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article imagePhoto Essay: Protests in Turkey Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jun 21, 2013 in World
Istanbul - Protests began in Istanbul's Gezi Park on May 31 and spread throughout Turkey as police reacted violently with water cannons and tear gas. People in Turkey are asking for more freedom, and some merely stand silently while police order more pepper spray.
It all began in a tree-lined park near Istanbul's historic Taksim Square. Bulldozers lined up to turn Gezi Park into an Ottoman museum and mosque, and protesters would not move out of the way. Police faced off with protesters, and journalists got photos of people being shot with water cannons and tear gas. One woman, wearing a red dress, got doused with so much pepper spray that her hair flew upward. She became an icon in the Turkish protests.
Enraged at Prime Minister Erdogan's heavy-handed response, Turks took to the streets in other cities such as the capital of Ankara, Izmir by the Agean Sea, and Antalya on the Mediterranean. Even more conservative heartland cities like Konya joined in. At the Black Sea, Erdogan's supporters clashed with protesters in Rize.
People who had remained silent and afraid for years under Erdogan's restrictive Islamist rule lifted their voices on the streets, on Twitter, and in Facebook. People demanded a return to Turkey's secular democracy and the end of putting people in prison because they voiced discontent against the ruling Ak Party which got 50% of the vote in the last big election. University students who had never gone to political rallies became passionate, calling themselves "Çapulcu" ("looters") on their Facebook profiles. Rival sports teams united together, exchanging colors and shouting in unison. Celebrities left their film sets to join freedom marches.
What began as a protest against the destruction of one of the last green spaces in downtown Istanbul became a demand for Erdogan to resign. "Everywhere is Taksim!" people chanted as women marched with men and even children. Lawyers joined the protests as Erdogan arrested nearly 60 of their members for defending arrested protesters. Doctors marched along with striking labor unions after some physicians were arrested for giving aid to protesters. Five people have been killed and more than 5000 injured. Some protesters have lost an eye to a gas canister or struggle for life after a head injury. One man had a heart attack after suffering too much pepper spray. Hundreds of people have been arrested, some for posting tweets on the "public menace" (as Erdogan called it) of Twitter.
Despite worldwide bad press, Erdogan continued to persecute protesters. On Saturday, June 15, police drove protesters out of Gezi Park which had become a kind of tent city and cultural center. The next day, police attacked even peaceful tourists (including me), driving everyone out of the Taksim area and forming a line around Taksim Square.
On Monday, a single man stood for hours, facing Ataturk's memorial in Taksim Square. Ataturk established the secular democratic Republic of Turkey in 1923, and many people want to go back to the freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and the press that Ataturk promised. The "Standing Man" became another icon in the Turkish protests, and people joined him in Taksim and all over Turkey, even as Erdogan had police order more water cannons and pepper spray canisters. It will be interesting to see how the "Summer of Turkish Discontent" continues. Erdogan is rounding up protesters and putting them in jail. I keep waiting for that knock on my door.
Gezi Park in Taksim  Istanbul
Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul
Gezi Park and Ataturk Cultural Center in Taksim (both threatened to be torn down to build an Ottoman...
Gezi Park and Ataturk Cultural Center in Taksim (both threatened to be torn down to build an Ottoman museum and mosque)
Ataturk s memorial in Taksim Square
Ataturk's memorial in Taksim Square
Protesters in Gezi Park before they were driven out
Protesters in Gezi Park before they were driven out
Turkish Protests News
Inside Gezi Park s tent city before Erdogan had it cleared
Inside Gezi Park's tent city before Erdogan had it cleared
Trici Venola
Protesters wave flags inside Gezi Park
Protesters wave flags inside Gezi Park
Turkish Protests News
The famous  woman in red  being assaulted by policemen with pepper spray at Gezi Park
The famous "woman in red" being assaulted by policemen with pepper spray at Gezi Park
The Telegraph
Protesters march through the Taksim district in Istanbul  near Gezi Park
Protesters march through the Taksim district in Istanbul, near Gezi Park
Turkish Protests News
Police battle protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul
Police battle protesters at Taksim Square in Istanbul
Turkish Protests News
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
The police attack vehicle that chased tourists in Taksim and shot pepper spray
The police attack vehicle that chased tourists in Taksim and shot pepper spray
Police pose in Taksim
Police pose in Taksim
Police chat with some of the people in Taksim
Police chat with some of the people in Taksim
Lawyers protest the arrest of their fellow lawyers in Istanbul
Lawyers protest the arrest of their fellow lawyers in Istanbul
Turkish Protests News
Union protesters march peacefully through downtown Izmit  near Istanbul
Union protesters march peacefully through downtown Izmit, near Istanbul
Bystanders greeted Izmit protesters to show their support.  One banner reads  Everywhere is Taksim. ...
Bystanders greeted Izmit protesters to show their support. One banner reads "Everywhere is Taksim." Notice the woman in red.
Journalists are targeted with tear gas during a Gezi Park freedom protest in Istanbul
Journalists are targeted with tear gas during a Gezi Park freedom protest in Istanbul
Turkish Protests News
Police attack protesters with a water canon
Police attack protesters with a water canon
Turkish Protests News
An injured protester is carried away in Istanbul
An injured protester is carried away in Istanbul
Turkish Protests News
Protesters are doused with pepper spray in Taksim Square
Protesters are doused with pepper spray in Taksim Square
Turkish Protests News
A protester collapses in Taksim Square  Istanbul
A protester collapses in Taksim Square, Istanbul
Turkish Protests news
A lone protester faces police in Taksim
A lone protester faces police in Taksim
Turkish Protests News
Standing men and women in Taksim Square  Istanbul
Standing men and women in Taksim Square, Istanbul
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