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Semra Sevi

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Turkey's Prime Minister Needs to Take Responsibility

Posted: 06/25/2013 12:24 pm

After three weeks of turmoil in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan still appears to be reluctant to resolve the political conflict in Turkey. Rather, he has further provoked the protesters by his continued dismissive and authoritarian statements.

Instead of engaging with the Taksim Solidarity Platform, the group of activists who originally organized a peaceful sit-in on May 28 to oppose the destruction of an urban park in Taksim Square, he met with people who have very little to do with the protests. While it looked as though he was doing something, in reality he was not.

The government's use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons, plastic bullets, chemicals mixed into water and brutality to disperse the demonstrations has made matters worse. Tear gas has been used on such a large scale that even entire neighbourhoods have become insufferable to the average bystander.

Equally alarming, Erdogan labelled protesters entering Gezi Park as terrorists. On the night of June 15, police raided the park and forcibly removed all the protesters and sealed off Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Hundreds of accounts circulated on Twitter reveal police were not letting the media in as they worked through the night to remove all traces of the protest.

Videos taken the same night show gangs of youth with sticks and knives shouting Allahu Ekber on the streets while chasing protesters. Moreover, they reveal police throwing tear gas in Divan Hotel, a luxury hotel in Taksim where injured protesters including children and women fled for shelter, and the German Hospital, which was helping injured protesters.

Following these events, Erdogan organized a rally in Istanbul to galvanize his support base while riot police continued to fire tear gas on thousands of protesters attempting to regroup in Taksim Square. Speaking to his supporters, Erdogan said Taksim Square would be off-limits for large gatherings and blamed "foreign powers" for undermining his authority. He went on to once again say that protesters drank in a mosque with their shoes on. Nothing could be further from the truth. The local Imam had already refuted these claims. In fact, the mosque temporarily served as an infirmary in the early days of the clashes.

While the protests were gradually winding down, one individual was determined to take a stand. On June 17, Erdem Gündüz, a performance artist, silently stood in one spot in Taksim Square staring at a flag for eight hours and thereby started what is now known as the standing man protest. What started with one man, quickly turned into thousands. However, this too was met with an excessive crackdown as police randomly arrested protesters for literally standing silently. Undeterred, protesters then went to Taksim Square on June 21 equipped with carnations to commemorate those who died during the demonstrations, but again they were met with riot police.

According to the Turkish Medical Association, at least five people have been killed, 11 have lost their eyes and over 7,500 people have been injured since the turmoil began.

Many journalists, lawyers, doctors and people using social media like Twitter have been detained. Turkey already detains more journalists than any other country. Even foreign reporters got their share of police action. A Russia Today reporter was hit with a water cannon on air. Closer to home, Canadian journalists Saša Petricic and Derek Stoffel were detained for 11 hours. Other foreign nationals, including tourists have also been targeted and otherwise caught in the crossfire, a recent example being Claudia Roth, co-chair of the German Green Party.

All this has only made the situation worse as outrage over Erdogan's authoritarian tendency and infringement on free speech, assembly and other rights is only growing. Not only has he repeatedly bent the truth to discredit the protesters, but he has also antagonized them.

During Erdogan's decade in power Turkey has continued to grow and has positioned itself as a regional leader, but Erdogan has gone too far in suppressing dissent and imposing his worldview. Due to the government's crackdown on the protesters Germany just proposed delaying the next round of European Union talks with Turkey.

This may not be a Turkish Spring, but the protests are good for Turkey's stagnant political atmosphere. While it is unknown what the next steps are for the protests, people across the country have been organizing open forums in parks, which have been attracting multi-ethnic groups who do not normally come together.

Erdogan might not be forced out of office because he still retains broad support, but his chances of being elected as the next president are at stake. If Erdogan wants to win reelection in eight months and secure his own legacy of uniting a broad spectrum under the AKP, he needs to take responsibility and apologize for trampling on democracy.

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  • Turkish protesters clash with Turkish riot policemen on Taksim square in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. Turkish police used water cannon today to disperse thousands of demonstrators who had gathered anew in Istanbul's Taksim Square, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters hold up their hands as they gather on Taksim square before clashes with Turkish riot police in Istanbul on June 22, 2013 during a wave of new protests. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters hold up their hands as they gather on Taksim square before clashing with Turkish riot police in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man bleeds from a head wound as Turkish police clash with anti-government protestors while they clear Taksim Square and push them down the Istikhlal shopping avenue on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • A man braces against a shield as Turkish police clash with anti-government protestors while they clear Taksim Square and push them down the Istikhlal shopping avenue on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • An anti goverment protestor waves a Turkish flag with a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey on Taksim square during the clash between riot Police and protestors in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters raise their hands as they gather on Taksim square during the clash between riot police and protestors in Istanbul on June 22, 2013. (OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Cyclists ride bikes during the silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors gather in Taksim Square carrying carnations to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors push back on a police car, carnations sitting to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest, as police move into clear Taksim Square in Istanbul, on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish anti-government protestors gather in Taksim Square carrying carnations to mark the four people killed in weeks of protest on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • Turkish riot police argue with anti-government protestors as they begin moving in to clear Taksim Square, on June 22, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)

  • People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • People stand during a silent protest at Taksim Square on June 23, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. Performance artist Erdem Gunduz, nicknamed 'The Standing Man,' became a new symbol of the anti-government protests after a eight-hour vigil in Taksim Square. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

  • A protester reacts in pain to a salvo of tear gas fired by Turkish riot police officers to chase out demonstrators and to dismantle the tent camp set up by demonstrators in Gezi Park in Istanbul on June 15, 2013. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People light candles for the victims of the protests at Taksim square, in Istanbul, early Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • A protester reacts as police throw tear gas among tents during an operation to evacuate the Gezi Park of Taksim Square in Istanbul, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

  • Police enter to evacuate the Gezi Park in Istanbul, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

  • Protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • People march from Anatolian side to European side to Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 16, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters take cover from a water cannon during clashes with riot police at a demonstration in Ankara on June 16, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A pretzel vendor walks in front of a line of Turkish police cordoning off Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

  • A protester reacts as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • As police vehicles rolled into Kizilay Square, one woman approached a lightly armored truck bearing the logo of the police anti-terrorism department and grabbed a side window to ask those inside: "What is this oppression? Have you no fear of God? I have no children, but all of these (demonstrators) are my children!" she said, motioning to the young protesters nearby, in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • A protester reacts as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • In this Saturday, June 15, 2013, file photo, protesters try to resist the advance of riot police in Gezi park in Istanbul, Turkey. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, File)

  • Turkish protesters hold a massive rally on John F. Kennedy street near the U.S. Embassy, shouting slogans such as "government, resign!" in Ankara, Turkey, early Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

  • In this Tuesday, June 11, 2013, file photo, a protester tries to remain standing as a police water cannon fires water during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis, File)

  • In this Tuesday, June 11, 2013, file photo, a protester tries protect from water projected by a water canon from police during clashes in Taksim square in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

  • People carry the coffin of Ethem Sarisuluk, one of five people killed during the recent protests in Turkey, as Turkish riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, in city's main Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013. (AP Photo )

  • Police fire tear gas as riot police spray water cannon at demonstrators who remained defiant after authorities evicted activists from an Istanbul park, making clear they are taking a hardline against attempts to rekindle protests that have shaken the country, near city's main Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, June 16, 2013.(AP Photo )

  • Anti-government protesters demonstrate in central Ankara on June 17, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Anti-government protesters demonstrate in central Ankara on June 17, 2013. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • People walk during a rally by the labor unions in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, June 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • People shout anti-government slogans during a rally by the labor unions in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, June 17, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • Erdem Gunduz, right, stands silently on Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, early Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (AP Photo)

  • A protester stands in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • Mert Solkiran, centre, stands in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • Erdem Gunduz, left, and dozens of people stand silently on Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, early Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of confrontation with police, sometimes violent, Turkish protesters are using a new form of resistance: standing silently. The development started late Monday when a solitary man began standing in passive defiance against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's authority at Istanbul's central Taksim Square. The square has been sealed off from mass protests since police cleared it over the weekend. The man has identified himself as Erdem Gunduz, a performance artist. His act has sparked imitation by others in Istanbul and other cities. It has provoked widespread comment on social media. (AP Photo)

  • Protestors stand in a silent protest at Taksim Square in, Istanbul, Turkey, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. After weeks of sometimes-violent confrontation with police, Turkish protesters have found a new form of resistance: standing still and silent. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

  • A man sleeps at Taksim's Gezi Park early on June 12, 2013 in Istanbul, hours after riot police invated the square. (ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators wait at the entrance of Taksim Gezi park on June 12, 2013. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Turkish lawyers march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Demonstrators wait at the entrance of the Taksim Gezi park on June 12, 2013 after a night of running battles with riot police as Turkish Prime Minister moved to crush mass demos against his Islamic-rooted government. (GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Lawyers and members of the Turkish bar association shout slogans as they march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Turkish lawyers march in support of anti-government protests in Ankara, on June 12, 2013. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Riot police fire tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

  • Protesters clash with riot police at Taksim square in Istanbul on June 11, 2013. (ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Riot police fire tear gas to disperse the crowd during a demonstration near Taksim Square on June 11, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

  • An injured person is helped by fellow protesters during clashes with police on Taksim square in Istanbul, on June 11, 2013. (BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

 

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