Tulin Daloglu writes: Just like that iconic picture in 1989 known as the “Tank Man of Tiananmen,” Reuters’ top photo on Tuesday [May 28] showing a young woman wearing a short-sleeve burgundy dress, carrying a white tote bag over her shoulder while a police officer wearing a gas mask spraying pepper into her face will be equally remembered as a historic picture down the road.
Something changed for the decade-long rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Friday [May 31], as the police crackdown took a turn for the worse. Pepper was sprayed and pressured water canons were used on the peaceful protesters in downtown Istanbul; protesters who have been unable to stop the government’s plan to demolish one of the city’s few remaining parks, cutting down 70-year-old trees to rebuild the Ottoman Artillery Barracks that were originally built in 1740 and destroyed in 1940.
Addressing the General Convention of Turkey Exporters Assembly (TIM) on Saturday [June 1], Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, stressed over and over again in his speech, “We will build that Ottoman Artillery Barrack there.” The prime minister insists that this protest “is not an issue about those 5 or 6 trees [in the park]. This has now become an ideological struggle. They say that we will build a shopping mall there, but there is no concrete decision. Whoever is my counterpart here [on the side of the protesters] should sincerely say what they want, but we will build that Ottoman Artillery Barracks there because it was once there.”
Erdogan does not seem to be getting the message. While this protest may now turn ideological, it all started as a small gathering of about 500 people on Monday [May 27]. The reason it got out of control with massive protests in 10 other cities around the country — Adana, Konya, Tunceli, Mersin, Mugla, Marmaris, Izmit, Adana, Izmir, Van and Sivas — is that Erdogan has shown no culture of consensus building with those who disagree with him. Instead, he painted the protesters as “anti-democratic” and engaging in “illegal” activities. [Continue reading…]