GLOBALPOST LIVE BLOG: OCCUPY GEZI CATCHES FIRE
UPDATE: 6/3/13 5:45 PM ET
As Turkey's protests entered their fifth night, tens of thousands of people were massing at Taksim Square as night fell, Al Jazeera reported.
According to their correspondent Gokhan Yivciger:
Among the crowd in Taksim Square, there are many families with their children enjoying the demonstration that has developed the feeling of a festival.
Thousands of people have marched from Besiktas to Taksim Square, headed by the fans of neighborhood's most prominent football club.
Even with the peaceful atmosphere, simple face masks are the most common items being sold at Taksim Square.
GlobalPost is signing off, but follow our breaking news desk throughout the evening for updates.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 4:25 PM ET
Will we see a Lebanese version of Turkey's protests?
The demonstrations across Turkey were sparked by peaceful objections to the demolition of a beloved public park in Istanbul.
We very well might see something similar happen in Lebanon, where civil society and activist groups have come out against the government's ambitious plans for a new four-lane road that would flatten 30 homes, an orchard, and cut right through the Beirut's historic Hikmeh neighborhood, according to The Daily Star.
Activists have drawn up alternative plans for the area targeted by the $75 million dollar Fouad Boutros road project, but deputy mayor Nadim Abu Rizk told the Star "alternative proposals are not considered at this stage."
Read more here.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 4:00 PM ET
White House praises Turkish government for apologizing over use of force
Though the US government had harsh things to say about the use of force by police in Turkey's ongoing protests, they have since applauded Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc's apology.
Arinc said Tuesday that the Turkish government had "learnt its lesson" and regretted using security forces against people with "rightful demands" — a sharp contrast to Prime Minister Erdogan's response.
"We hope that as we have made clear that the Turkish government will handle this in a way that respects the rights of free speech and assembly that are elemental to democracies," White House press secretary Jay Carney told a briefing on Tuesday.
"And we welcome the deputy prime minister's comments apologizing for excessive force and we continue to welcome calls for these events to be investigated."
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that he was "concerned" about the use of force by Turkey's police against protesters.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 3:15 PM ET
The Turkish revolution will be GIF'd
It was only a matter of time.
Since Turkey's protests have been heavily documented (and influenced) by tools like Instagram and Twitter, GIFs seem like a worthy — and natural — addition to the multimedia landscape.
Click here to see more GIFs from the demonstrations, from police weilding tear gas to protesters flipping off a government helicopter.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 2:50 PM ET
Sound of silence: Turkey media under fire for ignoring protests
Apart from chief protagonist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, no other element has been as roundly criticized by the thousands of anti-government protestors who have taken to Turkey’s streets over the past week than the country’s generally listless media, reports GlobalPost's Stephen Starr.
“Rather than a government-imposed censorship happening, the Turkish media is facing self- or patronage-censorship out of fear that they could be the target of Erdogan’s wrath,” said Mahir Zeynalov, a journalist at Today’s Zaman, the country’s premier English-language daily, and former Los Angeles Times correspondent.
Tweets criticizing the media's censorship quickly gained traction:
Turkey imprisons more journalists than anywhere else in the world, with 47 reporters currently in jails.
Read more about the self-imposed silence here.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 2:00 PM ET
Don't be a dictator: Erdogan edition
"I'm not a dictator. It's not even in my blood," Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan said on Sunday as protests across the country continued to spread. To be fair, Erdogan was democratically elected with 50 percent of the vote just two years ago. But some of his actions since his election worry Turkish citizens. And the reaction of security forces to the current protests don't support his claim.
Read about the 6 examples that suggest otherwise (including *gasp* censoring the internet).
UPDATE: 6/4/13 1:45 PM ET
Tear gas unites us all?
The most iconic photo to emerge from Turkey's protests thus far is the "woman in red" being tear-gassed by police (via Reuters):
Slate conjectured whether what truly united Turkey's protesters was the tyranny of the noxious gas.
The painful but nonlethal white gas has become the symbol of everything Turks are rising up against, especially the Turkish government’s slide toward authoritarianism. It has become nearly ubiquitous at any gathering or public expression of dissent against Erdogan’s government long before this outbreak of protests. Turkish police officers don’t rely on the noxious stuff as a crowd-control measure of last resort; they arrive with their fingers on the triggers. Tear-gassing a crowd is the Erdogan regime’s initial, knee-jerk response to public political dissent. So when photos of police spraying the faces of the young people who had occupied Gezi Park hit the Internet — especially the incredible image of the “the lady in red” — they resonated with a Turkish public already saturated with tear gas.
Slate might be on to something, not just in Turkey... but around the world.
From Bahrain, Turkey, Canada, Egypt, Syria, Greece and the Palestinian Territories to Italy and beyond, might tear gas be the thing that unites us all? Here are 13 photographs that suggest, yes.
UPDATE: 6/4/13 11:20 AM ET
Deputy PM Arinc was "open and blunt"
Yavuz Baydar, a columnist for Turkish daily Today's Zaman, said that comments from Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister about the protests were were "open and blunt."
"He sent some ambiguous but clearly understood missives to [Prime Minister] Erdogan for his perceived arrogant speech," said Baydar.
He added that questions remain about how, when, and by whom Taksim Square would be emptied.
Watch his full interview with Al Jazeera here:
UPDATE: 6/4/13 10:50 AM ET
Turks in Britain sharply divided over protests
The international media has been covering the ongoing protests and reactions in Turkey. But what about Turks living outside of the country?
The BBC interviewed Nesin Fehmi, editor-in-chief of London-based, Turkish-language newspaper Olay Gazete, who said the demonstrations have "split Britain's Turkish community into six distinct groups."
1. Supporters of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party who "don't say anything - silence means support for what AKP is doing," said Fehmi.
2. Supporters of Erdogan who "don't care about politics or religion" but believe in the leader's economic advances.
3. "Partisan" opposition supporters who are totally, unequivocally opposed to the AKP.
4. Kurds living in Turkey who are attached to the struggle with the government to have a stronger place for the Kurdish community.
5. Alevis, a religious minority in Turkey, who also disagree with Erdogan's approach.
6. Those who feel freedom of speech and liberty are being threatened by the AKP — Which Fehmi includes himself in.
Are you a Turk living abroad? Let us know what you think of the protests in the comments.
UPDATE: 6/4/13 8:08 AM ET
An apology, sort of
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was very careful who he said sorry to. He called the Gezi Park protests — the ones to protect an Istanbul green space from being turned into a shopping mall — "just and legitimate," and the police's response to them "excessive" and "wrong."
"The ones who caused the destruction to the public property and the ones who are trying to restrict people's freedoms, we do not need to apologize [to them]," he continued.
Arinc also made clear that the government "won't bow to pressure that is coming from the streets," and like Erdogan, blamed the expansion of the protests on murky "extreme forces."
UPDATE: 6/4/13 6:07 AM ET
Erdogan's deputy admits police errors
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc has given a press conference in which he conceded that the police response aggravated the protests, and said officers had been ordered not to use tear gas "unless in self-defense."
He says he is to meet with some of the organizers of the original sit-in at Istanbul's Gezi Park.
Most commentators on Twitter see him as playing dove to his boss's hawk:
UPDATE: 6/4/13 5:10 AM ET
'Funeral for a friend'
On Twitter, tributes are being paid to protester Abdullah Comert, who was killed in gunfire in the southern city of Antakya.
Photos claim to show the site where he was shot, surrounded by tributes and marked with a Turkish flag. GlobalPost cannot confirm the pictures' authenticity.
UPDATE: 6/4/13 4:37 AM ET
Erdogan vs. Gul?
Turkey's president ≠ Turkey's prime minister.
Many observers are pointing to how different President Abdullah Gul's comments sound to those of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has quickly become the protesters' enemy no. 1.
Compare this from Erdogan: "The main opposition party CHP has provoked my innocent citizens. Those who make news [and] call these events the Turkish Spring do not know Turkey."
...with this from Gul: "If there are different opinions, different situations, different points of view and dissent, there is nothing more natural than being able to voice those differences."
Erdogan wields the real power in Turkey's government, while Gul occupies a largely symbolic role as head of state. Though the two have been allies until now, analysts say there are signs that Erdogan is looking to consolidate his power by eating into the president's position. Gul, however, may be attempting to hang on to his spot by adopting a more conciliatory attitude toward the protest movement.
UPDATE: 6/4/13 4:02 AM ET
Unions join protests
One of Turkey's largest trade unions is throwing its weight behind the protests, according to the BBC.
Kesk, a left-wing confederation that groups several workers' unions and some 240,000 members, has called a two-day strike effective today. It accuses Prime Minister Erdogan's government of waging "state terror" against peaceful protesters.
The unions' involvement could be a significant boost for the protest movement — and a strong sign that the demostrations will continue throughout the week.
UPDATE: 6/4/13 3:48 AM ET
Second protester killed
As Turkey's anti-government protests enter their fifth straight day, a second death has been confirmed.
Abdullah Comert, 22 years old and a member of the youth wing of the opposition Republican People's Party, died from gunshot wounds in the southern city of Antakya. A statement from the local governor said it wasn't clear who fired the fatal bullets.
His death follows that of 20-year-old Mehmet Ayvalitas, who was hit by a car during protests in Istanbul on Sunday.
