From the streets of Istanbul

Call from Urban Movements Istanbul / HIC-Habitat International Coalition Network

(June 19 Update; following the police / Government crack down on Saturday, we share here a statement from Cihan Uzuncarsili Baysal, Spokesperson of  URBAN MOVEMENTS ISTANBUL)

To the World Public and the World Press:

A government who seems totally unaware of the concept of conscience and who definitely lacks any proper perception of humanity has been putting on an act of utmost violence in almost all parts of the city since last night. This dark page has unfortunately thus been added to the already known and very much debated human rights record of Turkey. History will certainly not forgive this government; this government with its brutal police, its incompetent governors, its dishonest media and its false jurisdiction! Cruelty beyond comprehension for even war time situations is being systematically applied. While the government has been openly overruling all norms of human rights in front of the whole world, its spokespeople and the governor of Istanbul have chosen to address the national and international public in a reckless manner, creating stories about “marginal groups” and “vandalism”. Never before have dignity and pride been so brutally vandalized!

Last night, “robocops” programmed to kill without making a distinction between women, children, old people and the sick have attacked the peaceful crowd which had festively gathered all day long at the Gezi Park. Gas bombs have been thrown at hospitals and at houses in which helpless people took refuge. The wounded who were brought into the makeshift infirmary at the nearby Divan Hotel have been re-bombed countless times. Rubber bullets and water cannons have been used in addition to the gas bombs and as the water sprayed by the cannons contained an unknown chemical substance of acidic nature, many people with rashes and itches, skin allergies and open skin lesions have been observed among the wounded. To this moment, the exact composition of the water spray has remained unknown. In short, last night in Istanbul, savageness unequaled even by the atrocities of a war time environment has become the ruler.  We would now like to ask: If this is not vandalism, what is?

We would also like to ask the sovereigns whose mode of ruling comprises of polarizing people, increasing all tensions and forcing everybody to limits; is this what you call “peace”? Can peace only be attained by carrying out whatever the government orders? What kind of a government do you call yourselves if your answer to these questions is “yes”? Is this your understanding of democracy?

This is our call to all the governing and/or opposing members of the parliament who have now become a part of this brutality by remaining silent, to the segment of media that has accepted the language of this cruelty as its own mode of expression and to the members of the police force who, openly violating all rules of human rights, have turned into barbarian “robocops” which think they will not have to account or stand trial for their actions: In the name of humanity, first listen to the voice of your conscience!

We would also like to address the world public and in particular all the international human rights mechanisms Turkey is also a part of with this message and ask them to help us in making our voices heard in our protest of this government which has adapted cruelty and savageness as a mode of approach towards its people. Please hear our voice and take the necessary steps to stop these atrocities!

Cihan Uzuncarsili Baysal, Spokesperson of  URBAN MOVEMENTS ISTANBUL

Gezi Park Protest is taking a creative turn

(June 11 Update)

Police forces retreated on the third day of the Gezi Park protests. Taksim Square and Gezi Park have now become a freedom zone where protestors of all beliefs and tendencies, and civil society organisations of all types, have gathered together, living in and sharing the common space. Many tents have been erected, covering the park entirely and every day a new creative offering is being announced. There is now a public library, which citizens and publishers are replenishing daily, a radio station, an internet TV, a journal, a dispensary, kitchens, an organic vegetable garden, sun panels, garbage separation and disposal units, a vet, and even a museum of protest. There are message posting areas, wishing trees, and of course many street vendors. At all times there are diverse activities taking place: readings, gatherings, forums, concerts, pilates and yoga sessions. Every morning protestors and many supporters collect the rubbish that has been left behind by the thousands of visitors pouring in toabsorb a bit of this experience. The overwhelming feeling is that the protestors have created an atmosphere of freedom.

Here are some links to highlight the outpouring of creative energy:

Gezi Postası: http://gazetegezipostasi.blogspot.com/2013/06/say-01.html?m=1

Gezi Radio: http://geziradyo.org/

Çapulcu TV: http://capul.tv/

A map from by Radikal newspaper showing what is where in Gezi Park.

A map from by Radikal newspaper showing what is where in Gezi Park.

CC BY 2.0 Tents in Gezi Park/ Jennifer Hattam

CC BY 2.0 Tents in Gezi Park/ Jennifer Hattam

Construction of a library in Gezi Park.

Construction of a library in Gezi Park.


