June 11, 2013

Events In Istanbul Today

After boisterous threats, and a day before a scheduled meeting with protesters, the Turkish authorities attacked protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square and adjoining Gezi Park twice today. Read about the police actions here and here.

Protests and street fighting were continuing in Istanbul at this writing.

In assessing this move by the authorities the following points should be considered:

1. Dozens of attorneys were detained and later released when they protested the violations of civil liberties taking place.

2. Prime Minister Erdoğan is speaking darkly about international forces who are allegedly using the protests to tarnish Turkey's economy and ruin its international image. Talk of a cabal intent on up-ending Turkey's economy are especially ominous. At least one Turkish journalist has noted the anti-Semitic tone of these pronouncements.

3.The government is claiming, in what it no doubt sees as a compromise, that it wants to lower the age limit for running in elections to 18.

4. Hundreds of people have been injured by the police in Istanbul, with at least 5 critical cases.

5. A few Molotov cocktails were thrown at police today in Istanbul. It seems unlikely that these came from people who are a part of the movement and protesters were quick to deny any connection with these actions. Socialist Democracy Party activists were blamed by police for throwing the bombs and the Party's Istanbul offices were quickly attacked by police. Party activists resisted the assault. Bianet English has provided photographs of the assault on Party headquarters and also carried a photograph of someone tied to the bombs; he does not appear to be a protester.

6. The ruling party is now talking about legislating restrictions on social media in Turkey. One party spokesperson has been quoted as saying, "A tweet containing lies and slander is much more dangerous that a vehicle loaded with a bomb. The explosion of a vehicle loaded with a bomb would be limited, but a tweet filled with lies and slander can lead to a climate of conflict. If the situation is serious, necessary precautions must be taken.”

7. The ruling party now clearly feels under siege and party officials see the current rebellion and the crisis it has caused as fight for the life or death of their government. The party leaders feel that they have to "synchronize” the party's local elections campaign with its response to the unrest evident across the country. Local elections, the first in a series of national elections, are scheduled to be held in March of 2014. Early elections are a possibility if the government can be forced into a defensive situation.

8. The European Parliament's Green bloc today hosted a session on the Turkish protests. Speaking for the movement in Istanbul were Korhan Gümüş, member of the Coordination Committee of the Taksim Solidarity Plarform; Rojda Tekin, student and spokesperson of the Anti-Capitalist Muslims; Sevil Turan, co-spokesperson of the Green Left Future Party; as well as the actor-activist Mehmet Ali Alabora. The speakers seemed (correctly) to agree that what is taking place in Turkey now is a new type of rebellion.

We can see from this that the Turkish government and the ruling party are in crisis and that this is further evidence that Prime Minister Erdogan has nowhere to turn. State repression will not stop the rebellion, even if city squares in Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere are recaptured by the authorities. The costs of such repression, the possibility of international isolation, the possibility of worker strikes, any disruption of the peace process between the government and the Kurds and the radicalization of so many people will redound on the regime if the opposition is able to unite and remain united and root itself in the working class between now and the elections. "Politics unite people and lack of it puts an end to that unity!" says a comrade of the Communist Party of Turkey.

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