Meanwhile, rights groups and doctors say more than a thousand people have been injured in clashes in Istanbul and 700 in the capital, Ankara.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 5:45 PM ET
Iraqis, Syrians weary of Turkish uprisings as injured count tops 3,000
Though Turkey's protesters are full of hope about their demonstrations sparking change, refugees from Iraq and Syria are more skeptical, GlobalPost's Tracey Shelton reports:
In Istanbul, Iraqi refugee George Hanna sees the chaos of Iraq in Turkey’s fresh unrest. He says in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq, his community in the northern city of Kirkuk shared similar feelings of excitement and hope.
“Look at us now,” he said. “We are about nine million living abroad, expelled from our houses."
“And we lost 1,000 citizens just last month,” he said, referring to the number of Iraqis killed in May by growing sectarian violence there.
At the end of the fourth day of Turkey's protests, one person was dead and at least 3,195 people injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association. However, only 26 of them were in serious or critical condition.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 5:15 PM ET
Protesters taking refuge at Istanbul's InterContinental Hotel
The InterContinental Hotel near Taksim Square has become a hideout for demonstrators from tear gas and police efforts to quash the protests, reports Ha'aretz correspondent Anshel Pfeffer:
Hotels and restaurants around Taksim Square "are prepared for a rough night," Pfeffer reported, stockpiling lemons and water bottles for tear gas victims as night falls in Istanbul.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 4:40 PM ET
Tear gas: uniting us all?
After police used tear gas against protesters in Turkey, the backlash was so severe that the government temporarily withdrew the police force from Taksim Square, even if it meant allowing even more demonstrators to gather.
However, Turkey is hardly the only country to use the chemical weapon against masses of activists.
Here, we look at 13 photos from around the world that make us wonder: is tear gas the great equalizer?
UPDATE: 6/3/13 3:50 PM ET
Erdogan: Twitter is a "menace" featuring "the best examples of lies"
According to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, it's not just the protests that are threatening Turkish society – its everyone's favorite microblogging site, Twitter.
"There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society."
Obviously, Twitter wasn't going to take that criticism lying down. This collage of dictators critiquing the site quickly went viral:
And cheeky responses like these popped up:
UPDATE: 6/3/13 3:30 PM ET
On the ground in Ankara
GlobalPost's Suzanna Koster has been in Ankara reporting on the protests.
Here, a couple videos from Suzanna: one from the second day of the protests, and the other from Sunday night.
As Koster reported:
[The protesters] said they are angry about a new law that restrict the sales of alcohol, restrictions of the sales of the abortion pill and say they have had no say in several ambitious government building plans.
One protester was particularly upset by Erdogan's remark that all those who drink alcohol are alcoholics.
After midnight police forces started to target protesters more aggressively with tear gas. At around 2 a.m. the crowd got smaller and smaller as protesters dispersed.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 3:15 PM ET
The most ironic travel warning of all time
In a strange turn of events, war-torn Syria has issued a travel warning to its citizens not to visit Turkey.
''The Foreign and Expatriates Ministry advises the Syrian citizens against traveling to Turkey during this period for fear for their safety, due to the security conditions in some Turkish cities that have deteriorated over the past days and the violence practiced by Erdogan's government against peaceful protesters," Syria's foreign ministry said in a statement.
The two countries were formerly allies, but things have gone stale since Syria's bloody civil war started two years ago — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down. Erdogan also withdrew all of Ankara's diplomats from Damascus last March.
And then there's the issue of the over 300,000 refugees from Syria that have overflowed into Turkey, weighing on the country's resources.
Given the current state of affairs in Syria, its an...interesting stance.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 2:20 PM ET
White House says US supports freedom to protest
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Monday, "We continue to follow the events closely and with concern. The US supports full freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to protest."
"We believe that the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, law-abiding citizens exercising their rights," Carney said. "We call on these events to be investigated and urge all sides from refraining from provoking violence."
"All democracies have issues that they need to work through. And we expect that the government would work through this. We continue to work with Turkey as a NATO ally and as a key player in the region."
Turkish PM Erdogan said the protests were organized by "extremist elements" and accused the protesters of living "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to the Guardian.
"I'm not a dictator. It's not even in my blood," Erdogan said on Sunday. He was elected to office by 50 percent of the population just two years ago.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 2:00 PM ET
Protests mapped out
The protests, which started in Taksim Square last week, have spread to other parts of Turkey. This map (via The Daily Dot) was created on Saturday and is being updated with the latest scenes of protests.
View Istanbul Polis Hareketleri in a larger map
UPDATE: 6/3/13 1:48 PM ET
What's behind the anger?
GlobalPost's Stephen Starr reported from Istanbul on what's behind the protests.
The anger in Istanbul runs deep, and today Erdogan is facing the greatest threat to his leadership since being elected 10 years ago.
