What’s Causing the Riots and Violence in Turkey?

Peaceful Protesters Run Over and Killed by Tanks, Blinded and Brutalized

What’s causing the widespread rioting and violence in Turkey … with army tanks running over and killing protesters, protesters losing eyes or otherwise being blinded, the widespread use of tear gas (and perhaps chemical weapons), and scores seriously injured?

The original small, peaceful protest – brutally cracked down on by the government – was simply against the destruction of one of the few remaining public spaces in Istanbul … for the development of a shopping mall by the prime minister’s son-in-law.

As Pepe Escobar writes at Asia Times:

The recent spark in Istanbul was provided by a small group of very young environmentalists organizing a peaceful sit-in, Occupy-style, in Taksim Square to protest the planned destruction of one of the city center’s few remaining public green spaces, Gezi park.

Gezi park’s destruction follows a globally tested neoliberalism racket; it will be replaced by a simulacrum – in this case a replica of the Ottoman Artillery Barracks – housing, what else, yet another shopping mall. It’s crucial to note that the mayor of Istanbul, also from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), owns a retail chain that will make a killing out of the mall. And the man holding the contract for this “redevelopment” is no less than [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s] son-in-law.

But the tinder lit quickly because Turks are sick of Erdogan’s nose-in-business government, which is attempting to ban alcohol, rail against tobacco and otherwise trash liberties in what has long been a very cosmopolitan, largely secular society.

And it is partly the people’s hatred for the Turkish government’s backing of the Syrian rebels. As Escobar writes:

[Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan] is a man who over two years ago was yelling, “Mubarak must listen to his people” – and so should Assad in Syria. Now the majority of Turks totally reject Ankara’s “logistical support” for the “rebel” Syrian gangs. [Indeed, Spiegel reports that Erdogan’s Grip on Power Is Rapidly Weakening.]

The irony cherry in the cake is Damascus, now gleefully warning Erdogan to curb the violent repression, listen to “his people”, or resign.


Professor Juan Cole reports:

The USG Open Source Center translated Yalcin Dogan’s “Survey Finds Turks Disapprove of Alcohol Restriction, Policy on Syria” from Hurriyet Online for Sunday, June 2, 2013. It give the following polling numbers on the restriction of alcohol sales to before 10 pm.

“Those who say it is an intervention into the way of life make up 60.8 percent of the population.

Some 34.7 percent of the population consume alcoholic drinks. . . .”

“‘Has anybody using alcohol caused any harm to you?’ Those who say they did not make up 92.9 percent of the population. Those who say they did constitute 7.1 percent.”

“‘Could the restriction on alcohol use stop you from using alcohol?’” Some 75.9 percent say it could not while 24.1 percent say it could.”

Some 70.8 percent of respondents said that they think “the AKP’s (Justice and Development Party) policy on Syria is wrong is 70.8 percent.”

Even within the Ak Party, about 32 percent rejected Erdogan’s vocal support for the rebels over the Syrian government.

(It probably doesn’t help that Turkish soldiers have captured chemical weapons in the hands of the rebels.)

Indeed, numerous first-hand reports from Turkey show that the people are afraid that backing Al Qaeda against Hezbollah is not that great for one’s national security, and that it might come back to bite the Turks.

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  • Anonymous

    Your link regarding the use of tear gas and possibly more. One picture from a product from Casper WY is clearly marked “CM.” According to “An Assessment of Non-lethal Weapons Science and Technology, it was used in the Vietnam War. It is not CS tear gas. It is diphenylamine arsenic chloride.

  • Rogoraeck

    Shouldn’t the “world” & “the international community” have a “humanitarian intervention” in Turkey?
    The UN & NATO have to introduce a NO FLY ZONE over Turkey to protect the civilians!
    Erdogan has to GO! The last dictator of Turkey has to GO!

    • Dave Phillips

      Took the words right out of my mouth, the silence from the gallery is deafening. The same calls made against Mubarak and Assad should be made against Erdogan but are not, makes the agenda very clear doesn’t it!

    • durt

      there is no dictator in Turkey…. it is 100% democracy

      • Rogoraeck

        Yupp! I’ve seen the Turkish “democracy” at work on evening news! I could be wrong. Maybe the TV channels are broadcasting pictures from Damascus & not Istanbul?
        Can’t trust those journalists! All right wing white extremists haters only!

  • amerikagulag

    “….Syrian rebels….” LOL. There’s only Assad vs. Al-CIA-duh. The US wants regime change for it’s boss israel. That and a chunk of Syria for the Greater Israel.

  • hvaiallverden

    I can only hope the Turks dont gett lost in this but have a crystal clear goal.

    And right now, all are inn for a War on Coments, the Hasbaratnjiks and the “rightwinged”(controlled oposition, the muslim hate mongrles), is in for this in full force, and the oposition as going in for a ride regading the morronic coments made by people about Turks.
    In my land, they ONLY focus on the “violence” and always, since time immemorial(hehe 14 days or something like that), on how “criminal” the protestores are behaving, and very litle about Why.

    And the “rightwinged”, the so caled “leftside nutts”, and “freinds of Israel” and so on, always highlight the “muslim terror” and is using Your actions, not in understanding, but to throw as mutch shitt as possible at the Turkish people.

    Dont trust anyone but your self.
    Dont even listen to anyone but your self.
    Dont ever forgett the fact, that You have all in your hands, and you have also the solutions in your hands, dont lett foregins interfere at all, that is an Trapp.
    The Annon as an example, is just an obstacle and divertion and is an CIA/MOSSAD front and controlle oposition.
    Dont trust them for a second.

    Trust your self, because its the only option there is.
    There is No democracy if you dont have the right to say No.


  • Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

  • Resign Tayip

    It is not the army, it is the police who are coming with their TOMA (Turkish: Toplumsal Olaylara Müdahale Aracı, English: Riot Control Vehicle). Some of the army barracks were opened up to the protestors to help evade the tear gas and the police fired tear gas into the barracks. The people are united, from young to old, regardless of political affiliation, gay or lesbian and ethnicity have all come together to show their solidarity. Things are not made easier with the PM making silly comments “you are only 50% of the people and I’m to keeping the other 50% in check” in order not to retaliate. Other comments, made by the PM “I’ve decided and no matter what, the project will go ahead” and to add salt to the wound, he is talking about demolishing another landmark close to Gezi Park.

    • Canan

      and he is still provoking the public,organising meetings for just his supporters!!!those supporters are working side by side with the POLICE !!!ERDOGAN MUST GO,there is no other way !!!

    • durt

      you can not just demand government to step down by taking the streets, if you do that this what happens and next step the ones who wants government stay on power will go out on streets to fight against them.

  • Ozkan

    Goverment do right that want to ban alcohol and cigarette…enought with all those junkies…Glory to Erdogan

    • Ataturk Cocugu

      If you say Glory to Erdogan you are a traitor as much as him. Go to hell with him…

      • Canan

        well said!!Ata’min cocugu…

  • Dredd Blog

    Well said.

  • Rehmat

    I never took professor Cole seriously. He has proven to be a CIA agent.

    The “peaceful Turkish protests were turned into riots and violence”. Was it not the same case in Syria two years ago? And who are pushing for a regime change in Damascus to isolate Iran? Your guess is good as mine.

    On May 31, pro-Israel ‘World Tribune’ published Jewish professor Norman Bailey’s (Institute of World Politics, Washington DC – and University of Haifa, Israel) claimed that a greater Kurdistan (based on Kurd minorities Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran) would be the best thing ever happened to Israel in the region.


  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Erdogan: No force other than Allah can restrain Turkey from rising high

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Erdogan: Our target is advanced democracy and we will get there.

    • Canan

      Must be a joke 😀 Erdogan dose not know the meaning of Democracy!!!

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Erdogan: Young people are the crown of my head. They are my soul, ornament of Turkey. Their nature and jokes are very sweet

    • Canan

      That is why he has been sending POLICE on them!!!

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Erdogan: I did not come to fight. My work is love. I did not come to hurt hearts but serve hearts

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Those who describe this uprising as a “Turkish Spring” are being naive. Turkey is neither Mubarak’s Egypt nor Assad’s Syria. More than 20 parties take part in elections in Turkey: 22 will take part in the 2014 elections. These include communists, Maoists, Kurds, leftists, rightists and parties of all shades of opinion. The public chooses the party that forms the government; they elect the government once every four years. It is our election. If we wish, a leader stays. If we do not so wish, he goes. Unlike in the Arab Spring, our leaders in Turkey do not step down when paving stones are torn up and flung. That happens through elections. The opposition parties have also been raising their voices very powerfully and excitedly. They criticize the government freely, because we have democracy in Turkey. Leaders come and go through elections. The foreign press needs to be more sensible about this and see the true danger.

