Amnesty Report on Gezi Park Protests

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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?

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Picture:

  • 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).

 

2 comments

  1. Although it is clear fundamental rights were ignored, are these rights recognized internationally as fundamental? I am lucky to say that I was born and raised in America, where the right to peaceably assemble and the right to free speech is indeed fundamental and an integral part of our society. However, I know there are many countries all around the world whose governments carry the exact opposite view. Not only are these rights not seen as fundamental but also they may not even be classified as rights to begin with. I am not completely familiar with the state of affairs in Turkey and how certain rights are viewed but it is clear that if these things we knows as fundamental rights are to gain that same position in Turkey then the people must be allowed to have a voice, and protesting must be encouraged not frowned upon. The people must know that when there their country begins to take actions strongly against their good then they have the power to unite and change those actions till they benefit the population.

  2. Erdoğan’s reactions to the Gezi Park protests have also been revealing in a number of other ways. Perhaps most striking has been Erdoğan’s insistence that the protests were instigated by foreign “dark forces” jealous of Turkey’s “rise to greatness” under his leadership and something he has described as the “interest lobby”. More disturbing has been the evidence of widespread – though not universal – anti-Semitism in the AKP. On June 16, 2013, hours before Erdoğan was due to address a rally of AKP supporters in Istanbul, the main pro-AKP daily newspaper Yeni Şafak claimed that it had uncovered evidence that the Gezi Park protests had been orchestrated by the “Jewish lobby” in the U.S. and even published the names and photographs of a number of prominent Jewish Americans who it alleged were the leaders of the conspiracy. The Yeni Şafak article was publicly endorsed by a succession of leading members of the AKP, who maintained that the government also had concrete evidence of the plot. On July 1, 2013, the Turkish Cihan news agency quoted Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay as publicly accusing the “Jewish Diaspora” of responsibility for the Gezi protests. Atalay later tried to claim that Cihan had willfully misquoted him. But a video of his speech is freely available on the internet and leaves no doubt that the Cihan report was accurate.

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