Photo posted on Twitter by @mission_mimz.
In a powerful show of public outrage, thousands of people marched through the streets of Turkey’s largest city Istanbul on Thursday, in protest against the government’s decision to authorise military operations within Syria.
The crisis in Syria has long threatened to burst over the border into Turkey in the form of an armed cross-border conflict. On Wednesday, tensions between the two countries boiled over after mortar fire rained down on the tiny Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing two women and three children. Turkey immediately retaliated by shelling targets within Syria, before calling an emergency parliamentary session on Thursday to vote on a bill authorising military action inside Syria.
After the measure passed, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attempted to reassure the country that he had no intention of going to war, but his words had little effect. Thousands of people swarmed Istanbul’s main Taksim Square to protest against parliament’s decision, while smaller-scale demonstrations were reported in other Turkish cities and towns, includingthe capital Ankara .
Anti-war protesters march in Istanbul. Video posted on YouTube by sarahhartley.
“People feel as though the government has made a bad decision on behalf of the country”
Serhatcan Yurdam lives in Istanbul where he studies journalism. He took part in the anti-war protest at Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
I went to the demonstration on Thursday night both to observe and protest against the government’s decision to authorise cross-border military action. The protesters were chanting, “We won’t kill, we won’t die. We won’t be anyone’s soldier!” and “No to war! Peace right now!” Everyone was furious about the possibility of war, and about the ruling AKP party and parliament’s decision to approve military operations in Syria. People felt as though the government had made a bad decision on behalf of the country.Photo by Serhatcan Yurdam.“It’s scary for a lot of people in Turkey because military service is mandatory”The measure, however, didn’t come as a surprise. There have been fears of war ever since the airplane crisis [in June, Syrian gunners shot down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean, claiming the aircraft had crossed over into its airspace]. It’s scary for a lot of people in Turkey because military service is mandatory. If war breaks out, they can call on everyone to join the army and go and fight. It’s something I’ve already talked about with my friends. Some of them think what’s happening right now is just a political game, but others, including myself, don’t agree. My brother is really worried. He’s just finished university and hasn’t done his military service yet, which means if there’s a war he’ll probably be called up.There were a lot of people from different political groups and NGOs, but also ordinary citizens at the demonstration. There were even a small handful of people who support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the two things we all agreed on were that we are against a war, and how poorly the government handled the whole situation. We expected our government to help the people of Syria in a humane way, not to take sides with guns [Turkey has openly come out in support of the armed rebellion against Assad’s regime].It’s impossible that Erdogan didn’t hear our message. There were so many people there last night and Taksim Square is such an important part of the city. Personally, I don’t believe he will listen to us, but we can try and we can hope. If we continue to hold massive protests, then maybe the government will understand that the people are against a war with Syria.