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Turkey: What's going on?


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We've all seen the pictures of protesters clashing with police in Turkey, but what's it all about?  Here's what you need to know:

Turkey's recent history

  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan has been in power since 2002 and his party, the AKP, have driven an ever-expanding Islamist agenda.

  • His party has placed restrictions on alcohol consumption, abortion, blasphemy and LGBT rights.

  • Both the internet and the press have been subject to censorship by the government.

  • The many secular Turks, particularly in the West of the country, have opposed these measures.

  • Traditional May 1st protests were banned in Turkey this year, allowing tensions to mount.

Gezi Park

  • Plans were made to remove one of the last green spaces in the centre of Istanbul, Gezi Park, to make way for a mall.

  • Protests against it began in April, after a petition in December 2012.

  • The initial protest was a group of around 50 non-violent environmental campaigners who had created an encampment in the park on May 27th.

  • Initially, bulldozers were halted by protesters who refused to move.

  • Early on May 28th, police began using violent means including tear gas and burning tents to allow the bulldozing to continue.

  • Over the next few days the size of the encampment continued to grow as more people were alerted by social-media, including the hashtags #occupygezi and #occupyturkey.


  • On May 31st police carried out another raid on the Gezi Park protesters. After using water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters they set up barricades preventing re-entry into the park.

  • Throughout the day tear gas, pepper spray & water cannons were used on protesters, who began to throw rocks in retaliation.

  • Protests also spread to other cities including Ankara and Izmir, where police were accused of using electric-shock batons and rubber bullets on protesters.

  • Prime Minister Erdogan gave an inflammatory speech vowing that, “"Where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party."

  • On June 2nd videos showing the full extent of police brutality began to emerge, but initially protesters remained to clear up litter from streets rather than to demonstrate.

  • Since then protests have continued in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Antalya with varying degrees of violence and resistance.

What's happening now?

  • Infrastructure has grown up around the protests reminiscent of the Occupy movements, with operational clinics & kitchens springing up to cater for protesters.

  • Reports are emerging that as many as 24 people may have been arrested for using Twitter to encourage attendance at the protests.

  • The makeup of protesters has diversified away from environmentalists to encompass all views and walks of life, with secularists and religious people demonstrating side by side with football fans, anarchists and communists.

  • The “Woman in Red” seen in an image taken by photographer Osman Orsal has become an unofficial mascot of the uprising.

  • The focus of the protests has moved away from Gezi park and is now more ambiguous, although mostly condemning police brutality.

This morning a full-page advertisement appeared in the New York Times on behalf of the #OccupyGezi protestors, full text of which can be found here. If you'd like to keep on top of the latest from Turkey, you can follow the hashtag on Twitter.

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