Taksim Square, in the heart of Istanbul, on Tuesday night. Photo by @Fawkxy
Despite the Turkish deputy prime minister apologising for police’s “excessive violence”, protesters once again went out into the streets by the thousands in cities around Turkey Tuesday night. Our Observers participating in the protests explain their many grievances against prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and why they are determined to keep up the struggle.
At least 25 people were arrested early on Wednesday morning in the western city of Izmir for allegedly spreading “false and defamatory” information on Twitter. Meanwhile, in the capital Ankara and in Istanbul, police used water cannons to push back protesters trying to reach government offices.
Clashes between police and protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul on Tuesday. Photo by Doğu Eroğlu
On top of these protests, Turkey is now experiencing strikes led by one of the country’s main unions, the KESK. On Tuesday, it called on its more than 200,000 members to stop working for 48 hours.
Bulent Arinc, who serves both as deputy prime minister and government spokesperson, offered an apology on Tuesday to “all those who became victims of violence because they wanted to defend the environment,” adding that the very first protests, held early last week in Istanbul to block the razing of a public park, were “just and legitimate.”
Since 2002, Turkey's government has been led by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, a moderate Islamist party with conservative views. The AKP has won the last three parliamentary elections. The main opposition party is the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, which is not religiously affiliated. Its president, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has publicly expressed his support for the protesters.
"If the AKP stays in power, Islam will regulate all parts of society"
Omer Koseoglu is 45. He is the manager of a nightclub in the capital, Ankara.
This is the first time in my life that I’ve participated in a protest. I joined this movement because the vast majority of its supporters behave in a peaceful way and because I agree with their goals, notably their opposition to the government eroding the boundary between religion and state. This separation is a founding principle of our republic; it’s in our constitution, and I refuse to see it besmirched.The AKP has made religion a bigger part of our children’s education. Last year, the educational system was revamped: we now have a “4+4+4” system, meaning that students spend four years in primary school, four years in middle school, and four years in high school. When they leave primary school, at just 10 years of age, they can decide to go to a “professional” school. These include Imam Hatip schools, which are religious. Before, kids could only enrol there after they turned 15.These reforms are put in place without any debate. Since the AKP enjoys a strong majority, the government can do whatever it wants. If this party stays in power, Islam will soon regulate all parts of society.
"I’m also protesting against the Turkish media’s silence"
Doga Erdem (not her real name) is 25. She works as a journalist in Istanbul.
I joined the protests early on – I was in Gezi Park on the second day. My goal was initially to stop the trees from being cut down so that the park could be replaced by a shopping mall. But then I, like many other young people, witnessed the police’s violent reaction and saw this as a sign that the government is becoming more and more authoritarian. So our demands became about more than the park – we started demanding more democracy. The AKP has such a strong majority in parliament that there are no more debates: they propose laws, and these are adopted almost instantaneously. Is that democracy?I’m also protesting against the Turkish media’s silence. There are practically no media outlets that are really covering the protests: this shows that there is a serious issue with freedom of expression in Turkey.I’m convinced that this movement is going to keep going. The vast majority of protesters are young people who aren’t members of any political parties, and who come from very different backgrounds. We’re not fighting for this or that political cause; we just want to assert our right to live in a democracy. The fact that this movement is spontaneous and diverse should worry the government.
"The government is selling off Turkish companies for next to nothing"
Mert Meric, 27, lives in Izmir. He holds a degree in fine arts and is currently looking for work.
For me, these protests are an opportunity to denounce the government’s economic policies. It is selling off Turkish companies for next to nothing. For example, it let a Czech company buy out Sedas, a subsidiary of Tedas, Turkey’s national energy company. If the government continues like this, energy prices – which are very low in Turkey – are going to go up.Meanwhile, a new law now allows foreign companies to start exploring underwater resources in the Mediterranean Sea. This puts an end to the preferential treatment that Turkey’s oil company TPAO had enjoyed. I fear that in this respect, too, the population could bear the consequences. If we have resources in the first place, why sell them off to foreign companies that we will then have to buy them back from?