Turkey / Istanbul / Protests etc.

Hi all,

A few people have written privately asking about Turkey and if I'm safe. I thought I'd do a blog post so you can all see it.

First, I was in the US for most of the unrest. I went on May 16 to deal with some issues with my mom, and a week or so later all hell broke loose. I think trying to follow it from outside the country was worse than being here would have been.

I got back on Thursday, and the next night I went to one of the many park forums that are taking place all around the city. There were definitely plainclothesmen around but no intervention (in the district of Yeniköy, the headman came down with a bunch of goons and police and attacked).

Saturday night there was a demonstration to commemorate the protesters who had died. They came without flags or placards, just red carnations. They were there for an hour or so, then (as usual) right after the evening call to prayer, the police moved in with water cannons and drove the protesters down the main pedestrian street, Istiklak Caddesi. State TV showed a cleared and calm Taksim, but on Istiklal all hell was breaking loose with gas, water cannons into which they'd added pepper spray concentrate, clubs, etc.

I was not down there myself; I spent the night at a friend's house in Harbiye a bit north of there. We only got a very small amount of tear gas, hardly enough to mention. That's okay, I've breathed tear gas on three occasions in the past and that's enough.

It's hard to say where things will go from here, though everyone seems to have their own idea based on their own political leanings and hopes. So all we can do is watch.


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Good to hear that you are okay. Sorry to learn that your mom was having difficulties and hope they all resolved satisfactorily.
Hope all goes well with the protests and no more people die. Blessings on all. Especially you, my friend.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

CLABBERS's picture

As you know the global news is so tainted here in the US to play into the hands of our own politicians, not to mention the sponsorship of the news media. Sometimes I watch BBC and the slant on European, Asian, African, etc. news is either completely different or not covered at all here.

I am very pleased that you are safe where you are. I grew up in the 60s & 70s and was unlucky enough to have been in protests and such where teargas and pepper spray were used. Mostly, I was an onlooker at the rallies, but bystanders also fall prey to the aggressive behavior of over-zealous police.

Be safe!


bobinthebul's picture

Yeah, a good dose of tear gas feels sort of like having your eyes and throat and lungs scrubbed out with a Brillo pad, doesn't it? I've been the beneficiary of tear gas directed at others several times...


I too am glad your safe. I often think of my middle eastern friends that I have met on line and wish them well being. I my self only been in one "heated" event its wasn't anything as violent or large as what is happening. It was Cincinnati when they had to close an art exhibit by Robert Maplethrop. It got vocal and police did move in it was a very odd event.

Tom Hart's picture

Hi Bob,

Like everyone else, I'm glad to hear you're OK. The last we heard, you were on the evening news behind a yarn bombing in Taksim. And then silence. While on our news we were being told that Turkey was heating up and that it all had to do with Taksim.

I watch Rachel Maddow (lesbian liberal news show) on the computer and a few weeks back she had a segment about a Turkish game show (like Password, if you remember that) host who got around the government-imposed censorship by picking words and definitions that had to do with the situation. One I remember was, "Democracy breather" and the answer was "gasmaskesi". The host (and maybe the whole show) was yanked from the air but was allowed back on after a massive push-back by the fans of the show.

Anyway, stay safe, Bob.

CLABBERS's picture

Here's a link to the segment that Rachel Maddow did on the Turkish game show host. She calls what this guy does "The Best New Thing in the World." I wonder if he still has a job.



bobinthebul's picture

He's back on the air!

bobinthebul's picture

Update - I continue to stay away from Taksim when there are big things planned because I know how they generally end up. The gov. really has not been able to get their heads around the fact that the more outrageous the actions of the police, the more people get angry and come out into the streets. Still the protests themselves have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

Ramadan started yesterday, and the latest new tack (sort of brilliant actually) is for the members of the movement to set up an enormous Iftar meal (the meal that breaks the fast at sundown) that stretches the entire distance from Taksim Square to Galatasaray.


Toward the end of the meal the police came up with their APCs and said they had to leave. One policeman even threatened with a tear gas gun, but in the end, they didn't really want the party in control to go down in history as the first Islamist party to disrupt a Iftar meal. ;) It's hard to say how long they'll tolerate it though; it wouldn't surprise me to hear claims that they were drinking alcohol etc. as an excuse to go in and break them up, and then accuse them of violence. There has been remarkably little value for truth when it comes to reporting here. Even more disturbing is how they've gone after witnesses of killings, and even the families of the victims in an attempt to intimidate them. It's pretty clear that there will (has to) be a change but only time will tell how it happens and exactly when.