PROTESTS in Turkey over what’s being called privatization of one of the last remaining parks in Istanbul got serious when police began using what is being reported as extreme force to disperse the protesters.
It was followed by calls for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to step down, which is utterly absurd to me. Juan Cole breaks that demand down perfectly, which begins with what Erdogan has done for the country since fairly elected.
The government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was last elected in June, 2011, at which time his Justice and Development Party (AKP) received about half the votes in the country (an improvement on past performances). The elections appear to be on the up and up, and AK seems genuinely popular in the countryside and in many urban districts. The economy has grown enormously in the past decade under Erdogan’s rule, Turkey is now the world’s 17th largest economy (by nominal gdp) according to the IMF. It has been averaging 5 percent growth per year at a time when neighbors in the EU like Greece and Spain are basket cases. It has a huge tourism sector that has benefited from the troubles in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon. The economy will likely only grow 3% this year, but that is still a good number given Europe’s doldrums.
However, Erdogan is still responsible for horrible media policies and has made Turkey what’s been called the “worlds biggest prison” for journalists. It’s being reported that there’s a news black out of the protests, which just emphasizes the obsessive, overbearing control the government has over the media.
Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the police brutality against the peaceful protesters.
Amnesty International activists who were observing the protest were also hit with truncheons and tear gassed.
“The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International.
“The use of tear gas against peaceful protestors and in confined spaces where it may constitute a serious danger to health is unacceptable, breaches international human rights standards and must be stopped immediately.”
“The Turkish authorities must order police to halt any excessive use of force and urgently investigate all reports of abuse. They have a duty to ensure that people can exercise their right to free expression and assembly.”
As the day wore on, it became evident that Erdogan had made a catastrophic miscalculation.
Sending in the police to use the massive force against the protesters had not only backfired badly, but validated the calls against Erdogan that got louder and louder throughout the day and emboldened the crowds, who knew Erdogan had gone too far.
Social media chronicled the escalation of the protesters, as well as the backing off of the government, the day ending quite differently than it had begun, the momentum shifting to the people.
The Interior Ministry said it had arrested 939 people at demonstrations across the country, and that 79 people were wounded, a number that was probably low. After Friday’s protests, which were smaller and less violent than those on Saturday, a Turkish doctors’ group reported nearly 1,000 injuries.
[...] Many of the protesters, some of whom voted for Mr. Erdogan, said his leadership had become increasingly dictatorial. In a Twitter message late Saturday, Mr. Erdogan appeared to mock the protesters, saying he could mobilize a million people to support him in Taksim Square, while putting the number of protesters at 100,000.
“When he first came to power, he was a good persuader and a good speaker,” said Serder Cilik, 32, who was sitting at a tea shop watching the chaos unfold. Mr. Cilik said he had voted for Mr. Erdogan but would never do so again.