A couple of new articles covering and analyzing the riots of the past few days. Here are the updates:
- As of 8 PM last night, according to the Guardian, police began gassing protesters again in the Besiktas neighbourhood, apparently around Dolmabahce Palace, one of Erdogan’s official residences. The gas drifted uphill and affected Taksim and Gezi, but police have yet to break through the street barricades.
- At least two have been confirmed dead as a result of the protests, although neither can yet be attributed to police violence. One, 22-year old Abdullah Comert, was shot by “an unidentified person” in a protest in Antakya, Southern Turkey, writes Hurriyet, although knowing Turkish media that unidentified person could easily be an unreported police officer — Twitter certainly seems to think so, and when has their judgement ever been questionable. The other, 20-year old Mehmet Avyalitas, was killed in a hit-and-run by an Istanbul taxi, according to Reuters.
- Taksim Square metro appears to be running as normal, according to this tweet from 8 AM this morning. This would continue the policy of only gassing the protesters early in the morning and late at night, when it’s likely to cause the least disruption to tourists and businesses, and when everyone but protesters are too sleepy or too far away to care.
- The Arabist has a good piece of economic analysis looking at the root causes of the Istanbul protests, including a choice quote from the mayor of Ankara, who tweeted: “We could crush you in an instant. You should pray that we believe in democracy.” Nice guy.
- Another good quote is from Gregory Gillette at Distilled Magazine, who is the first to mention the non-existent role of the army, historically the vanguard of public discontent against the government as in the 2007 post-modern coup (when the army politely ousted an unpopular Islamic governing coalition). He quotes a conversation between a soldier and a police officer:
Policeman: “Next time we should also throw gas bombs here [a military zone].”
Soldier: “If you do it, we will find something to throw to you as well, rest assured.”
According to this source, military hospitals are denying service to police officers, siding with protesters instead. If this is true, it indicates, if not a turning point, certainly a new powerful ally on the side of the protesters, and a continuing desire on behalf of the military to remain a political actor despite the AK party’s attempts to neuter their top generals.
- Istanbul’s three rival football clubs (Besiktas, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray) have come together to support the protest. Besides the fact that they are normally stabbing each other in Taksim and thus this marks a serious communal effort (probably easier now that the season is over), it’s a historical fun fact that the proposed Ottoman barracks that are due to be reconstructed in Gezi Park were once themselves demolished for a football stadium that was used by all three clubs.
- Claire Berlinski in the City Journal has a scathing piece on Erdogan and the AK party’s tenure, also highlighting his obsession with mosque-building in urban Istanbul, whose religiously progressive population is almost undoubtedly already overserviced in this sense. His plans don’t just include building Turkey’s biggest mosque in Istanbul (a feat considering the historic Blue Mosque already dominates Istanbul’s skyline) but also building a mosque on the site of the Ataturk Cultural Centre, in the heart of Taksim Square. Given the historical importance of Taksim as a centre of Kemalist republican Turkey, building a big fucking mosque in the middle of it kind of spits in the face of a lot of secular Turks, numerous in Istanbul, who find the idea of public displays of religion offensive and “un-Turkish”. It also rubs salt in the wounds of long-term locals ousted by the thousands of religiously conservative Anatolian nouveau-riche immigrating to Istanbul to build expensive flats, shopping centres, and tacky skyscrapers over Istanbul’s historical districts on AK party contracts.
Pictures and writings are to follow on the situation in Taksim, which is now like some bizarre open-air museum, and Besiktas, where I’m heading today.Advertisements