As many of you must have been following through news reports, people of Turkey are going through a very difficult time at the moment. The main events started by a group of protesters occupying Taksim Square’s Gezi Park, in the centre of Istanbul, and the resistance movement quickly expanded to all major cities in Turkey after the heavy handed police response.
People’s basic human right of assembly and freedom of expression is being completely disregarded by the Turkish government, and hundreds of thousands of people have been attacked by the Turkish Police with brutally heavy force.
We have received reports of 5 people killed so far, and we are very concerned that there are many more in critical conditions, including people as young as 14. 10 people have lost their eyes, due to police firing gas canisters with weapons and aiming these directly at people. The amount of tear gas used in the last 20 days is reported to be twice the amount that was used in the whole Europe in 2012! All in all, 10 thousand people are reported to have been injured by the police. As if this wasn’t enough, they even arrested doctors who were trying to treat the wounded in make-shift infirmaries, claiming that these doctors were “aiding and abetting the protesters”.
Tear gas is used widely as a weapon by the Police, not only to disperse people but to target and injure them. There are many videos broadcast by both media and shared through social media (a quick youtube search for “diren gezi polis” or “divan oteli gaz” will come back with many examples), clearly showing Police running after protesters who are running away, and shooting at them with gas canisters. In fact, Police have fired tear gas to cafes, houses, restaurants, hotels and even hospitals where people took refuge.
In their attack on Saturday 15 June, there were many children amongst the crowd. We have seen disturbing images of children being gassed in hotels they were being treated.
Police have used plastic bullets to injure people and real bullets to kill them. One of the protesters, Ethem Sarisuluk, was killed by a Police bullet. As if killing him was not enough, they even barricaded his funeral convoy whilst they were going to the point he was shot dead. The police have refused to give out the name of the Police officer who shot Ethem Sarisuluk dead. It is widely believed that this murderer is still working as a police officer, so far facing no consequences for killing someone. Although there are many videos clearly showing him firing at the protesters, the Turkish Police force have been very quick to claim that it was the protesters themselves who killed Ethem with a stone. Once the autopsy (they even tried to stop Ethem’s family lawyer to attend the autopsy) confirmed that Ethem was definitely killed by a bullet, the Police now claim that it was the protesters who shot Ethem dead. There are no reports that any of the protesters have been seen with a gun, but this obviously is immaterial as far as the Police are concerned.
Despite all of these, the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been fuelling the situation by asking his supporters to come out in support of him. He has been lying to people:
- he claimed that protesters went into a mosque and drank beer and engaged in sexual acts – the Imam of the mosque denied this and explained that protesters took refuge in the mosque to avoid police brutality;
- he claimed that women wearing head scarves are being attacked by protesters – there are many women wearing head scarves amongst protesters and they publicly denied that there was any hostility against them and actually said that they felt the safest amongst the protesters;
- he claimed that marginal groups were attacking the Police to justify the heavy handed policing – undercover Police officers were identified to have been throwing stones at the Police;
- the disinformation reached such an extent that the mayor of Ankara claimed that protesters kept equipment to produce an atomic bomb in their tents when they occupied GeziPark!
In response to the protests the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to lie. One of his lies is that all of these protests are orchestrated by international forces, namely the “Faiz Lobby” – literally translated as credit interest (as in APR interest) lobbies. It is widely believed that he was briefed by presumably his allies in the USA to use this argument and that those who briefed him advised him to claim that it was the interest lobbies (as in interest groups) who fuelled these protests. Many political and economical analysts have been trying to explain what else he could have meant by blaming credit interest lobbies, but so far no one could come with a better explanation.
On 17 June, a man started standing still in Taksim square, doing nothing. Quickly people joined him in Taksim square, and hundreds of other protesters reportedly started the same action all over Turkey. Unbelievably, the Police arrested those who were standing still after the 6th hour of this totally civil disobedience action. People have organised a civil disobedience action by standing still for 5 minutes on streets all over Turkey at 10pm Turkish time (8pm GMT).
The examples could go on, and if 4 people had not died and many thousands injured, this story and the Turkish government’s ridiculous rhetoric could be laughable.
So, what can you do?
- Ask you Unison branch to condemn the fascist oppression in Turkey! Ask them to put pressure on national Unison to do the same and lobby Labour Party to ask UK government to ban exports of tear gas and other weapons to Turkish government.
- Write to your MPs to demand that they condemn the Turkish government and ban exports of tear gas and other weapons to Turkey. You can find out who your MP is at http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/
- Ask the Council, which represents a significant number of people from Turkey living in Hackney, to condemn the Turkish government and declare solidarity with the people of Turkey.
- Log in to the causes web page to sign a petition titled “15 days, 150,000 canisters fired in Turkey: Stop placing tear gas in the hands of riot police!” You can reach this website by copying and pasting http://bit.ly/11IlJtO to your browser.
- Standing still for 5 minutes at 8pm (10pm Turkish time), asking someone to take your picture and posting that picture on twitter with the hashtag #duranadam #durankadin (meaning man standing still and woman standing still).
Posting messages of solidarity to Twitter using the hashtag #direngezi (meaning resist gezi, in reference to the park that the first protests started).