What started as a peaceful demonstration against the conversion of Gezi Park into a shopping mall has turned into country wide demonstrations and pitched battles of activists vs riot police, with the riot police winning.
After a long period of disattisfaction with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his policies, which has included prohibiting the sale of alcohol between 10 pm and 6 am, and barring bars and shops with alcohol being set up in a certain area around schools and mosques, a 4 day protest was planned to protest against the PM’s desire to turn Gezi Park, Istanbul, into a shopping mall. Riot police met this with tear gas, dawn raids, and violence, and at least 100 people were left injured, several severely.
Since then, over 90 anti-government protests have been organised across the country, and over 1000 people have been injured in Istanbul, with several hundred more in Ankara. Erdogan has denounced these protesters as ‘just a few looters’ in a televised interview, and has blamed social media and the opposition party for provoking the protests and the current state of it all, but the truth is he doesn’t listen to anyone, including his own party. Where others see an authoritative dictator, he sees a man of the people; where his people see an increasingly pro-muslim government imposing muslim values, he sees a secular state with a grounding in Islam. Where others fail to see the democracy, he says it’s there, plain as day.
In situations like this, we often ask ourselves ‘what can we do?’ and decide that since it’s ‘their’ problem, we can’t do anything. That’s wrong. We can educate ourselves and others. We can throw our moral support at the protesters by way of social media, blogs, and media in general. We can email or contact the Turkish embassies in our countries and protest the conditions ourselves, whilst contacting our own politicians to make a stand. We can use our right of free speech to help defend theirs, and that’s what we should do.
So will you?
Use your rights to fight for theirs.