Apparently, standing in silent protest is just a little bit too provocative for Erdogan to ignore and last night many non-violent protesters were detained by the Turkish authorities. Not to be perturbed, this evening demonstrators took to the streets in response, armed not with rocks but with newspapers and books.
Not speaking, not moving, simply standing quietly together in alliance. These are the people of Istanbul this evening. The police, they say, look on in puzzled amazement.
What a marvelous few days it has been for state forces worldwide! And by marvelous please read utterly and completely diabolical.
Opening up my computer this morning, I saw a friend had posted a video of the police in Switzerland breaking up a reggae party. Remember that Harlem Shake thing that went viral? It bears a certain reminiscence. The ridiculousness of it would almost be funny if it were not so barbaric.
Here is that video re-posted, along with a few other heart warming images of the police in action this week.
CHILE (Thursday). The “pacos” approach us as we stand in an empty street. The police had already successfully dispersed the crowds and the air was thick with tear gas. We sheltered in a local cafe to avoid the force of the water.
TURKEY (Tuesday). Spoke to a friend in Istanbul on Thursday, the day Erdogan made the threat about fathers and mothers removing their children from Gezi park as the occupation would no longer be tolerated. She told me that in the evening, hundreds of women went to Gezi and surrounded it, holding hands. Ready to protect.
BRAZIL (last night). Protests that began as a demonstration against rising transportation have spiraled out of control across the country.
Two journalists from BBC Turkish, Selin Girit and Goktay Koraltan, had prepared a TV package about why Turkish media is unable to broadcast gezi events, as well the issue of censorship in Turkey in general.
BBC Turkish has a 20 minute slot to broadcast on NTV news everyday. NTV is available nationwide and is partnered MSNBC.
Today, NTV refused to broadcast the story. The 20 minute bulletin was not aired.
Although the story is currently on BBC Turkish’s web page and it will be broadcast on BBC World tomorrow, this is a significant breach of contract. BBC editorial was removed for the airwaves.
On June 6th, BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks has issued the following statement regarding the BBC and NTV, Turkey.
“The BBC is committed to fair, balanced and impartial coverage of events around the world.
“The BBC has complete editorial independence over its programmes broadcast by NTV in Turkey. Following the start of protests in Turkey last week, the BBC sought and received assurances from NTV that BBC programming would continue to be broadcast in full and without interference.
“NTV has apologised to its staff and viewers for not covering the protests in their early days and has reaffirmed its commitment to international standards of journalism, both to its viewers and to the BBC. NTV is now reporting all aspects of the protests in Turkey in its news coverage.”
The question is, will the British broadcaster choose to break it’s relationship with NTV as a result of this clear example of unashamed censorship?
A couple of days ago Russel Brand did an interview with Huffington Post Live. Through the chest hair and a semi-embarassing attempt at lactating the show´s host, he made a few rather salient points.
The crux of Brand´s argument was that “the system”, or the governing structures that exist to organise society, not only serve to benefit only a wealthy and powerful few but are also inherently fragile. It is for this reason, he says, that politics and the media are so stringently controlled.
Not especially profound maybe. The type of statements that are easily dismissed as the rantings of a conspiracy theorist. Or even, viewed in the context of his later attempts at milking an australian, the warblings of mad man.
Nevertheless, with Mr B in mind, let´s take another look at three key events this week.
Each of the below represents an attempt by the state to quell an uprising in form or another, and each represents a fear by the ruling power of the ordinary man realising he has the power to change something:
1.) America attempts to blacken name of CIA whistleblower
Ed Snowden, former NSA employee blew the whistle on United States surveillance of it´s citizens and beyond. An incredibly brave and commendable act, wholeheartedly applauded by this blog.
“I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in. My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” – Ed Snowden
It is little coincidence, says Foreign Policy magazine, that America has now embarked on a concentrated smear campaign against him across the media, at the same time as the administration tries to press criminal charges against the guy and extradite him to the US. In light of the information that Snowden has revealed to the watching world, the idea that it is he who should be answering to questions of criminality is laughable.
2.) Turkish autocracy opts to crush rather than engage with new, vibrant civil society movement
Turkey´s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today issued protesters with a “final warning” to leave Gezi Park in central Istanbul. According to the country´s leader, the wave of protests are over:
“We have not responded to punches with punches. From now on security forces will respond differently. This issue will be over in 24 hours.”
Amnesty international have responded by saying this statement is “only likely to lead to more violence and more injured protesters, particularly as fresh demonstrations are planned this evening in Taksim Square and elsewhere.”
In the last few days, the ruling party AKP have inflicted heavy fines on four television channels that have been streaming the events from Taksim Square. According to the Radio and Television Supreme Council, the images showing the dispersion of protestors by riot police “harm the physical, moral and mental development of children and adolescents.”
Meanwhile, rumors of plain clothes police infiltrated the protesters in order to create mistrust and divide the demonstrators have now been verified. The UK´s Guardian newspaper confirmed that an attack by five “protesters” wielding a Maxist flag and throwing Molotov cocktails, broadcast on Turkish television, were in fact middle-aged undercover police officers staging an “attack” for the benefit of the cameras.
