Turkish Protests: A Blooming Freedom?

What is clear is that the Turkish people are making a point, declaring that they have the right to be considered and that Turkey belongs to the people, not the prime minister.

turkish-protestsTurkey’s ongoing protests are not just a conflict over a park, a matter of “left-wing” or “right-wing,” or a backlash against the new alcohol regulations; this is the Turkish people’s overwhelming discontent about their liberties being taken away and frustration of the repression imposed by our very own self-identified “sultan” prime minister.

It has been eleven years since Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s rule began. However, in recent years his aggression has become more clear. He has shown an utter disregard for alternate opinions and seems convinced that he can do whatever he want because he was appointed by half of the populace.

Last week the police interrupted peaceful protests by a relatively small group, soon after there were mass demonstrations all over the country (which would inevitably and sadly come to resemble a war zone). The degree of police brutality rose to a whole new level with emptied tear gas cans carpeting the streets. Beatings and arrests are now random and the order given to use live bullets resulted in thousands of serious injuries.

“Is that road safe?” “No, there are police.”

Such dialogue has become commonplace in Istanbul. For a citizen to have to say that is very devastating for a country. Even though the police have backed away in Istanbul, possibly because of the weight of international media coverage, the brutality is still very intense in other cities like Ankara, Izmir, and Antakya.

This movement is not limited to Istanbul. Different labor groups are joining in, and that the Turkish people have been unified regardless of their political view, religious orientation, and gender like never before. The apparent solidarity suggests that this movement cannot be attributed to any one party or one economic class.

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It has also created remarkable circumstances which has led the Turkish people to build a library in the destroyed bus, clean the park while continuing to occupy it, and doctors and medical students to treat the injured in makeshift clinics. All of this has been made possible by donations and the will of the people.

It’s very hard to predict what will come out of this movement. What is clear is that the Turkish people are making a point, declaring that they have the right to be considered and that Turkey belongs to the people, not the prime minister.

Irmak Taner is an undergraduate student at McGill University in Montreal.