The Update: Gezi, Syria, Turkey Protests 2013, AKP’s Alcohol Prohibitions, Amnesty Int report..

After Gezi, Turkey in media and campus clampdown

Support for Turkish opposition – and concern about the press – has spread around the globe. Rubén Díaz

As autumn comes to Turkey, the spirit of Gezi Park can still be felt in the air. After months of mass anti-government demonstrations, the only common consensus is that political climate will never being the same again.The AKP government is ready to take harsh actions against even the slightest possibility of a protest. Gezi Park is closed as soon as there is a call for a gathering or related activity on Twitter. As the new academic year begins, police forces – rather than private security staff – will be positioned on university campuses. It seems that the government gets the chills even from graffiti on the walls of back streets. One example read: “We will be back in September, make your pepper gas ready, mate!”While society has become even more polarized by the Gezi Park protests and even by the failed 2020 Olympics candidacy of the city of Istanbul, authorities have mastered the targeting of journalists in subtle ways. The most prominent journalists, columnists, TV personalities with critical voices have been forced to step down and been replaced by loyalist peers. This clearance of opposition has been swift, bold, and shameless. The Turkey Journalists’ Labour Union (TGS) announced that 59 journalists were sacked in apparent retaliation for their coverage of the Gezi Park protests.Read more:

For Turkey’s Leader, Syria’s War Worsens His Problems at Home

Cevahir Bugu/Reuters
In Istanbul on Thursday, police officers used tear gas to disperse protesters. Demonstrations have broken out recently across the country to protest Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s tactics.

ISTANBUL — Sitting in his son’s wedding gown shop in a conservative neighborhood here, Sabah Bakirci heaped praise on Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with swagger matched only, perhaps, by Mr. Erdogan’s own.

“He’s a real man,” Mr. Bakirci said. “His decisions are always the best.”But even Mr. Bakirci worried about his government’s policy toward the war in neighboring Syria, which has periodically forced violence across the border, along with more than half a million refugees. “I would prefer if the military didn’t get involved,” Mr. Bakirci said.On Thursday, Mr. Erdogan, a strong advocate for military intervention in the Syrian war, reacted angrily to the United States’ decision to delay a military strike there — a decision analysts said had left Mr. Erdogan more politically vulnerable at home. In a speech to a trade group, Mr. Erdogan said that the Russian proposal that headed off the planned airstrikes amounted to little more than a stalling tactic and that he did not expect President Bashar al-Assad to ever actually give up his chemical weapons stockpiles.Read more:

Turkey Protests 2013: This Cloud Of Tear Gas Says All You Need to Know

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Image Credit: Facebook Bilim ve Din Tart??ma Grubu

The image above depicts clouds of tear gas in one of the most residential areas of Istanbul, Kadiköy. Police forces have been using tear gas in the area since last week.

Kadiköy was also home Serdar Kadakal, the seventh person on the growing list of people who died due to police interventions in Turkey. Contrary to his predecessors, however, Kadakal was not a demonstrator and did not participate in any of the protests against the Erdogan regime. He simply had a heart condition and happened to be a Kadiköy resident. Friday night, he died of heart failure. Similar to prior Occupy Gezi-related deaths, the police forces denied any connection between the death and their riot-control activity.

This marks a new stage in Gezi protests, with documented proof that non-protesting Turks have become collateral damage. The documentation may prove to be insignificant in the longstanding tradition of denial and never-ending conspiracy narrative of AKP, Turkey’s ruling party.

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Turkey’s New Prohibitions Lead to Underground Alcohol Market

The famous logo for Kulup Raki brand raki, a traditional Turkish liquor. (photo by Kulup Raki)

Burak B. checks out his watch obsessively minutes before it hits 10 p.m. “The long night is about to start,” he says as he puts his helmet on in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, where the latest anti-government protests erupted last week.

Formerly working as a day-time pizza delivery guy with his own motorcycle, Burak B. is now in the ranks of an underground economy that has just begun to flourish.

When off-license liquor stores were banned from selling alcoholic drinks after 10 p.m. on Sept. 9, many restaurants and bars took it as an opportunity to use couriers late at night to deliver drinks to the homes of their reliable customers.