3.) The Greek government closes down public broadcaster
Late Tuesday evening, viewers watching the news on the main TV channel ERT saw the screens go to black. This was followed by the announcement that, in a move that can only be considered a move against democracy – the administration had shut down the public broadcaster ERT, calling it a “haven of waste”.
2,700 people will lose their jobs as a result of the closure. ERT will be reopened again in September under new regulations, with new rules and new staff.
Not to be deterred, using a combination of company-owned and personal equipment, the staff who have just lost their jobs are now producing interviews and debate from their studios and broadcasting them via sattelitte streaming, giving Europe’s public service media access to latest developments.
“This closure, without any prior notice, without consulting the unions, without debate in Parliament, on the orders of the Troika, is yet another symbol of the anti-democratic and authoritarian ways of the European institutions and the Greek government. It is a new attack on employment. Above all it is an unqualified attack against freedom of information and creativity in Greece. Some people believe that through this it will be possible to reduce or eliminate any criticism or protest against the iron fist of austerity policy being applied to the Greek people” – statement from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left
As I finish this post, rapidly I might add for I am already late to join the other students, the sounds of whistles and chanting can be heard outside the window. In Chile today, the community once again marches for it´s right to free education. No doubt it will, as always, end in tear gas; afterall, police brutality looks pretty much the same wherever you are.
So, from Katy Perry´s former bit of stuff to Greece and back again, I leave you with a quote from Alice Walker:
Status Update On Patients Being Treated As A Result Of Gas Bombing And Disproportionate Use Of State Force Between The Dates Of May 31st and June 1st in Istanbul, Turkey.
The following information was obtained from the Istanbul Chamber of Medical Professionals staff.
OKMEYDANI EDUCATION-RESEARCH HOSPITAL:
“Reporting many complaints from Friday and Saturday due to gas exposure. The complaints are different from gas exposure related symptoms we have seen to date. 55 patients were treated for head, arm and leg trauma. A 22 year old male has lost his left eye due to a plastic bullet. A 19 year old male is being watched closely with a subdural hematoma resulting from the impact of a gas capsule. A 22 year old male patient has taken a blow to the front of the head and suffered a fractured skull and is under close watch due to acute hematoma dagnosis.”
TAKSIM FIRST AID EDUCATION AND RESEARCH HOSPITAL:
“Received hundreds of patients during the first two days due to central location. Majority were respiratory cases, eye irritation due to exposure to gas… Of the three patients with head injury, a 34 year old female received emergency surgery due to brain hemorrhage and compression fracture. The same patient was also operated on the next day due to subdural hematoma. She is under surveillance and in a critical condition. A 24 year old male was admitted to surgery with a compression fracture and is being treated as an inpatient.
Another patient, age unknown, suffers compression fracture and is being treated without surgery.”
SISLI ETFAL EDUCATION ANDRESEARCH HOSPITAL:
“Over 100 injured patients were treated during this period. Of these, nine suffered a form of significant trauma and five were admitted for surgery. Of these, one person suffered trauma to the testicle, one ponson subdural hematoma and two people trauma to the left eye. One was operated on and has lost all eye sight. The other eye patient is being watched with the diagnosis of eye perforation. Of those still to be operated on, two suffer from maxillo facial trauma, one with a broken left arm and another with multi fracture of the collarbone.”
“We are not leaving the square until the government resigns,” my friend writes to me from Taksim square.
She is a brave lady and her believe she will stay as long as she can. She is in Istanbul where, for the past few days, police have been engaged in a brutal crackdown against protesters after what started as a peaceful sit-in against further urban development in the city was violently dispersed by state forces.
Empty tear gas canisters litter the streets, these streets already soaked with water from the canons deployed by armored police as they rushed against those campaigning for a greener home. Thousands have so far been injured in the clashes according to the Turkish Doctors Association, while the image of a woman allegedly killed yesterday when a tear gas canister hit her on the side of the head is being shared online.
For many of those demonstrating, such an aggressive reaction to their discontent now makes this an issue that goes far beyond public concern for a development project. This is about Erdogan and his administration which, over the past ten years of rule, has become increasingly authoritarian.
Concerns have also been growing in relation to press freedom. Earlier this month Foreign Policy magazine released an article positioning Turkey as one of the worst places in the world to be a reporter, while revealing it to be the world’s leading jailer of journalists.
Indeed, there remains an almost overwhelming silence from the Turkish media in relation to these current events. A silence which is being broken across social media sites as Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube vibrate with a cacophony of voices and images from a place that appears under siege from it’s own government.
Meanwhile, throughout the night, reports from former colleagues the press association indicate the city is anything but defeated. From the European to the Asian sound, residents have taken to their balconies hitting pots and pans, singing, shouting words of support for those in the streets below and beyond.
As sales of gas masks boom and the chaos threatens to spread, this morning Erdogan indicated that his government would maintain a heavy hand against dissidents and said planned transformation of historical Taksim into a mall would go ahead, “whatever they do.”
For those in Turkey, and Istanbul especially, keep posting your pictures and your stories. If the official media won’t spread the message, then it is for you the people to be the voice and power.