Bayram Balci, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Program, said the protests were a tool, a way to express people’s general opposition to “the progressive dictatorship of the prime minister.”
“In the last months the prime minister started to adopt very conservative measures including talk of curbing abortion and limiting where people can drink alcohol,” he said.
“People do not like this intrusion into their private lives and the project of Taksim was a pretext for them to manifest their dissatisfaction.”
Legislation passed by the Turkish parliament on May 24 includes banning all alcohol advertising as well as the sale of alcohol at sports clubs, health centers, student dorms and gas stations. Shops cannot sell alcohol after 10 p.m. or within 100 yards of mosques.
Furthermore, the morning-after pill can no longer be purchased without a prescription.
Many people hold Erdogan solely responsible.
Read more about what's really behind the protests.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 12:50 PM ET
John Kerry, EU "concerned" over Turkish police's use of force
US Secretary of State John Kerry was critical of NATO ally Turkey on Monday.
"We are concerned by the reports of excessive use of force by police," Kerry said in a brief statement. "We obviously hope that there will be a full investigation of those incidents and full restraint from the police force."
On Friday, the US ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone also said that "freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to have peaceful protests are fundamentals of a democracy."
The European Union has also expressed concern over the police's handling of the protests.
The EU's head of foreign policy Catherine Ashton "expressed deep concern at the violence that occurred in Istanbul and some other cities in Turkey, and regrets disproportionate use of force by members of the Turkish police,” adding that “dialog should be opened to find a peaceful solution to this issue."
Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, said the police's use of force was “completely inappropriate.”
UPDATE: 6/3/13 12:00 PM ET
The first casualty of the protests is a 20-year-old Turkish man
20-year-old demonstrator Mehmet Ayvalitas was killed when a taxi drove into a group of protesters on an Istanbul highway, Reuters reported.
Four others were also injured, according to Turkish doctors' association TBB board member Huseyin Demirduzen.
His death is the first of the four-day long protests; around 1,000 people have been injured in Istanbul since the demonstrations started on Friday, and hundreds more in Ankara.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 11:30 AM ET
Protesters document the clashes with Instagram, Vine
In Turkey, social media has continued to prove its use as a powerful tool in uprisings and demonstrations.
Though the streets were relatively calm Monday, there was a lot of action to see on the ground, including a drive-through of a giant bulldozer with a Turkish flag hanging from the front. And of course, Turkey's protesters were there to document it:
Check out more Instagrams and Vine videos from the Turkish demonstrations right here.
UPDATE: 6/3/13 9:15 AM ET
Turkey's PM Erdogan dismisses talk of Turkish Spring
Four days of fierce, widespread and sometimes violent anti-government protests does not a Turkish Spring make, said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.
The protest, which was initially small peaceful sit-in against the government's plan to build a shopping center on Gezi Park – the last green area in Taksim Square – has quickly become the nation's largest and most intense demonstration in years.
And still, Erdogan, in a televised news conference before his trip to Morocco, dismissed the nationwide protests as a riot planned by extremists and the opposition party.
"Those in Turkey who speak of the Turkish Spring are right; the season is, in fact, spring," he said. "But there are those trying to turn it into a winter."
The streets, relatively calm on Monday, saw tens of thousands protest in multiple cities over the weekend. Some clashed with police who fired tear gas, others set aflame the ruling party's offices, with officials saying they had arrested more than 1,700 people in 67 towns and cities.
"There are those attending these events organized by extremists. This is not about Gezi Park anymore," Erdogan said. "These are organized events with affiliations both within Turkey and abroad," he added, saying the main opposition party had "provoked my innocent citizens."
Here's a map via the BBC that shows where the protests have spread:
Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AKP have held power for more than a decade, and during his three elected terms Turkey has grown its economy and its regional and international influence. But the prime minister has drawn public criticism for perceptions that he is instituting conservative values and amassing executive power.
Bayram Balci, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Middle East Program, told GlobalPost's Stephen Starr that the protests had gone beyond Taksim Square, voicing a more general frustration people feel toward “the progressive dictatorship of the prime minister.”
“In the last months the prime minister started to adopt very conservative measures including talk of curbing abortion and limiting where people can drink alcohol,” Balci said. “People do not like this intrusion into their private lives and the project of Taksim was a pretext for them to manifest their dissatisfaction.” In addition, according to a 2012 Committee to Protect Journalists report, Turkey ranks as the world's worst jailer of journalists, imprisoning 232 people.
On Sunday night the White House released a statement, urging all parties to "calm the situation," and honor peaceful demonstrations as "part of democratic expression." Meanwhile, Turkey's interior ministry called on its citizens to boycott what it says are "illegal" protests.
"We invite our citizens especially our youth to act with common sense and sensitivity and refrain from taking part in these illegal demonstrations being carried out by certain groups today, the day when the work week begins," the statement said.