Amnesty International has recently published a report on Gezi Park Protests, which lasted in Turkey for almost three months. The demonstrations initially began to prevent cutting trees at Gezi Park but then turned into a huge protest asking the government to resign following a brutal police response to the demonstrators. The report is titled as:
Brutal Denial of the Right to Peaceful Assembly in Turkey.
For those who do not know the purpose and mission of Amnesty International, I believe it is crucial to point out that it is completely an independent organization of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion and is funded mainly by membership and public donations. Its mission is for every person to enjoy all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights standard.
In this report, Amnesty International provides extensive information related to Gezi Park demonstrations, such as the authorities’ response to protests, arbitrary denial of the right to peaceful protest, abusive use of force by law enforcement officials, detentions, investigations and prosecutions for participating in or organizing protests. The report ends with recommendations to the Turkish authorities and to states involved in transfers of riot control equipment to Turkey.
Amnesty International starts its analysis of the protests with the following interesting quote stated by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also the head of Justice and Development Party (hereinafter referred to as “AKP”) in response to Gezi Park demonstrations:
We cannot sit and watch a few hooligans coming to the square and provoke the people. Because when the nation voted for us, they voted for us to guard our history.
When I read this quote, the first thing that came to my mind was to ask myself what really defines democracy. According to the Turkish Prime Minister, democracy comes at the scene only during the elections. When the majority of the population votes for a specific party, the minority can simply be ignored. Is it really what we mean by democracy? Were the demonstrators at Gezi Park really hooligans as the Prime Minister stated or normal citizens demanding their basic human rights?
Amnesty International uses another quote of the Prime Minister later in the report, which was uttered during a rally of AKP supporters on June 24, 2013. He stated:
They were still all there. The limits of tolerance have been exceeded. I told my Minister of the Interior: within 24 hours, you will clean up the Ataturk Cultural Centre. You will clean up the square. You will clean up the statute. After that, you will clean up Gezi Park. They ask: who gave the order to the police? I did. I did. Yes. Were we supposed to sit and watch the forces of occupation? Were we supposed to wait until the whole world would join in and celebrate?
It seems to me that the Primer Minister simply ignored the fundamental human rights of the demonstrators with this saying, such as the right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of speech and gave an order to the police to disperse the crowd gathered at Taksim Gezi Park. Do you think this action taken by the Prime Minister is accurate and justifiable given the circumstances?
Another interesting point included in the report is that the use of police force. According to the report, the use of police force was disproportionate and beyond reasonableness because there have been several deaths occurred and many were injured during the police response to the demonstration. The report gives specific names and incidents of where the use of police force was quite above the line.
For those who might be interested in reading the whole report, I must say that there are many other important and interesting points emphasized related to Gezi Park Protests, and there is a considerable attempt made to catch the world’s attention on human rights violations happened in Turkey.
Even today, human rights violations are continuously happening all over the world. Even though there is an attempt to stop, it seems like these violations cannot be prevented. What kinds of steps do you think should be taken to deter and lessen the occurrences of such violations? Lastly, some journalists and writers compare Gezi Park Protests with Occupy Movement and the May 1968 events. Would you agree with this commentary? If so, in what way?
- Image courtesy of Haberself (Picture showing a protester playing his guitar for TOMA, which is probably coming to attack him with water canon and/or tear gas).