The community of the western Turkish village of Yirca has experienced a roller coaster of sadness and elation in recent days, winning an important court battle against a coal project but losing 6,000 valuable olive trees. Just hours after bulldozers from Turkish construction firm Kolin Group flattened the trees to make way for a coal-fired power plant, a Turkish court unanimously declared the project illegal. The resulting publicity from the people-powered lawsuit also saw the Turkish government publicly distance itself from the controversial project. It was the culmination of an intense three-week period that started on October 21 when Yirca villagers and Greenpeace Mediterranean activists were brutally attacked for trying to protect the trees and prevent construction of Kolin’s proposed 510-megawatt coal-fired power plant.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following response to the news that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would not be opening a full investigation into the 2010 Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla to Gaza. Israeli forces killed nine people, including 18-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Doğan who was shot several times as he was filming the 4:00 a.m. raid and then shot in the face at point blank range as he lay there wounded. It is outrageous that the ICC is refusing to prosecute Israeli officials despite acknowledging that there’s a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed.
The indictment submitted to the court has accused çArşı members of establishing an organization and attempting “to create an image similar to the Arab Spring that could be provided to the foreign press with the aim of ousting the legal Turkish government by illegal means.” The Beşiktaş football club’s most famous supporter group is known for its left-leaning ideology and emphatic dissident stance on a panoply of topics, as well as their sensitivity to social movements. They played an important role in spreading the Gezi protests as they were among the first groups to continue demonstrating despite a brutal police crackdown on protesters following the first raids on Gezi Park last May. Many çArşı members were detained during the protests as the group became a target of officials. The fresh indictment reportedly prepared in the aftermath of a year-long investigation also alleged that the group attempted to invade the Prime Minister’s Office next to Dolmabahçe Palace during the protests.
Amid Israel’s Operation Protective Edge to stop Hamas attacks from Gaza, a “Freedom Flotilla” is being organized in Turkey to bring humanitarian aid to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave with the protection of the Turkish military, according to an unconfirmed media report. The flotilla, called “Freedom Flotilla II,” is being organized by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the same organization that was behind the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010. Israel Navy commandos boarded the ship, were attacked, and killed nine of the attackers. IHH chairman Bulent Yildrim was quoted by The Middle East Monitor as telling Gulf Online last week that the activists would set sail as soon as they receive the necessary permit from the authorities in Ankara and that the Turkish military would provide protection to the ship. Diplomatic officials said Jerusalem was following the reports carefully, but stressed that it was not clear whether the flotilla would ultimately set sail. So far there has only been a declaration of intent, with no firm date set, one official said.
May 31st. saw thousands of people gathered peacefully in several cities across Turkey to commemorate the first Anniversary of Gezi park protests. Much like the last year of struggles, the people were overshadowed by the excessive, unnecessary, unprovoked police violence that for over the past year has become synonymous with thoughts of Turkey. What began a year ago as a protest to save a community park from destruction has been transformed by a year of repeated police assaults into a struggle for the people of Turkey to have the basic rights to free speech and to peacefully assemble. The heavy handed aggression used by Turkish Police to stifle the voice of the people since the first days of Gezi Park has evolved over the past year to a thoughtless, indiscriminate, citizen punishing machine. Combined with the unrelenting state media propaganda that’s constantly villainizing the youth of the nation to enable this type of brutal aggression to be permissible in the public eye, would make the most repressive regime’s jealous and take note.
A Turkish court has ordered the arrest of four Israeli commanders who were allegedly involved in the raid on the the Mavi Marmara aid ship off Gaza in 2010. The Istanbul 7th Court of Serious Crimes also decided May 26 to request an Interpol Red Notice for the arrest of former Israeli Chief of Staff, Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, former Naval Forces Cmdr. Eliezer Alfred Marom, former Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlinir and former Air Forces Intelligence head Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi, who are all being tried in absentia. The court argued that an arrest warrant had become necessary for the legal procedure as the defendants had neither attended the trial nor responded to an invitation sent to them through the related department of the Turkish Justice Ministry. No one at the Israeli embassy in Ankara was immediately available for comment. An Israeli official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, described the court’s decision as a “ridiculous provocation.” “If this is the message that the Turks want to send to Israel, it was perfectly well understood,” said the official, declining to elaborate further on what this meant for the reconciliation process.
On Tuesday, May 13, at 15.00 pm, Turkey witnessed one of the greatest tragedy’s of its history when an explosion killed over 300 and trapped more than 700 mine workers in Soma Coal, a private lignite mine in Soma. The whole country is in a state of mourning with the 1000′s of family members who are devastated from losing their loved ones. Just about 10 days before the accident in Soma, PM Erdogan’s party rejected a proposal made by the opposing party in parliament to discuss and take action about workers safety in coal mines throughout Turkey. Earlier Prime Minister Erdogan stated in a press conference that “explosions like this in these mines happen all the time.” Yesterday thousands of people, many grieving, marched in memorial of the Soma miners and to demand a change to routinely ignoring workers safety conditions, while money is allocated to other projects. On PM Erdogan’s visit to Soma yesterday he was greeted with kick’s to his vehicle and was booed by grieving protesters and called a “murderer” and “thief.” Agency LeJournal is reporting that Nazım Serhat Fırat one of their photographers is still detained over his photographs. Below is one of Nazım
A Turkish court heard testimony on Monday that eight men, including four police officers, pummelled a teenage protester to death with baseball bats and truncheons during anti-government demonstrations last year. Ali Ismail Korkmaz, 19, died after being repeatedly beaten during protests in the western city of Eskisehir on June 2 in an attack that was caught by security cameras. He was one of eight people to die in the three weeks of unrest that convulsed the country of 76 million. “I saw Ali Ismail being kicked on his back and head again and again,” Semih Berkay Yapici, a key eyewitness, told the court. “He lost his balance, fell on the ground, hit his head on a stone and lost consciousness. His eyes were closed,” he said in testimony that moved several in the courtroom to tears. Yapici said once Korkmaz regained consciousness he was again kicked in the head. He tried to flee, but was then set upon by plain-clothes policemen, one wearing a gas mask, who ruthlessly kicked and beat him on the legs. “He then took a turn and went out of my sight,” said Yapici. “His face is etched into my memory.”
Afghan refugees in Turkey have been protesting outside the UN refugee agency in Ankara for 26 days — denouncing discriminations against them and accusing the agency of taking too long to process their asylum requests, leaving them stuck in Turkey in “unbelievably difficult” conditions. Dozens of Afghans have been sitting outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) headquarters day and night in a makeshift camp that is home also to about 40 children, according to local reports. As their cries for a fairer screening process and better conditions in Turkey went unheard, about 12 of them went on a hunger strike and sew their lips in protest. ‘Why don’t you do anything for us?’ “Afghan refugees and asylum seekers have come to the streets of Ankara to convey their demands which are based on the fundamental rights of asylum seekers to the UNHCR’s deaf ears,” the group said in a statement. “The refugees’ rights are violated by UNHCR incompetence and Afghan refugees are deprived of their fundamental rights.”
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.