Turkish police use aggressive force against citizens of Istanbul on the anniversary of Occupy Gezi (31Mayıs 2014)
Aside Posted on Updated on
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?
From Turkish, this literally means “blood pulls.” Like most Turkish phrases and sentiments, this is deep and loaded with meaning. In an emotional context, this phrase illustrates the idea that regardless of where you are in the world, you are what is in your blood and you act accordingly. You act, whether you are overtly aware or not, with your biological make up (symbolized in terms of blood) through both mental and physical outlets such as your personality traits or your medical situations. From this, there is a lot of pride that gushes out of this sentiment. People can immigrate, emigrate, change location, et cetera, but are they suddenly no longer tied to their roots, heritage, and traditions? Maybe not to you or maybe not to your immediate awareness, but Turks never forget the history (past, present, and future) of their blood.
The Turkish personality is seeping with preoccupations with honor– largely in the context of family and a “tribe.” This sense of eros focuses specifically on the family domain and it is unfathomably strong. The tenets of the Ottoman identity are fluid, highly nuanced, and occasionally contradictory. It is customary to maintain, what the Italians call, bella figura or “a good impression. This is a huge preoccupation with image– both in the physical as well as managing the perception in which they are seen. To Turks, an individual identity in just a small pattern of the entire cloth to which they are sown. According to this precept that is shared by various Middle Eastern traditional customs, one application of this is the belief that one is obligated to show hospitality to all (specially those who are foreigners or strangers). I experienced this more so when I visited a small village in south-west Turkey. As a guest, I was fed, sheltered, and protected. This is hospitality at its finest, most pure form. They wanted to be seen as good by going above an beyond to make me feel welcomed. For me (one who has not been exposed to anything to this degree before), I looked upon it as a show. Do not misunderstand me, I was incredibly grateful for the kindness and appreciative towards their efforts but, as one who studies human nature, I could see the line between what was genuinely real and what was a superficial act. They did not go out of their way entirely to make me feel welcome, but to maintain their family’s reputation and honor.
As a society strongly based upon the conceptions and applications of eros-based honor combined with strong religious ties, there are often extremes. As one could see the extreme pole of kindness in which honor was conducted as a result of actions like hospitality and friendliness. The other extreme of preserving a family’s honor can be executed when a member acts in a manner that is perceived as being disgraceful and shameful. The rationale for punishing such offenders of “honor” in Muslim societies must be subjected into wiping out such shame and insult by being killed, generally by family members (frequently by the father, husband, brothers and sometimes with the helping hand of the mother and sisters).
The traditions of honor derive from ancient desert tribes with a prioritized focus on value for the strength of a community comes from the multitude of its people. In this context, women’s role and value was to marry and carry children. Procreation is incredibly valuable for a society, marriage bonds are considered sacred (for both men and women) for it is their combined duty to contribute their offspring to the tribe. In a condensed formulation, a fertile female’s body is considered to be a commodity and an investment that a male makes towards his honor and standing in the community. Complimenting this idea of male-derived honor, a woman can be perceived as both valuable and honorable to her community if she is healthy, chaste, attractive, and fertile. A marriage is the “purchasing” (via promise of support as well as a dowry) to a female’s reproductive capabilities and the female then becomes obligated to keep her womb exclusive for his children. This exclusivity and monogamous expectations are reserved only for the female, for the male can procreate with as many women he can take care of.
An adulterous female gives her lover what her husband “paid” for and consequently dishonors him and the agreement.
A woman who engages in premarital sex gives up her “value” to a male without the support from a marriage contract and renders herself worthless for it it perceived that she will have nothing to give her husband and she will unlikely marry or procreate.
In this sense, the deeper implications of understanding one’s honor and social value are solely based upon another’s obedience to cultural expectations, traditions, and norms which consequently creates strong need for dependence. Men, as guardians of female “value,” are held responsible for the conduct of women for a male’s dignity is closely related to it. With this, men have sought to control female behavior to control their own situation by reducing females to their reproductive abilities.
These basic societal assumptions and trends became fused with religious culture. In the Quran and hadiths, the Islamic faith expresses that sins such as adultery, apostasy, fornication, and homosexuality are prohibited. Offenders of such have been punished through the traditions of Muslim societies that date back to the time of Prophet Muhammad. These traditions call for killing the offenders, in perfect harmony with sanctions of the Quran, Sunnah and the Sharia.
Turkey is considered by the western world as being the only “role model” Islamic country for its economic success and seemingly liberal government. In 2o02, the eight decades of strict secularization promoted by Turkey’s figurehead Ataturk, a more conservative AKP-led Islamist party came to power and allowed for the gates of gradual Islamization to open in Turkey. This has had many negative effects in a social context for Turkey has now risen to be the world’s “number one honor killing country” with a killing rate that is five times higher than that of Pakistan (a nation notoriously known for honor killing).
