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Posts tagged ‘Protests in Anatolia’

Dozens detained in G20 protests in Turkey

November 15, 2015

ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — Police in the Turkish Mediterranean city of Antalya detained dozens of people Sunday during a series of protests denouncing a G-20 summit that is underway in a nearby seaside resort, although the demonstrations were mostly peaceful.

Security is tight during two-day meeting that was expected to be dominated by discussions about how the G-20 nations will respond to the deadly Paris attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group. Demonstrators were being kept miles away from the venue at a secluded seaside resort some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Antalya city.

A group of some 500 youths belonging to a Turkish nationalist association gathered in the city, holding up card-board effigies of U.S. President Barack Obama and denouncing U.S. interventions in the Middle East. Police allowed the group to march briefly only after they agreed to leave the effigies behind.

Hundreds of members of Turkish left-wing groups and trade unions later held another protest denouncing the organization which gathers the world’s wealthiest economies. They marched in central Antalya carrying a banner that read in Turkish and in English: “Killer, colonialist, imperialist war organization G-20 get out!” Police detained dozens of demonstrators after one of the demonstrators threw fireworks at police while the crowd was dispersing.

Earlier, police detained four protesters who wanted to walk to the venue of the G-20 summit to deliver a letter to participants. Police also detained a group of about 20 protesters who refused to undergo a security check, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Separately, members of Turkey’s ethnic Uighur community also gathered in the city to protest China’s treatment of the Muslim minority. Chinese President Xi Jinping is among the summit participants. Turkey has turned a sports center in Antalya into a temporary detention center in case of large-scale protests.

Police block entry to Istanbul park on protest anniversary

May 31, 2015

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish authorities have deployed thousands of police to block entry into Istanbul’s Gezi Park, barring access to a few hundred demonstrators trying to mark the second anniversary of the start of the nationwide anti-government protests in 2013.

Holding carnations and shouting slogans, the protesters tried Sunday to march to Istanbul’s main square where Gezi is located, but were blocked by police. They dispersed after delivering speeches and leaving carnations on a street leading to the square.

Hundreds of thousands of Turks took to the streets denouncing the government’s increasingly autocratic leadership in May and June 2013. The protests were sparked by opposition to government plans to uproot trees at Gezi to build a shopping center. Thousands were wounded and at least 12 people died in protests that year.

Istanbul protesters furious over Israel’s Al-Aqsa raid

07 November 2014 Friday

Pro-Palestinian activists chanted slogans and raised flags following Friday prayers in Istanbul as part of nationwide protests over an Israeli security forces raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.

Around 1,000 protesters gathered in the yard of Istanbul’s Fatih Mosque, condemning what they called “Zionist aggression on the holy temple.”

Israeli security forces had raided the Jerusalem mosque and fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets Wednesday following clashes with Palestinian protesters. The mosque is located on a site holy to both Jews and Muslims in the divided city.

Addressing the crowd, Turkish newspaper columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak described the Israeli forces’ actions as “violent, crazy and hazardous.”

Tension was already high in East Jerusalem due to the closure of the Al-Aqsa compound to Palestinians after an extremist rabbi, who had called for the compound to be liberated from “Islamic occupation,” was shot and wounded.

Palestinians were further outraged as Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian man who was claimed to have been been a suspect in the shooting.

Wednesday’s raid was first since 1967, when the Israeli army occupied the city.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the incursion as “barbaric.”

For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world’s third holiest site. Jews refer to the area as the ‘Temple Mount,’ claiming it was the site of two Jewish temples in ancient times.

Demonstrations against the incursion also took place in many other Turkish provinces led by NGOs and activist groups in solidarity with Palestine.

Source: World Bulletin.


Headscarf protests resume in Turkey

Pinar Tremblay

September 16, 2014

On Sept. 7, a group of conservative women and men brought together by a nongovernmental organization called Ozgur-Der (Freedom Association) held a protest at Sarachane Park in Istanbul. Some of the protesters were as young as 13 and almost all women wore headscarves. Their quest: freedom to wear the headscarf at any school level. Their slogans read: “New Turkey with old and constraining laws,” “Why can’t I attend whichever school I prefer?” “Children are ours, not the state’s” and “Right to wear a headscarf now and everywhere.”

The headscarf has been a sore, highly politicized subject in Turkish politics for the last two decades. Hijabis — the women who prefer to wear the headscarf — suffered years of discrimination in higher education and government employment. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has campaigned intensively since its establishment in 2001 against any ban that would limit Islamic freedoms, and the hijab was at the top of the list. In October 2013, a new law allowed women to wear the headscarf anywhere, except for certain professions with a uniform, such as police officers, soldiers or judges. It was a major accomplishment for hijabis. For the rest of the country, it was assumed that the headscarf would no longer divide the Turkish electorate.

Before the headscarf freedom law, in November 2012, another regulation allowed public school students some freedom of dress. Previously, all students from the first through the 12th grade had to wear a uniform; the November 2012 regulation eliminated this requirement for all public schools. In terms of allowing head coverings, the regulation was less far-reaching, suggesting that girls be allowed to cover their heads only at religious Imam Hatip high schools and during elective Quran classes. This angered many conservatives who felt the regulation did not go far enough in allowing the use of the headscarf. Ozgur-Der’s statement, read by its director Ridvan Kaya, was particularly harsh. Kaya said, “We warn the AKP and the Ministry of Education not to take steps against our beliefs and identity, including bans and coercive regulations in the name of expanding freedoms in this or that area. Our beliefs and identity are non-negotiable. Freedom of religion is a bleeding wound of this country.”