Images of the demonstrations kicking off(1) in Istanbul this week have erupted across online media, reminding us in one moment of all the public “square” eruptions of the last years, with Tahrir and Syntagma particularly strong in our minds; and yet, with a special sensitivity for this, the latest, coming from Turkey- such a pivotal actor on the global stage…

At the same time as our solidarities expand and are further galvanised seeing our Turkish friends resisting repression as they demand their democratic rights, we also feel an eery normality – as the pictures of 1000s of people occupying concrete streets, boldly facing the repressive violence of the state, blend into the memories we’ve acquired from so many cities across the world in our time.

Below is an urgent call for solidarity, from urban human rights activists in Turkey (available here in 45 different languages: http://fakfukfon.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/atencionatencioattentionattention/). See also some recommended blogs for up-to-date commentary on the situation in Istanbul:

“International Human Rights Organizations and Dear Friends, Comrades, Press Members  from all over the world;

This is an urgent call from human rights defenders, activists, NGOs, professional chambers, grassroots, neighborhood associations and Istanbulites.

Since the 27th of May, Istanbulites from all social and political backgrounds and ages and from all over the city had been continuing a peaceful resistance in Gezi Park, the city’s largest public park, soon to be demolished due to a so-called renewal project. This Project foresees the erection of a big mall (designed as the replica of the once Ottoman Artillery Barracks) in the place of those trees.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgBRGl341ZA

http://www.bianet.org/english/english/147016-demonstrators-plant-trees-against-destruction-in-taksim-gezi-park

The police intervened in the park 3 times, each more violent than the other:

The first intervention was in the morning of May 28th, a crowd of about 50 protestors were tear-gassed directly in their faces.

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201305302148-0022796

In solidarity with the protestors, hundreds arrived in the evening and the occupation movement grew bigger. Right afterwards, the second intervention came early in the morning of May 30th at 5 am. The riot police set fire to the tents and tear gas and pepper sprays were used incessantly, causing serious injuries.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suEVcTIpzxA&list=UUNwGZGYteEB64ywTGCn0w2g&index=2

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/protester-to-undergo-surgery-after-morning-police-intervention-at-taksim-park–.aspx?pageID=238&nID=47878&NewsCatID=341

Against this inhumanity and extreme violence, the reaction was the occupation of the park, this time by thousands.

And this morning proved to be the culmination of violence and barbarism that no words can describe, with an unproportional use of force. The exit of the park was blocked by the police, thus locking the group in the park. The protester were then taken under crossfire of tear gas and pepper bombs, nearly getting choked to death. The only way out was by breaking the walls and many were wounded during this escape.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/protester-to-undergo-surgery-after-morning-police-intervention-at-taksim-park–.aspx?pageID=238&nID=47878&NewsCatID=341.

At the moment, brutal intervention against the protestors continues. The group has been pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed once more as they were leaving the area after reading their  press call! At the moment, some are in Divan Hotel at Elmadag, having taken refuge there from the effect of the gas attacks.

Literally, almost all of Taksim Area, where Gezi Park is, is tear-gassed and pepper gas-sprayed; especially the side streets around Taksim Square are under clouds of gas.

Dear friends, we believe we need nothing else to add; the scenes talk for themselves.

The resistance for democracy and human rights will not be terminated; we are determined to continue our struggle against a government determined to crush each and every opposition, a government that cannot tolerate even a peaceful opposition for saving trees. The present Turkish government has violated all international human rights conventions and mechanisms it is a party to.

Your valuable support and solidarity will indeed fortify our determination and resistance. Please share this news, name it and shame and blame the responsibles so that this insanity and brutality practiced against human rights defenders can be terminated through international pressure.

CALL TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITEE

This is also a call to the IOC to take Turkey out of its list of 2020.

If Olympics means friendship, if Olympic Games mean peace and companionship, these videos are enough proof of how the government violates the ideals of Olympics. Having Istanbul on the list will be tantamount to pepper-gassing these ideals.

In the name of solidarity and friendship

Urban Movements Istanbul / Habitat International Coalition

For more images also see #occupygezi, http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/

See also

  1. We make a reference here to the work of Paul Mason, Why it’s kicking off everywhere: (2012) The new global revolution and subsequent Why it’s still kicking off everywhere (Verso, 2013), which were the subject of a CITY led panel session at the Association of American Geographers annual event in LA last April – for more on that, as a prelude to further work to be published in CITY building on the panel session see here.

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