Today, these traditions have evolved into the conception of honor killings. An honor killing is defined as “the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the belief of the perpetrators that the victim has brought dishonor or shame upon the family or community”and it is a traditional practice that occurs in various cultures. The victims of such are murdered for “dishonorable” reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, seeking a divorce, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, having a poor academic standing, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations. The is the other extreme of “honor”– its principle behavior that fears the opposite, that is violently executed in the forms of stoning to death, lashing (which frequently leads to death), shooting to death mob-lynching, being buried alive, and being burned and disfigured by acid.
In 2007, a report released by the Council of Europe estimated that there were over 200 women in Turkey that were killed in the name of protecting a family’s “honor” (http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2009-05-21-voa39-68815262/363828.html). Less than a year later, another report was released by the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Human Rights Directorate stated that in Istanbul alone there was one honor killing every week. This report went onto address that there were over 1,000 (reported) honor killings executed during the five years previous. It added a sentiment that suggested that metropolitan cities were the location of such violence based upon honor due to growing Kurdish immigration to these cities from the East (http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=107834).
2008: A 26 year old physics student was shot after exiting a cafe in Istanbul. Ahmet Yildiz represented Turkey at an international gay conference in the United States that year and became the country’s first gay honor killing victim (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/was-ahmet-yildiz-the-victim-of-turkeys-first-gay-honour-killing-871822.html).
2009: A 2-day-old boy who was born out of wedlock was reported to have been killed for honor. The infant’s maternal grandmother (with the help of six other individuals, one of whom was a doctor who had reportedly accepted a bribe to not report the birth) were arrested for the crime. The baby’s mother was arrested as well for knowing that her family had made the decision to murder the child. The grandmother of the newborn suffocated her grandson in an attempt to protect her family from dishonor, disgrace and shame (http://www.lemonde.fr/europe/article/2010/04/16/un-bebe-de-2-jours-victime-d-un-crime-d-honneur-en-turquie_1335090_3214.html).
2010: A corpse of a 16 year-old girl Kurdish girl was found 40 days after her disappearance. She was buried alive by members of her family because she befriended boys in Southeast Turkey (http://www.montrealgazette.com/Girl+buried+alive+honour+killing+Turkey+Report/2521342/story.html).
2011: Elif was an 18 year old girl who had declined the offer of an arranged marriage with an older man by telling her parents she wanted to continue her education. This was her offense of dishonor to which her father intended on murdering her for, but she was quoted prior to saying”I loved my father so much, I was ready to commit suicide for him even though I hadn’t done anything wrong,but I just couldn’t go through with it. I love life too much.” This helped to reveal the adverse trend of an attempt to decrease “honor killings.” As the government called for harsher penalties such as advocating for life sentences for honor killers, a new trend that promoted “honor suicides” sparked. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/27/honor-killings-have-morph_n_179928.html; http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/women-told-you-have-dishonoured-your-family-please-kill-yourself-1655373.html).
2012: An 18 year old woman and her unborn child were stoned to death at the hand of her father and the Imam for having pre-marital sex.This was an unreported incident of honor killing in a remote village in Turkey that was described to reporters from the victim’s sister (http://www.islam-watch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=984:with-the-islamists-rise-to-power-turkey-became-the-worlds-leading-hotspot-of-honour-killings&catid=65:khan&Itemid=58).
2013: Today, honor killings continue to enjoy public support in parts of Turkey (especially in the Southeast). A recent survey conducted in Diyarbakir found that when locals were asked about the appropriate punishment for a woman who has committed adultery, 37 percent of respondents said she should be killed and 21 percent said her nose or ears should be cut off.
The statistics and reported incidents above all reveal the same basic pattern of behavior. Honor killers resort to self-help tactics by taking personal vendettas that are the result of culturally perceived transgressions and “sins”into their own hands and justify their actions through tradition. This type of behavior is outside any means of formal legal policy and these personal feuds cannot be resolved through normal judicial proceedings. Due to this, families and communities determine the guilt or innocence of the supposed criminals. This is a stacked, informal jury with no just procedure for the accused have no chance to defend themselves nor is there any appropriate legal sanction other than the punishment of death.
Honor killings exist in the traditional realm with religious implications and biases, therefor so few are reported and are properly dealt with. Governmental statistics show that two hundred deaths are reported in the name of honor each year. Not only are these numbers skewed for the negligence of reporting but also are reported as being lower with the corruption in regards to the legal system. The number reported constitutes half of all murders in Turkey A complimentary study reveals that In Istanbul alone, at least one person is reported to have died as a result of honor killing every week. Victims cases are continuing to rise
The AKP-led Islamists growth of power and influence correlated with the increase in violence in the name of honor (especially with sentiments focusing on the family rather than the protection of women). The rate of violence increased dramatically just within a three year span after their induction into power (2002). In 2005, the government was forced to form a parliamentary committee to specifically investigate the underlying reasons for the high rates of honor killing violence (particularly in the deeply religious south-east Anatolian religion of Turkey). Various measures have been undertaken by the government to stem the rising tide of honor killings in Turkey in the past decade. The severe increase in punishment (such as life sentences) to honor killers seemed to have some impact, but this led to alternative approaches and methods to honor killings. As family members began to fear legal punishments if they were to execute offenders that dishonor their name, the encouragement and guilt-tripping of “dishonorable” women to commit suicide commenced and has been uncomfortably popular in recent years.
