Turkish Spring has begun: People shout “Against Fascism we stand shoulder to shoulder”

A Norwegian agency has provided live coverage that shows police violence around the French Consulate side (entrance of Taksim Square). In front of them you can hear the people trying to enter the square. We were there yesterday as well.

Welcome to Turkey, welcome to Turkish Spring.

Since yesterday, Turkish people have been rising up and protesting. It started three days ago or so, with a sit-in protest by the public against the government’s unlawful plan to take Taksim Gezi Park and turn it into a residence and shopping mall. Protesters who were camping there were attacked with pepper gas at 5 am the day before. This led to public protests at Taksim and all over Istanbul, starting and continuing as a complete public and spontaneous protest of what all protesters call “the Turkish government’s fascist actions till this moment”. These latest of these include restrictions on the sale and promotion of alcohol. The prime minister explained that this was in line with religious orders, and that two drunken/alcoholic men permitted alcohol into the country, which seems to refer to Kemal Ataturk and Ismet Inonu, leaders of the Turkish Republic. Some big stores have already condemned the government’s actions and announced they will not put a store in the shopping mal. A court stopped the mall/residence bill last night last night, yet the court will also hear from the Minister of Culture to make its final decision.

I joined the protest at Taksim yesterday. None of us could actually reach Taksim Square, which was completely closed off to public by police continuously shooting pepper gas. But people remained, in all the arteries that led to the square in groups, pushing to enter the square, supporting each other, and protesting. Even blocks away from the center, we felt the presence of pepper gas, our eyes and throats burning. There was and still is great solidarity among people helping each other with lemons, vinegar clothes and milk. Divan Hotel and Harbiye Military Complex opened their doors to people who were injured, showing a solidarity of military and industrial sectors to this movement and that the escalated police violence is not accepted by many parts of society who might have been more silent or neutral previously.

We left Taksim around 10 pm and then returned at 12 am with a ferry full of people from the Anatolian side. We kept shouting slogans such as “shoulder to shoulder we stand against fascism” “the government shall resign!” and “everywhere is Taksim, everywhere there is resistance”

People came out to the streets, again completely organically till 4 am in all parts of Istanbul and Turkey.

I include here pictures from our street, Bagdat Street, a main avenue in the Anatolian side, where I would think about 10,000 walked, honked horns, and raised a great noise. I learned on the news this morning that they passed the Bosphorous Bridge on foot and cars, to the European side, where they were pepper gassed at Besiktas.

The protest continues today. The government shut down some means of public transport, and so people can’t gather and cross to the European side. Interestingly, Turkish mainstream media is not covering this much at all. There should have been live coverage in every channel.

This is a public movement, which the Turkish government will try to frame as provoked violence by what they have previously called “marginal groups”. The movement belongs to no organized group, there are groups in it from the left to the nationalist right, but no one takes dominance, and there are people from all walks of life and political persuasions. I saw many young people, middle-aged people, mothers with teenage children, everyone. All joined in bringing an end to what we see as a government which is trying to bring an Islamic type of rule (that I would call a neoliberal Islamic rule), and restricting its people’s rights and heavily injuring or killing those who use their civil rights to protest.

Please share and make sure all international media cover this mass movement and pressures the Turkish government to stop its violence against its own people.

Ayse Dayi
Founder and Collective Board member, Center for Transnational Women’s Issues