My Facebook page was full of updates on Istanbul on Monday morning and to my shame I hadn’t realised that anything untoward was going on over there. I spent most of the weekend offline amidst the poppies and vineyards at the Balaton and then had connection difficulties Sunday night and Monday so I’m only now catching up with news.
Friends of friends have reposted blogs that tell the stark story of what’s happening in Istanbul. A story of how a city united in protest against the felling of 100-year-old trees and how that simple action brought out the worst in those in charge. One blogger posts as they wait to see if a friend in ICU who was hit in the head by a tear-gas cannister will survive. I’m reposting extracts of that blog here:
Four days ago a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation. They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.
No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out. But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park. In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.
Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking. They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park: The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.
On CNN, the call has gone out for people in Turkey to send in their photos and stories. Citizen journalists are being mobilised. What started as a protest against the demolition of a green space has catalysed into a country-wide protest about bigger issues. From the outside, I will continue to rely on blogs posts for my news; that on-the-ground unsanitised reporting by friends of friends who are caught up in it all makes for much better reading.