Nightmare in Taksim Square
We awoke to a disaster this morning, a nightmare that will not end. After receiving a message from the Doctor’s Union about the resumption of police attacks, I turned on the TV to find out what was happening. The fırst thing I saw were hundreds of uniformed police officers in Taksim Square. They announced that they were there only to remove the political posters from the old AKM theater building. Although we were unaware at the time, our “guardians of law and order” were there to stage a new play, with the government directing and a compliant media playing a supporting role.
After first announcing that there would be no attack on those in Gezi Park and Taksim Square, hundreds of policemen started firing tear gas at the people gathered in crowds. At first, this seemed to be an attack on a small group of provocateurs or protesters who appeared to be attacking the police.
Our national media, having ignored the protests to date, were –today – there from the beginning, broadcasting from what appeared to be well-considered and carefully entered-into vantage points, almost as if this were pre-planned.
What followed was a play between hundreds of police officers and about thirty protesters – who they were is still unknown – throwing Molotov cocktails at the phalanx of police in the square. This “act” of the play – for so it seemed – went on for more than an hour. Our police, quite capable of breaking up a peaceful demonstration of thousands of people within minutes using tear gas and water cannons, only circled this group of thirty, gently spraying them with a little water.
A play? A dance?
In the meantime, on the back streets around Gezi Park, where the media was not broadcasting, police attacks on peaceful demonstrators and on people simply gathered at the park were, as usual, brutal.
Until this morning, the demonstrations have been peaceful, and it is not clear whether the people engaged in violence were extremists from some political group or agents provocateurs. What is clear is that they do not reflect the spirit of this uprising. Some hours ago, in the afternoon, the police attacked the largest Court House – the temple of law and order – in Istanbul; around 70 lawyers were arrested while protesting against the morning attacks and attempting to help protect the rights of the people arrested and injured during the last weeks protests.
In response to today's events, the people of Istanbul are back in Taksim Square. This evening, at 19:00 hours, it appeared that there were more people in the square than were present on 31 May.
Now Taksim Square is burning. Bravery is defined as doing what is necessary in the face of fear. My friends, I am so frightened: frightened for my safety and for that of my fellow peaceful citizens.
You have a history of police riots – Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic Party convention, for example – and now so do we. And for this I am terribly afraid of what the future holds.
There are many injured, some very seriously; some have died. While the Doctor’s Union sent out calls for help, most of us were afraid to respond; one of the infirmaries was closed because it was no longer safe. The Governor of Istanbul tweeted that “Gezi Park is life threatening for now. We call everyone to go home to be safe.”
We are such fools – we did not know – but who made Gezi Park “life threatening”? It certainly wasn't us, those exercising our democratic rights.
This is not going in the right direction. Tell me my friends, for I know your hearts are with me: Should I stay or should I go? Could you, would you, escape from your own country?
What is our role, we intellectuals, in this country?
What is our role in this “play,” now turned ever more bloody?
What happens in our country if we all leave?
How long would our people last?
If we stay, how long before we all die?
Turkey is facing failure – our media, our police, our government – all failing miserably.
This scene is not well played; the curtains are falling to no applause. Rather, the audience is in tears, stuck to their seats they can neither stay nor go. Their eyes are fixed on the stage, waiting for the next shameful scene. There is no end to this play; there is will be no joyful end here. Only more pain, more fear.
Yet we will continue to struggle. As Fredrick Douglass once said: To want change without struggle is like asking for crops without plowing the ground, like asking for the ocean without its roar, like asking for rain without thunder.
Yes, we will continue to struggle.
- Give a Gift
- About Us
- Civil Liberties
CURRENT ISSUE: December 2013 / January 2014
Rick Bass | Why I’m left with no choice but to put my body on the line.
When Government Was Neighborly
Wendell Berry | Saluting a New Deal program that helped Kentucky farmers.
The Bravest Woman I Know
Kathy Kelly | How an eighty-two-year-old librarian braved Baghdad.
How to Build a New World
Naomi Klein | Why I was wrong in The Shock Doctrine—and what we must do now.