The social protests currently sweeping through Turkey started with a dozen men and women who parked their tents in Gezi Park – one of the last remaining green spaces in central Istanbul – to protest a shopping mall development. One woman has died. (Update: We haven’t been able to confirm this with any major newspapers or organizations).And scores more have been injured as police forces crack down on a growing mob.
A rather innocent stand for nature took a dramatic turn when police attacked the park protestors with pepper spray and destroyed their tents during the early hours of the morning on May 30, 2013.
Now, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in cities across Turkey – from Ankara to Izmir – despite a violent government crackdown.
“Police are throwing gas bombs from helicopters,” a Turkish designer told us on condition of anonymity.
“Artists are on the street too,” he said. “They are surrounded by police; they are under attack; hotels are accepting people, giving free rooms and doctors are on the street.”
Local media report that their own staff have been injured by tear gas canisters. Others on the street have suffered broken bones and serious head injuries.
Amnesty International has condemned the violent response to nonviolent civil disobedience.
“Amnesty International calls on the authorities to carry out a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of excessive and unnecessary use of force, and ensure that any law enforcement officials responsible for arbitrary or abusive use of force to be prosecuted,” the group said in a statement.
“Amnesty International also calls on the authorities to ensure protestors’ rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
On Monday, construction to build a new mega shopping complex began in Gezi Park, prompting protestors to set up an Occupy-styled tent protest.
Mashallah News reports that just 1.5 percent of Istanbul is dedicated to green space.
Meanwhile, the government has launched an ambitious campaign to “grow” the city with a slew of development projects despite widespread opposition to the further concretization of a once-vibrant city.
Turkey was largely shielded from the Arab Spring uprisings, but now the people are pushing back.
“People are fighting for nature,” a source told us. “Unbelievable.”
“We do not have a government, we have Tayyip Erdogan,” political scientist and protester Koray Caliskan told the Reuters news agency.
“They are not listening to us,” he added. “This is the beginning of a summer of discontent.”
For background, read these stories on Green Prophet to learn more about Taksim Square and what the original demonstrators are fighting against: