It’s not just right-wing or military regimes that are leading the assault on hard-fought popular freedoms. In Brazil, the ruling Workers’ Party announced this week that it would send the army into Rio’s favelas to pacify the slums ahead of the World Cup. Ostensibly targeted at violent drug gangs, this pacification scheme has led to a situation in which hundreds of slum dwellers are killed by state troops every year. Under President Rousseff — a former Marxist guerrilla who was tortured and imprisoned by the military dictatorship — state brutality against the “unruly” poor and excluded remains the order of the day. Just last week, Brazilian military police were caught on camera after shooting and killing a 38-year-old mother of four and dragging her lifeless body 200 meters down the street in their police van. It is no coincidence that the intensification of long-standing patterns of state repression appears to be particularly acute in the countries that experienced large-scale street protest in the past three years.
Yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced an attempt to “eradicate” Twitter. The move was a response to criticism on the social network of widespread corruption in his government. The ban has so far proved ineffective. Today, The Guardian reported that Twitter users in Turkey have managed to send 2.5 million tweets since the announcement. Turkey ranks 8th in the world in Twitter penetration, and the government’s recent efforts to curb its citizens access to social media do not appear to be diminishing their enthusiasm for it. HootSuite has emerged as one of the tools Twitter users are turning to as a means of circumventing the ban. Our traffic from Turkey has tripled in 24 hours. Through HootSuite, users can access their Twitter accounts, as well as Facebook, Google+ Pages and LinkedIn accounts. This follows the pattern we observed during the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt.
“Twitter, mwitter!” he said at a rally Thursday, before the site was blocked—what many are calling a “digital coup.” The phrase roughly translates as “Twitter, schmitter!” “We will wipe out all of these,” Erdogan said. “The international community can say this, can say that. I don’t care at all. Everyone will see how powerful the Republic of Turkey is.” However, as it turns out, it is increasingly hard to keep citizens from their social media tools. Using an alternate DNS service, “the number of which is being posted everywhere,” reports Business Insider Government officials, however, claim the ban is not politically motivated, and merely the result of a Turkish court order ”that demanded the online service take down links that had allegedly insulted Turkish citizens,” the Washington Post reports.
After the police cracked down on the Gezi protests, people retreated to neighborhood forums. Folks gathered in their local parks all over the country to discuss the future of Occupy Gezi. Some forums had thousands of participants, some just a dozen. The consensus seemed to be that it was time for a new phase for the movement, which began to concentrate on solidifying the momentum that had been created by the protests; preserving the “Gezi Spirit,” as protesters called it — and even strategizing how to make the AKP (Justice and Development Party) lose the upcoming local elections of March 30. Yet neither the forums nor the social media were devoid of dissidence. Some in the Gezi crowd, most not just emotionally exhausted but physically injured as well, insisted that the street protests had to continue. Others argued that going out on the streets was way too dangerous and had no productive value at that juncture in time.
A second day of fresh unrest in Turkey following the death of Berkin Elvan, a 15 year old boy who was hit in the head by a gas canister whilst shopping for bread during last year’s anti-government protests. His passing, after more than half a year in a coma, has given new impetus to demonstrators opposed to the government of prime minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan. But the response from police has been as swift and brutal as ever – tear gas, water cannon and plastic pellets. Other demonstrations have been taking place in Istanbul and elsewhere. For more, here is the latest report from Reuters.
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets in Turkey in protest and mourning after 15 year old Berkin Elvan died after weeks in a coma. The teenager was shot in the head with a police tear gas canister during protests in Istanbul. The teenager’s death raises the number of deaths from last summer’s protests to seven, at least four directly resulting from police violence. Turkish police have been accused of using excessive force against the protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park and in demonstrations that spread all over the country.
Everybody in Turkey are wondering if the sound document is real or a fake as the Turkish prime minister claims. The minister of technology and science, Fikri Işık, stated that the Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TUBITAK) will examine the sound document and decide on its validity. A few hours later there was a government intervention and five of the institution’s members were removed. The main opposition claims that Erdogan is trying to set the investigators himself, in order to come up with a verdict that will speak of a montaged document. The leader of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy political party, Selahattin Demirtaş , called the prime minister to visit TUBITAK and prove that the voice that can be heard on the recording is not his own. Erdogan however has not denied that the sound that can be heard is that of his own voice, but that the whole document is a product of montage.
Turkish police have fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds of protesters rallying against “draconian” internet laws approved by parliament. Police approached the crowd along Istanbul’s Istiklal Avenue and fired water cannons from behind armored vehicles as protesters tried to march to the city’s main square. “Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption,” protesters chanted. As riot police fired water cannons at protesters, some of them responded by throwing stones or setting off fireworks aimed at law enforcement officers. The new bill was passed late Wednesday by the parliament dominated by the Erdogan’s AKP party. If the president approves the legislation, it would give authorities the power to block web pages without a court order within just hours.
Police took extensive measures to cordon off the Central Anatolian city of Kayseri as the first hearing into the murder of Gezi protester Ali İsmail Korkmaz started today after the trial was controversially moved outside Eskişehir, where the 19-year old was living when he was beaten to death, for “security reasons.” The victim’s family was greeted with applause as they entered the courtroom. Emel Korkmaz, the victim’s mother, displayed photographs at the murder suspects. “How could you kill my son without pity? What has he done to you? How can you look at your own children?” she said, daily Hürriyet reported. A total of eight murder suspects, including four police officers, are being tried in Kayseri’s old courthouse, because it has bigger rooms than the new one, as well as due to security measures.
The Turkish government is pursuing a criminal investigation into a documentary film on last year’s nationwide protests originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. On January 2, the film’s director, whom the government regards as a “suspect,” is scheduled to testify in court in Istanbul. Serkan Koç, director of the documentary The Beginning, was notified on December 25 that state authorities would examine the film for “objectionable content” and determine whether there was reason to file charges. According to a press release by the film’s production company 49/51 Film, “The documentary is charged with assault to the Prime Minister and instigating public hatred and animosity.” Koç has been named a “suspect” and will testify at the January 2 hearing. 49/51 Film posted announced on its Facebook page that it would request that prosecutors open an investigation against Prime Minister Erdogan instead on the same charge of inciting hatred. It cites a statement in which Erdogan boasts that a thousand protestors in Taksim Square are no problem: “…we will put five thousand, ten thousand youth against them.”
On December 17, 2013, Turkey woke up to another morning of dawn operations involving raids, home and office searches, and arrests that have become a routine in the legal and political landscape of the country in recent years. What was anomalous this time, though, was that among the people who were the target of the allegations and taken into custody were there the sons of three Justice and Development Party (AKP) ministers — the Minister of Economics, the Minister of Environment and Urbanism, and the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Clashes started at around 17:30 GMT on Friday, with police using water cannons to disperse the crowd which gathered to voice their anger against the government’s actions, Firth reports from the site. This comes amid an ongoing high-profile corruption scandal. “It’s very symbolic of the anger we’ve seen that has been building over the last couple of days,” she says.“Bits of rock and marble are everywhere you look,” with protesters throwing them at law enforcement officers. According to posts on Twitter, police followed protesters into side streets and fired rubber bullets, prompting them to respond with empty glasses. A reporter for Turkey’s liberal Radikal newspaper “was shot by a rubber bullet,” but despite being hurt “bravely keeps on reporting” from Taksim Square.
Move comes after three cabinet ministers tender resignation over spiraling corruption scandal. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he replaced ten cabinet ministers, half of his total roster, after three ministers resigned over a high-level graft inquiry on Wednesday. The replaced ministers included EU Minister Egemen Bagis, who was allegedly named in the corruption probe but had not resigned yet, and key positions such as the Economy and justice ministers.
“Reclaim the city” was the hopeful slogan of the protest organized in Kadiköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul today. Around noon two large marches culminated at the sea-side center of the neighborhood, where a large stage surrounded by police barriers would form the epicenter of the protest. How the çapulers imagined to be able to reclaim the city while being caged-up, voluntarily stopped and searched, and obediently repeating the slogans they were served from the MC’s on stage remains a mystery, but as a test-case to see whether the Gezi battle cries could still muster the çapuling troops, the protest can be considered a success. Each of the two marches consisted of thousands and thousands of angry citizens, defiant students, rebellious workers, marching communists, anarchists and environmentalists, all up in arms. Banners were carried proudly on this sunny Sunday afternoon, and the slogans being shouted resonated in the small alleys and backstreets of this old, densely populated neighborhood. The police was present in full riot gear — obviously — hiding in the side streets along the main marching routes, the majority of them relatively young guys, joking about, having a cigarette or absent-mindedly staring into the void while leaning on their over-sized shields. They seem like guys you could probably have a beer with, in different circumstances. They look normal enough, without their gas masks and riot helmets.