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.