Friday Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan put plans to develop Gezi Park in Taksim Square on hold. Turkish protestors declared a small victory.
What began as a sit-in to protest re-development of the last remaining park in Istanbul, quickly escalated into a battle between Turkish security forces and the people of Istanbul and Ankara. Erdogan called the demonstrators ‘rebels’ and ‘vandals,’ and refused to recognize the efforts of every day citizens to exercise their right of free speech. That may have changed today.
The roots of the protest reach a greater depth than the saving of a park. After 10 years as Prime Minister, Erdogan is now seen as a pro-Islamic autocratic leader, usurping the freedom of Turkey’s people. Among his decrees are measures disallowing the consumption of alcohol, an increase in religious teaching in schools, and forbidding displays of public affection.
Erdogan has alleged that among the demonstrators are foreign instigators. After dousing the crowds with water cannons, and attacking them with tear gas, he is asking them to leave peacefully, so that police can tackle the problem of “illegal groups” that may remain.
Erdogan’s announcement assisted in a small rise in the country’s stock market, which had plummeted during the rioting.
A meeting was held on Thursday between ‘Taksim Solidarity,’ which speaks for the people, and Erdogan. It lasted for four hours.
The government’s commitments so far “do not include the protestors’ main demand of an official cancellation of plans regarding the future of Gezi Park,” Ibrahim Aksoy, an economist at Seker Invest in Istanbul, said in an e-mailed note earlier today after Cabinet spokesman Huseyin Celik signaled Erdogan’s plans. “Yet we find the recent meeting positive as it shows that there is still room for dialogue.” The fate of Taksim’s Gezi park is unresolved.
The Turkish Medical Association announced that four people died during exchanges between security forces and the protestors, and more than 7,500 were injured. In addition 70 people are facing legal charges for throwing Molotov cocktails at police. Government representatives said charges will also be filed against policemen who used excessive force against protestors.
Erdogan’s ‘Justice and Development Pary’ says it will continue with plans to hold demonstrations this weekend in Istanbul and Ankara, despite admonitions by representatives of the people that they may be the cause of additional unrest.
For now, at least, the protestors can claim victory. The determined crowd will be watching future actions taken by Erdogan.
The Guardian Express