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Pepper spray? It is true that was used. Should that have been used in such quantities? Of course not: the government itself said as much immediately after the event. But that was not the only mistake. It was announced a few days after the protests that no trees in the park had been cut down, they had been replanted in another part of Istanbul. The government said that the new construction project involved a park area with trees, and that it has reforested an area of 900,000 hectares to date. Nobody knew that. It would have been good if the government could have announced this, nicely, beforehand!

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Did you know that balls studded with nails were prepared before the demonstration and paving stones were torn up. Do you know what use balls studded with nails or paving stones have? They kill. Do you think people who want to protect for trees would prepare weaponry intended to kill? Of course not. It was not peaceful protesters who did this; neither was it peaceful protesters who stoned the police while they were pulling back from Taksim Square and damaged police cars with sledgehammers. Many artists who arrived on the scene intending to take part in the protest turned back at once and took to Twitter to warn against serving the ends of those wishing to incite provocation. A great many protesters understood and went home. The scene was left in the hands of communist provocateurs.

    • Canan

      yes in the hand of Government Provocateurs!!!!

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Protests always attract different groups, and small, peaceful protests can turn into a propaganda opportunities for marginal groups. This poses an even greater risk in Turkey. The terror organization Turkey wrestled with for 30 years was a communist one. Some parts of the terror organization cannot bear the idea of withdrawing from the country and the subsequent period of peace.The action in Taksim Square was a cover for such groups. The events even began very oddly. Right after the peaceful protest, insulting messages began being sent to government supporters. Everyone was organized and incited to “violence.” These calls, made on the basis of new calculations, made it clear this was not going to be an ordinary protest.The real protesters were peaceful, and a healthy sign of democracy. But because of other groups, violence quickly followed the protests. There was no more talk of trees and parks. Instead, the banners of various communist organizations began to be seen. The trees the show was meant to protect began to be uprooted, and furniture was burned. Had the fire department not arrived in time, the whole park would have burned. But was the whole point of the action not to protect that park?

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Protests may sometimes be used for ulterior motives in a climate where love is forgotten. Those who use them are generally marginal groups who adopt terror and aggression, since that is what their ideologies demand. They are generally communists.Those communist groups were among the peaceful protesters on the streets of Istanbul. To protect the trees? Not at all. Communists care about anarchy, not trees. Provocation is one of the main tactics to be used for anarchy.An environmentalist protest was first turned into the propaganda of hatred because of these groups. Exaggerated reports were spread all over social networking sites and government supporters were insulted. Then the violence began. The supposed purpose of the protest was to protect the park and its trees. But at the same time, trees were being uprooted and the park burned. Police and press cars were burned. It was not, of course, environmentalist protesters doing this; it was communists seeking violence.Propaganda is important for communists. That is why social networks were immediately set into action. It was said that tens had died, though nobody had actually died at all. It was said that live rounds had been used, whereas only pepper spray had been employed. The picture of someone injured in a yachting accident in America was shared tens of thousands of times on Twitter as an image of a “police killing”. Once this fraud was exposed, the picture of a Turk who had died in a traffic accident years before was shared instead. They claimed he died in the demonstrations. So the possibility might work on people.They said that access to social media had been blocked. Yet apart from the immediate area around Taksim Square there were no such cuts anywhere in Istanbul. False reports to the effect that thousands of police had spontaneously resigned and that the head of security had been fired followed one after the other, but these reports were also lies.When a picture emerged of a police officer spraying a dog with pepper spray, their rage and foul language knew no bounds. When the picture became a bit clearer, the word “policia” on the officer’s back showed that the officer was not Turkish and the photograph was not taken in Turkey at all. Lies to the effect that the police used narcoleptic gas, sarin gas or even orange gas, banned by the UN, were shared countless times. A picture of a large group crossing the Bosphorus Bridge, intended to portray the demos as very strong, actually belonged to last year’s Eurasian marathon. A picture of Tahrir was also spread as a purported photo of the demonstration in Taksim on the first day for the same purpose.Every time these false reports were published, thousands of people were convulsed by rage. This is a familiar tactic. Was it not similar to the tactics used by Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot and even the fascist Hitler? Were not millions convinced of a lie and then slaughtered? The same powerful tactic has also served the purpose of a handful of communists in democratic Turkey.

