So I posted a video on Facebook that resulted in some fairly concerned messages from my nearest and dearest; I feel I need to explain it better!
Everyone has seen some worrying changes in the government, and a prime minister who is a little too big for his boots. Over the past year there have been many protests, often violent, and often heavily dealt with from the police. This protest is different and not so much related. Labour Day, International Worker’s Day, or ‘Work and Solidarity Day’ was cancelled in 1980 after a military coup, but has a fairly bloody history. (See the Taksim Square Massacre in 1977, where unknown people opened fire on a crowd of approximately 500,000 people.) Rallies are traditionally held in Taksim Square, and after the cancellation of the national holiday, small demonstrations continued to be held but were banned from entering Taksim Square. Most years have ended with violence from the police. In 2008, police fired tear-gas into hospitals and a local primary school.
This year Taksim was completely shut down the night before. And when I say shutdown, I mean a double fence was built 3-5km around Taksim Square and no one was allowed to get even close. Which meant that the demonstrators didn’t leave Besiktas (where I live) and ended having skirmishes around the area with police. Somehow this happened on our street, and Liz and I got stuck in the house with a birds-eye view of events and more than our fair share of tear gas wafting in the house.
We both made a runner from the house at 2pm when it seemed to calm down. The streets were bizaare, police everywhere, students calmly walking back from university, no traffic, and a beautiful sunny day. There was debris everywhere, even the pavement had been ripped up in places for the stones to be used as ammunition from protestors.
Anyway, everything was cleaned up by the next morning with no sign of anything that had happened except for a sad looking man standing next to his newly-discovered beaten up car, and some graffiti on the walls.
While there are many things I absolutely adore about this country, the total mess of the governing system here is scary. With little to no accountability, an executive power that steps in and messes with the legislating and judicial powers whenever it feels the need, and a police force trained to believe they are above the citizens they are supposed to protect, Turkey has a long way to go. I feel the frustration my friends feel at being unable to change anything, and that their voices go unheard. It doesn’t surprise me that the passion of those ends often violently.