Taksim in Turmoil

The ongoing riots in Istanbul downtown pushed the Taksim in turmoil. Aggression is growing, and vandalism is also incessant as people’s demands keep rising.

The recently erupted demonstrations in many major cities of Turkey, including Istanbul, gradually developed into an anti-government riot from a generally peaceful demonstration over the reconstruction of a public square, putting the Taksim in turmoil.

The fervour of the demonstrations seemed to be decreasing the past few days, yet that impression was wrong, as proved the events of the past day. Many have reported excessive use of force by the police on Taksim square against the demonstrators.

On the other hand, demonstrators provoked the police by a storm of stones, fireworks and Molotov cocktails, which resulted in firing tear gas into the crowd and resorting to the use of water cannons against the protestors on Taksim. Originally, as the governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, pointed out, the mission of the police on the square was simply to remove some banners that gave the impression of occupation. 

Demonstrators hold on on Taksim square in Istanbul downtown

It seems the crowd separated into two camps in Turkey. One of them, on Taksim, took an anti-governmental profile and only aggravates the aggression in Istanbul downtown, while the other part of the protestors, in Gezi Park, continue their peaceful protest against the reconstruction plan, and won the sympathy of the police, willing to help and protect them.

Prime Minister Erdogan condemned the demonstrators on Taksim and took a defiant position against them. However as the tension intensifies, he agreed to meet some of the major figures of the anti-governmental riot. The meeting between the government and the leaders of the Gezi Park Platform is to be held Wednesday.

However, Erdogan strictly rejects any foreign intervention concerning the demonstrations. As the West criticised aggressive police reaction that put the Taksim in turmoil, Erdogan interpreted this statement as foreign countries trying to exacerbate the protests. In addition, the Prime Minister announced several counter-rallies to be held next weekend, and pointed out that his patience with the protests are not unlimited.

This would most likely have a political background. Although Erdogan is friends with most of the West, he also took a self-assured stance in his foreign politics, and decreased the traditional friendship between Israel and Turkey. His AKP government is also often criticised for supposedly obstructing the separation of religion and politics, while the constitution stipulates a secular organisation for Turkey. Added to this is the bill restricting the selling and consumption of alcohol – a dividing piece of Turkish legislation that goes against the liberal ideas of some, and favours the religious foundations.

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