On May 31, after videos and word of riot police using tear gas and pressured water to disperse a group of activists protesting the destruction of the green Gezi Park in central Istanbul, Turkey, spread via Twitter and other social media sites, thousands of people flooded into the park in support of the activists.
Police responded with force, using pepper spray and water cannons against this large crop of protesters too. Since then, large-scale protests have spread to other cities in Turkey — including the capital, Ankara, where protesters are calling for an end to the police crackdown and demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The unrest represents a growing unhappiness with the conservative social agenda of Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development party. Some protesters point to the government’s restriction of the sale of alcohol between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Others point to the fact that there are more journalists in prison in Turkey than in any other country in the world.
Still, Erdogan’s government shows no sign of backing down. The prime minister has declared to press forward with the redevelopment of the park in Istanbul. At rallies, Erdogan reminds supporters that he still represents all the people of Turkey, having won three elections — the last one with close to 50 percent of the vote. His supporters call for the protesters to stop demonstrating.
As student journalists, our attention was not far from the unrest. We wanted to learn more. So we reached out to UC Berkeley students spending the summer in Turkey amid a social uprising. Dispatches from Turkey is an effort to localize the events unfolding in Turkey to a UC Berkeley audience. This blog will be updated frequently with personal accounts of the protest activity and commentary on the events — in these students’ own words.
Amruta Trivedi is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected]