A small park in Istanbul has become a hotspot for a new political movement, Occupy Gezi.On Wednesday, a group of people (not part of any specific group) met to protest the demolition of Gezi Park. Last year, it was announced that the small park would be leveled off to be turned into a shopping mall. There are numerous malls in Istanbul, and protestors had enough, wanting to keep the park with 606 trees. The protests started off peaceful, with people bringing blankets and tents, to be ready when demolition started the following morning.
Sure enough, the demolition started and protestors stood in front of the machines. That was all, there was no media attention, just people standing up for what they believed in. However, police were called in anyway, bringing water cannons and pepper spray, causing the number of protestors to grow so large over night, the local government shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square. This did not deter the protestors, many of whom who chose to walk. The police continued to use excessive force, even going so far as to burn down protesters’ tents.
Although the police lifted barricades in the hope of relieving some tension, Erdogan was still defiant, promising to stick to the government’s redevelopment plans. He called the protesters a “minority” that was trying to forcefully impose demands and challenged the opposition that he could easily summon a million people for a government rally. “I am not claiming that a government that has received the majority of the votes has limitless powers … and can do whatever it wants,” he said in a televised speech.“Just as the majority cannot impose its will on the minority, the minority cannot impose its will on the majority.”
Although Turkey has seen great economic growth under Erdogan’s leadership, he remains a divisive figure in mainly secular circles due to his strong conservative Muslim beliefs and is criticized for his often abrasive style. Why did he overreact to a peaceful, environmentally charged protest? It wasn’t about him until he decided to bring in pepper spray and water cannons to quell the protests.
Many social justice groups such as Amnesty International are concerned with the excessive police force used during the protest, especially as Reuters has reported that school children on a field trip were caught up in the tear gas. The protests are also exposing a larger issue in Istanbul–the disconnect between Tayyip Erodgan and the people. In a piece for the The New Yorker, Elif Batuman reports that on her television, CNN Turk was broadcasting a cooking show, while other networks were showing dance programs and a study abroad show. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and personal blogs are showing the truth; harsh photos, live tweets, etc.
While new stuff pops up on social media every day, I find it so appalling that the mainstream media in Turkey seems to be completely ignoring the story, and fueling the fire. Ted Turner’s vision for CNN was that it was news twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. In the US, Turner used to steal footage from the big news networks in order to get his stories. So why isn’t CNN Turk doing the same thing and aiding the disconnect between the government and the people? Occupy Geziis news. People need to know what’s going on so they can make an informed choice, to decide to get involved or to just hang back.
So, LivLunatics, what’s your take on the situation? Turkish LivLunatics, did I miss anything important? What’s your take on the lack of mainstream media coverage?