Through various methods and alternative approaches, the measures in which the Turkish government has attempted to address the issue of killing in the name of honor is not working for the rate of such crimes continue to rise. The reality of Turkey: Where Islamists come, Islam must come too– regardless if it is accepted as being “secular. ” The Islamic influences infused with both cultural and emotional implications result in confused and dated precepts of honor that falsely justify the act of murder.
As Islam promotes the sanctity of human life (Al- Quran 6:151), honor has become an overestimated concept. Honor is an elusive idea that should never take priority over life.
“If any one slew a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” (Al- Quran 5:32)
I hide behind a mask of ambiguity. I have expressed my gratefulness for its benefits thus far, but I hd my first real encounter with its repercussions. Alas, the idea of the masks is that it guards an opposing conception of vulnerability and, as soon as the mask slips, a truth is revealed. How the observer will react is always uncertain. This can be dangerous.
My mask was ripped off yesterday.
I entered my building, coming home from early classes at university. I was completely exhausted from another restless night combined with the tiresome stress of attempting to comprehend the lecturer’s fragmented English and deciphering his Turkish, as well as from the long ferry voyage and walk home. It was still morning, and a long morning t that. I entered my building, normally and began to hike the six floors of stairs as a figure approached me.
A male, appearing old for a late twenty year old with sunken acne scars marking up a a mean, narrow, salt and pepper scrubbed visage grins at me.
What? Oh, yeah. Good morning.
I slipped. A crack of my real self shown, unknowingly in my exhausted state. And, with that simple utterance, my mask was ripped off, fast.
I saw a spark light in his dark eyes.
I have seen this surprised spark of delight before, literally every time a Turkish man has discovered that I am not Turkish. So his reaction did not surprise me.
What did surprise me was the attack.
As I closed the door to my flat and preparing my keys to lock it, I was hit. A man body slammed the door with all his might. The force threw me into the wall perpendicular to the front door and I struck my head.
What the fuck is happening?
Instantly concussed, immediately disoriented, my mind went raced into fight-or-flight. I recognise the intruder as the cretin from the stairs.
He grabs me by the waist and pulls me into him, saying “ok babe?” as he tries to kiss my face.
Hell no, I think.
So I head-butt him.
“GET THE FUCK OUT!”
I scream. He smiles towards my responsive aggression. He does this to mock me. He does this to make me feel small. I am reduced to an object to him, but he wants to degrade me more.
I open my landlady’s door and yell to see if she’s home.
I run to see if my flatmate is in. I bang on her door. It’s locked, I yell.
He collects himself and attempts to corner me against Sebahat’s door, when it opens. Sebahat is home. She was abruptly woken up by the scene and she watches, stunned in a hazed confusion.
Meanwhile, I react. He’s seen and he knows that there are two young girls alone, in the top story of the building, with no one around. i will not let this fucker win. I will not let him touch us. I will not let let him hurt us.
Enraged, I sunk deeply into protective mode. I turn into something ugly, primal; an animal. I refuse to play defense, and immediately turned on the offense switch. I have the home field advantage. He is intruding upon my cave, and I am the grizzly bear. I will do anything I have to do to protect myself, my friend, and my home.
I hit him, hard, throwing him off balance.
I moved in quick, hitting him in the same spot below his heart with a left and right combination.
I have boxing experience, but these were instinctual, hard, powerful jabs. So intense, yet far from precise, that I would later find my knuckles and fingers broken, swollen, and bruised.I then hit him with a rapid fire, eight punch combo.
I got him, now for the climax.
Three dazzling, lightning punches; head shots.
The kill shot: left jab, TKO blow taking out his right eye and nose.
He reactively lifts his hands to protect his face and to catch his blood, falling into my set up and leaves his body uncovered and vulnerable.
I wind up. One strong kick the groin to make sure this pathetic excuse of a human being will never be able to reproduce.
As his hands reflex southward, I respond with a swift upward hit with my palm to his solar plexus, making him gasp for air.
As he hunches over, I take no chance for him to recover. I dig my finger-nails as deep as I could to get a firm grip. I drag him down the hallways by his hair.
I threw him out the door, then dropped him to the ground and kicked him down the stairs.
No time to wipe my hands and get once last reassuring look that I had successfully ridded him, I about-faced and locked the door.
Now, that the task was completed, I could react. I ran down the hall and into Sebahat’s embrace and instantly burst into tears.