|The Hürriyet.com front page on 6/1/2013|
A Hurriyet.com slide show shows dire scenes. More than 900 arrested, many hospitalized. Some park scenes made things look like a college sit in got out of hand. Translate Hurriyet captions, and it is not clear things are abating, even after "pepper spray, rubber bullets and water cannons ... hundreds of wounded were admitted to hospital." Yet, after more than 900 arrests, the headline at Hürriyet.com, a big Turkish daily, says the Taksim-Galata neighborhood is "Clean." A sarcastic reference to water cannons? To politics? Or is that "Clear"? Turkish is very difficult to auto-translate online.
But it's not hard to translate the first photo in a featured slide show (see Hurriyet screen shot above.) Not swarms of protesters, nor police, but a photo of the U.S. White House! Does this suggest the U.S. is involved in a Turkish Summer, a la the Arab Spring? One thing is clear in this WSJ photo (slide 10): protesters are young men and women, and the latter are not wearing headscarves.
Coverage: New York Times, Reuters & CBS.
The U.S. White House National Security Council released a statement saying peaceful public demonstrations are part of democratic expression and public authorities should act in a responsible and restrained manner, according this Hurriyet newspaper article. Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said today that security forces' use of pepper spray was a "mistake." Smart phone photos uploaded to Twitter may be the best weapon against brute force.
According to this Wall Street Journal report, protests were triggered by
According to the Journal, this was the response:"a campaign to protect Gezi Park at Taksim Square, a small and rare patch of green space in central Istanbul which the government wants to raze to build a multipurpose building modeled after a historic Ottoman barracks. An administrative court on Friday ruled to halt construction at the park, providing a brief, if temporary, win for the protesters. ...The public outcry follows a series of events that have fed antigovernment sentiment among many Turks, particularly in large cities. Recent episodes include street-fighting between unions and police on May Day, a restriction on alcohol sales that secularist Turks say is social engineering, Ankara's increasingly aggressive stance on the Syria conflict and urban planning in Istanbul such as a new airport and a new bridge over the Bosphorus that environmentalist say will uproot thousands of trees."
"Don't compete with us.... If you gather 200,000 people, I can gather a million.... This event has been escalated beyond the park and become ideological," Mr. Erdogan said.
Protests come just a week after the Turkish government banned alcohol sales from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. (Islam discourages drinking, and the Erdoğan government is viewed as conservative.) The prime minister told The Economist that people should drink at home, not walk around inebriated. You can't argue with that, but The Economist illustration says it best. When does a society need a man in uniform to keep drinkers off the street?
Today's Istanbul meyhanes are wonderful appetizer-restaurants that serve alcohol. Just like a Greek taverna or mezedopoleía.The beautifully illustrated Turkish video here says in every era, people find ways around periodic bans on alcohol and tobacco. Unless people can stay out drinking water, or booze they've already purchased, the carpets may roll up early this summer.