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Turkey’s reaction to Gezi Park protests ‘brutal’, says Amnesty

Widespread abuses were carried out and thousands remain in detention, report finds

Riot police guard the entrance of Gezi Park as protesters shout slogans in central Istanbul earlier this year. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

Riot police guard the entrance of Gezi Park as protesters shout slogans in central Istanbul earlier this year. Photograph: Osman Orsal/Reuters

An Amnesty International report to be released today has found that Turkish authorities reacted in a “brutal and unequivocal” manner to peaceful protests during the Gezi Park demonstrations in June.

The report says that thousands of protesters remain in detention and that, though the deaths of three people were linked to police violence, there has been “little progress in investigating and bringing police officers responsible for abuses to justice”.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faced the biggest threat to its 10-year rule in June when thousands of people mobbed city squares around the country to protest at the building of a replica military barracks on Gezi Park in central Istanbul. Many Turks resent the government’s perceived intrusion into public life in the form of new restrictions on the sale of alcohol and contraception.

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Turkish stadiums become political battlegrounds

Uncharacteristically unified fans of the city's big three football clubs, along with representatives of various political groups, waving banners and lighting road flares in front the Ataturk Cultural center in Taksim Square, June 8..AA 

“We Turks are not known for our calmness when watching sports so this new mix of football and politics could make things even more explosive,” writes Barın Kayaoğlu.
When the Turkish premier football league (Süper Lig) started last month, many observers expected to see a contest beside sports – one that would pit football fans against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.There were hints of this phenomenon in the first week of the Süper Lig. First, anti-AKP football fans circumvented the government’s ban against political slogans at games by simply chanting the words “political slogan.” Other fans were more confrontational. At the 17 August match between the Istanbul giant Beşiktaş and the Black Sea powerhouse Trabzonspor, cheers against the AKP and police forces drowned out all other noises. Some Beşiktaş fans wore t-shirts with the names of protestors killed by police during this summer’s Gezi Park riots.

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What trees tell us about Turkey’s future

Protests in Gezi Park (Reuters)

Four months ago demonstrations about trees in Istanbul’s Gezi Park grew into mass protests against the rule of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Now trees – or, put another way, the polarised politics of big development projects – have sprouted up once again on Turkey’s agenda. Here are five reasons why.

1. Mr Erdogan has brought religion into the equation – but not in the way you might expectThe prime minister has built his career around the Islamist-rooted politics of his AK party. So it’s particularly striking that in a speech to his MPs this week he declared on Tuesday that roads are such an important part of civilisation that not just trees, but even places of worship should make way for them.“Even if there is a mosque in front of a road, we would demolish that mosque and rebuild it somewhere else,” he told them.

2. Smaller scale protests are still going on – and they are rooted in environmental concerns. Mr Erdogan was partly referring to demonstrations in Ankara over the municipality’s plans to build a road through a forested university campus. But not everyone shares the prime minister’s view of environmental protesters as “bandits”.Jean-Maurice Ripert, the EU’s departing ambassador to Turkey, suggested that the way that hundreds of trees were felled or moved in Ankara in recent days, even as discussions continued about the road project, shows that “some people have not learned their lessons” from the confrontations over Gezi, in which the Turkish government was widely criticised for its crackdown The future of Gezi itself is still far from certain.

3. The prime minister’s plans to reconstruct an Ottoman-era barracks on the site of Gezi Park, which adjoins Istanbul’s central Taksim square, are now on hold, pending a court case. He has also offered a referendum on the park’s eventual fate. In the meantime, Gezi itself has more trees than ever, due to a planting spree by the municipality.But other parts of Mr Erdogan’s plans for the Taksim area did go ahead, notablythe concreting over of part of the street that used to run just beside Gezi. Just months after being laid, the surface appears to be cracked, pitted and, sometimes, waterlogged.

4. Much bigger projects are now the focus of controversy. Today’s Zaman, an English language Turkish newspaper, has published photos it says shows the extent of deforestation near Istanbul due to construction work on a new bridge across the Bosphorus – one of Mr Erdogan’s favoured projects (he inaugurated construction the day before the Gezi protests erupted).The same paper has suggested that deforestation is so great it has sent wild boars into the strait in a bid to find refuge on the Asian side. The Turkish ministry of forestry itself has estimated that yet another big Istanbul project – a giant airport – will involve a further 2.5m trees being moved or cut down.

5. Still, someone in government is talking green. When agonising about the sheer scale of the pending infrastructure projects, environmentalists are apt to become distraught. But perhaps there is someone who talks their language in Ankara – it’s either a case of chutzpah or a sign that, at some level, this person shares greens’ concerns.At a UN Forum on Forests in Istanbul in April, this figure talked of 2bn saplings planted by Turkey and warned of the destructive aspects of development, reportedly quoting an old Native American saying: “When all the trees have been cut, all the animals hunted, all the waters polluted and the air cannot be inhaled, then you will realize that money is not edible.”

The name of the leader in question? Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Reporters Without Borders calls on the Turkish authorities to quickly clarify the situation of Bram Vermeulen, a well-known reporter for the Dutch liberal daily NRC Handelsblad, who is having difficulty extending his residence permit in Turkey. Vermeulen has been based in Turkey since 2009.

Whenever Vermeulen returns to Turkey from a trip abroad, the immigration authorities tell him he is no longer welcome in the country, and he has not been unable to renew his press card, although no one will explain why.

“The Turkish authorities’ ambiguity is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If it continues, Vermeulen will in effect be banned from remaining in Turkey after 1 January.

“This would be the first time a foreign correspondent has been banned since 1995 and would constitute yet further evidence of the government’s hostility towards the international media. We urge the authorities to either renew Vermeulen’s press card or clearly state their reasons for refusing to do so.”

Turkey in Disarray

Three years ago, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his country were soaring. The Turkish economy was booming and a model for growth and expansion. Erdogan, spurned by the EU for membership, was looking east. Never modest, he saw himself as the leader of the Islamic Middle East, on the cusp of recreating the Ottoman Empire.

Now those dreams have been dashed. The economy has hit powerful headwinds. Erdogan is being battered by domestic resistance to his increasingly authoritarian and Islamic rule. And foreign conflicts are taking a toll.

Any analysis of Turkey must begin with Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who founded the modern Turkish Republic in 1923. Though the country is overwhelmingly Muslim, Ataturk despised the Islamic fundamentalists and created an avowedly secular democratic republic. Even the wearing of head scarves by girls and women in schools and public buildings was prohibited. In the more than eight decades since its founding, Islamists have periodically gotten control of the government and chipped away at the country’s secularism. In the past, the army has taken control of the government in a coup.

Turkey’s stability and friendship is vitally important to the United States. Strategically located between east and west, offering a crucial overland energy route from the Middle East into Europe that avoids Russia, Turkey has the largest army in NATO after that of the United States. Its population of 75 million is greater than that of any country in the EU.

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Turkey’s Alevis protest for greater freedoms

Demonstrators set barricades on fire as they clash with riot police during a protest in the Tuzlucayir neighbourhood of Ankara September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Demonstrators set barricades on fire as they clash with riot police during a protest in the Tuzlucayir neighbourhood of Ankara September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Alevis from several cities flocked to Istanbul’s Kadikoy port on the city’s Asian side to shout slogans for equality and religious freedom and denounced policies designed to assimilate them.

Alevis have been a loyal ally of Turkey’s secular system, but the state has never recognised their faith, perpetuating discrimination against a group that comprises about a quarter of the Sunni-majority country’s population of 76 million.

Alevis are a moderate Islamic sect who revere Imam Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Alevi faith, closely related to Sufism and Anatolian folk culture, is the specifically Turkish version of Alawism, also prominent in Syria, and its adoration of Ali makes it heretical in the eyes of the Sunnis.

Alevis do not attend mosque with other Muslim sects and do not fast during the holy month of Ramadan. Alcohol is not forbidden and men and women mingle in religious rituals at shrines called “cemevi” (houses of gathering).

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