What began as a peaceful protest, to save one of Istanbul city centre’s last remaining green spaces, has transformed into a violent countrywide uprising.
Thousands of other protesters gathered on Monday in Taksim Square, the symbolic heart of the protests that erupted into violent clashes on Friday. People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul. Demonstrations spread to other cities where citizens faced more brutality and hostility from police.
Protestors gathered from all across the country, from all different backgrounds, ideologies and religions. The protests are still going on, and many Turks are taking pride in the nature of a broad mass movement that isn’t drowned in party politics.
There is an element of irony surfacing in Turkey. As Erdogan was recorded as telling Mubarak, the Egyptian dictator, before his fall “no government can survive against the will of its people”.
The same man dismissed the civil movements in his country as looters. Erdogan sent the army back to its barracks and pushed back the power of Turkey’s deep state.
The country has witnessed a media blackout in the press. Protestors have turned to social media to communicate information to one another over the past two weeks and photos of police brutality towards protesters quickly flooded the Internet.
In one day, two million tweets were sent using #direngeziparki (resistgezipark) hashtag. Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, said social media was ‘spreading lies’, calling it “the worst menace to society”.
The move by the government and social media could not be more different and confused. Indeed for 15 days now, the response of Erdogan has been teargas and water cannon.
Erdogan’s response to the protests then remained uncompromising. “It’s over,” the Prime Minister told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Tuesday, as police were trying to force protesters from Taksim Square.
“Be warned: we will not tolerate it any more.” As he spoke, Taksim Square, the protest hub, resembled a battle scene, swathed in acrid smoke as police dispersed tens of thousands of protesters chanting “Erdogan, resign!” and “Resistance!” on the worst night of violence.
Despite riot police and bulldozers demolishing protest tents, demonstrators returned to the area last week. The government seems to rapidly be losing both their power and of course the people’s confidence.
A heavy police presence remained in the square, whilst thousands of weary demonstrators took refuge in the park. Four people, including a policeman, have died during this unrest. Almost 5000 demonstrators, many of whom are young and middle-class, have been injured.
The protests had been hijacked by “an illegal uprising against the rule of democracy”, the Prime Minister said.
Still millions remain outraged by the violent reaction of their government to a peaceful protest aimed at saving Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Over the course of Prime Minister Erdogan’s ten-year term, Turkish citizens have witnessed a steady erosion of their civil rights and freedoms.
Arrests of numerous journalists, artists, and elected officials and restrictions on freedom of speech, minorities’ and women’s rights all demonstrate that the ruling party is not serious about democracy.
Time and again, the Prime Minister has mocked and trivialized his nation’s concerns while Turkish media has remained shamefully silent.