To my friends who live outside of Turkey:
I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.
Four days ago a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.
They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.
But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.
In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.
They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:
The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
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(ROARMag) In 2011, a rebellious genie was let out of the suffocating bottle of the neoliberal world order. Ever since, world leaders have been struggling to put it back into place. This weekend, right when they started to feel that the genie had finally been contained, the revolutionary spirit arose once again in an unexpected location: in rapidly developing Turkey, a regional success story and darling of global capital and the neoliberal West. What began as a local struggle over the last green space in Istanbul’s urban landscape has now escalated into the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s 10-year rule and, according to some, “the most widespread civil unrest in Turkish history.” In an irony of historic proportions, the democratically elected leader who famously called on Mubarak and Assad to listen to their people and step down is now defying protesters with the same short-sighted authoritarian machismo of the dictators from whom he so avidly sought to distance himself.
For four days, Istanbul has been shrouded in thick clouds of tear gas as violent clashes between protesters and police have left the city’s streets resembling a war zone. On Saturday, police were forced to retreat from the iconic Taksim Square, which has since been occupied by tens of thousands of protesters. Violent demonstrations quickly spread to the capital, Ankara, and 70 other cities throughout the country. After Amnesty condemned the government’s brutal response to the initially peaceful protests, which left thousands injured and at least two dead, the protesters have become increasingly determined to push Erdogan from power. In a sign of their radical determination, protesters in Beşiktaş erected massive barricades and even commandeered an excavator, breaking through police lines in an attempt to reach the prime minister’s Istanbul office. Between the indignant roar of the protesters, the ominous hissing of the tear gas cannisters and the deafening sound of police sirens, one can slowly start to discern the revolutionary whispers of a newly empowered people.