alienated opposition” was never able to present a platform for responsible opposition that could give a possible positive alternative to the Turkish public.

To further the understanding of Turkey’s political roots, it is appropriate to mention that the legacy of Ataturk’s nation includes an acceptance of “procedural democracy” in the form of free and fair elections that are accompanied by the apparently implied assumption that the outcome would be faithful to a modernist appetite. When the AKP disappointed those expectations in 2002, the opposition became quickly fed up with the workings of “democracy”. Erdogan’s harsh style of discourse is particularly irritating to an already alienated opposition, reinforcing their belief that any alternative is better for Turkey than the AKP. Similarly, the still obscure public falling out between the AKP and the “hizmet movement” has inscribed a new dimension in Turkish politics. It is not extreme to suggest that Turkey is currently experiencing some of the mishaps associated with keeping a political party in power for too long. Such prolonged control of government almost inevitably produces scandal and corruption, especially in a political culture where both the rule of law and the ethics of civic virtue have never been strong.

So, the debate of which form of the Western conceptualization of democracy is legitimate prevails. In reiteration and synthesis, the majoritarian form of democracy allows for the leadership to be essentially responsible to the electorate and (f its policies reflect the will of the majority) the perspective and values of opposed minorities do not need to be respected. Critiques of such call for such forms of government to be treated as susceptible to the “tyranny of the majority”. Such is arguably the case in Egypt (Morsi in 2012).

In contrast, representative democracy spawns from a generally skeptical view of human nature and it consequently seeks for procedures and support to nurture a specific political culture– one that favors moderate government over both efficiency and transcendent leadership. Par example: the American adoption of “republican democracy” that is a classic instance of sculpting a constitutional system that was threatened by majorities and protective of minorities as well as of individual rights (although initially totally blind to the human claims of slaves and native Americans). Secularization has tarnished the link between religious claims of certainty with the consistent republican sensitivity to the flaws of human nature and the general ethos behind “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Over time, every political system faces crises– it is inevitable. the American founders realized that the envisioned arrangements would only survive the tests of time if two conditions were met: first, reverence for the constitution by both lawmakers and citizens, and second, judicial supremacy to override legislative and executive swings towards either implementing the momentary passions of the mob or aggrandizing power and authority, and thereby upsetting the delicate balance of institutions.

It need hardly be argued that neither Turkey (nor Egypt and others) are remotely similar to the United States, but the superficial embrace of democracy might benefit from closely examining the menace of majoritarian democracy in a fragmented polity as well as to make note of the difficulties in establishing a representative democracy in political cultures that have been controlled by militarism and authoritarianism for a long time.

At current, Turkey is attempting to preserve both sufficient stability and consensus to enable the self-restrained persistence of “procedural democracy” and a subsequent successful process of constitutional renewal that would rid the country of the 1982 militarist vision of governance, and move it towards establishing the institutional and procedural frame and safeguards associated with representative democracy. Visions relating to an ideal, democratic future for Turkey greatly call for a process, not an event. Such an objective will require an on-going struggle that is inevitably distracted by the crises of legitimacy to be adequately obtained. The general hope is that calm minds and soft power will prevail which would mean for the serving of long-term interests of a state that transcends into a greater potential of being a true role model for the region and for the world.

“Democracy repackaged” “Political Power Struggle”