    • Canan

      workers at the AKP offices should try a bit harder,because things said above is not convincing The World :))

  • Werneth Neighbourhood

    Free expression and exposition of ideas is fine. Islam indeed insists upon this, because where ideas cannot be openly expressed, there you have hypocrites. People who adhere to cunning ideas they cannot express openly, but who pretend to be friendly when they are hostile, are most the despicable of people in the eyes of the Quran. That is why Islam advocates full and genuine democracy. This is the kind of democracy applied in Turkey for many years now.
    The protests in Taksim Square also began with that conception of democracy. They were a reaction to the uprooting of trees in a park. There were peaceful protesters everywhere. That was good — a symbol of liberty and democracy. Such protests have been held hundreds of times in Turkey. Freely. Openly.

    • Canan


  • Canan

    Werneth Neighbourhood !!!You are a liar! I don’t know if you are Turkish or not but every single word saying is a lie.Are you paid to lie by PM Erdogan? He became a DICTATOR! We had a little Democrasy,now he is taking little by little what we had.He says “I am Democratically elected”.Well,Hitler was Democratically elected ,too !! He doesn’t know the meaning of Democracy.We don’t want a Fake Democracy!!!All he wants to be The Presedent of The Middel East,that was promised to him by USA.He is feeding the rebels of Syira (FSA or CIA)in Turkey,and he wants to go to war on Syria with USA and Israel.Turkish people do not want that.He put many journalist,MPs,officers, academics in prison.He allowed The Illegal terrorist Organisation PKK go on the streets of Turkey.He even wants to free PKK leader Apdullah Ocalan who is responsible killing more than 30.000 civilian and soldiers.But whoever opens a Turkish flag will go to prison.Now,in Gezi Park Taksim resistance started,because The Police attacked on peaceful Protesters with pepper gas,Water cannons,plastic bullets even Agent Orange gas.Tens of people lost their eyes,at least 7 people died,two of them killed by real bullets. Of course they have to protect themselves,but not with the weapons,onlystones, bricks or whatever they find.But nobady attacked the police if police didn’t attacked the Protestors first.Resistance is every where,Taksim is calm now,but Erdogan wants to provoke,he is doing a big meetings on the big squares.He is a PM,he doesn’t need it!,He is not in the election campaign or something,so WHY?He pays people to come by buses,free measl,free flags 🙂 If he wants to talk to the People of Turkey TV should be enough,But no, all he wants to show off.What a pity !!!On the other hand The Protestors are paying travel fares themselves to go on the streets,mothers or the other people are bringing food for them!Can you see the difference???State paid meetings of PM Erdogan :))He even paid to the Taxi drives before hand to join to the meetings and carry the flags.Isn’t it funny??We don’t need any of these,because we are The CHILDREN OF MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATURK !!!

  • Hamdi

    To all readers who aren’t Turkish: Please be advised that commentators like Werneth Neighborhood are paid propagandists of Erdogan’s party, AKP. They are employed full-time at the offices of AKP to post party devised propaganda on news websites as if they are genuine reader comments. They have always been very active on Turkish news websites. They are now trying to to do the same on international sites.

    • Canan

      Thanks Hamdi! I have been doing the same thing, advicing readers on International sites ,facebook pages.Sometimes I can see the same comments but from the different accounts.Sagol arkadasim…

    • durt

      this is lie, I am not paid for example and the uprising in Turkey has no legal basis…

  • durt

    this is all lies.. not true, exegration..

  • Truth

    I was checking on your comments regarding Quantitative Easing story but when I coincidentally read this story about Turkey, I was simply shocked. There is no one killed by tanks. This harms your blog’s credibility and impartiality. Please check it and if possible get in touch with formal authorities to publish accurate information. As formally stated,there is no plan for shopping malls. On the other hand, please keep in mind that the current government is elected by the majority of the public vote.