Kaya made a crucial point: “Partial solutions will not resolve issues related to freedom.”

Public schools are allowed to determine their own appropriate dress codes. Most parents at the protest complained that their daughters are told to go to Imam Hatip schools if they prefer to wear the headscarf. The students are left at the mercy of the school administrators. If the administrator chooses not to protest, the girls can cover their heads. If the administrator enforces a strict “no hijab” policy, the girls either have to find a new school or remove their headscarf. This ambiguity leads to further victimization on both sides. In some cases, administrators who enforce these ambiguous rules are punished as well. For example, in March 2011, three administrators had asked a student to remove her headscarf to take the university entrance exam. The girl removed her headscarf but later sued the administrators, and the courts decided the administrators had abused their power. The sentence was five months’ jail time.

Can a secular country allow public school students to wear religious symbols and observe their religious values? In France, headscarves have been banned in public schools since 2004. Can the Turkish Ministry of Education exempt a Jewish student from attending class during the Yom Kippur holiday? Can students be allowed to wear a cross, Star of David, takke or kippah? Observant Muslims believe a girl reaching puberty must wear the hijab.

Seyma, a 15-year-old tenth-grader, told Al-Monitor, “I attend a private school. My mother is a hijabi but not my older sister. Once the hijab was legal and some of our teachers wore it, I wanted to wear it. I wear a hijab in the colors of my school uniform. In my school the policy against hijab is ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’” Seyma’s mother, Ayse Akturk, told Al-Monitor, “After Seyma wore the headscarf, everyone thought I forced her. I had not forced her older sister. Why would I force Seyma? There is no coercion in Islam. We are respectful of personal differences.”

Both Seyma and her mother are well aware that the situation is difficult. Seyma’s older sister, Sena, told Al-Monitor, “I went to a public high school. There were only a few hijabis. They would have to remove their headscarf before entering the school. Even after October 2013, when the bans were lifted for teachers, students were told they could not attend the classes with a headscarf.”

Allowing minors to wear hijab is a tricky issue, and the government has chosen a gradual approach in which the public will be eased into having hijabis in elementary and high schools. Secular parties choose to ignore the issue, because it’s a lose-lose situation for them. If they oppose the right of minors to wear the headscarf, they will be labeled as the enemy of Islam and against personal freedoms. In 2010, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party, said, “The headscarf may not be allowed for elementary or high school students. There are certain dress codes we all have to obey, just like a parliamentarian cannot attend a session in the parliament without a tie. We all must abide.” His words were used in conservative neighborhoods during political campaigns since 2010 to convince these voters that if it were not for the AKP, hijabis would not be welcome in public life.

However, if secular parties support the hijab for minors, they will alienate their own base. There is strong fear that minors from secular families — being more susceptible to school or peer pressure — will be coerced or convinced to wear the hijab. After all, conservative Muslim demands do not end there. There have already been requests for gender segregation for classes, complaints about girls and boys using the same stairs and cafeterias from the conservative sectors of society. On Sept. 15, Education Minister Nabi Avci made headlines with his attempt to clarify the confusion of whether Islamic worship is now a requirement in schools. Naci said, “Not all schools are required to have worship areas, just the ones that have a demand for a worship area are allowed to have it.”

The issue of the hijab for minors may not be present in the daily rhetoric of any political party. But the public debate is intense and continuous. One can find hundreds of comments on online public forums and over social media. Conservative media outlets frequently report about young victims of discrimination over the hijab, keeping the issue alive for these communities. These outlets complain that pro-AKP newspapers deliberately choose to ignore the suffering of these young girls.

Ambiguous democratization packages — the AKP’s most prized accomplishments — are indeed causing suffering for both the Islamic and the secular segments of society. The AKP has failed to guarantee freedom for everyone, handing out rights as rewards to certain sectors of society. The Turkish public is now brought to a juncture where it will decide if religious rights are more important than other human rights, and if so, which religion’s rights are the most important. While an Alevi 15-year-old is coerced into attending religion classes, her Sunni classmate is forced to remove her headscarf. Who benefits from their suffering?

Source: al-Monitor.


Turkish police break up violent Internet protest

January 18, 2014

ISTANBUL (AP) — Riot police on Saturday fired plastic bullets, tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of people in Istanbul protesting a government plan to expand controls over the public’s use of the Internet.

Police took action after some protesters hurled firebombs at officers. Plainclothes police were seen arresting some demonstrators and escorting them to police vehicles. There weren’t any immediate reports of injuries.

Police broke up groups of protesters who gathered at the city’s main hub, Taksim, and along a main street to denounce the draft bill that would allow Turkey’s telecommunications authority to block websites or remove content accused of privacy violations without a court decision, and force service providers to keep Internet users’ data for two years.

Critics say that would expand the government’s already tight grip on the Internet. The government rejects accusations of censorship, saying the move aims to protect privacy. The measure comes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is fighting a corruption probe targeting people close to him — the worst crisis it has faced during its 11 years in power. Erdogan says the probe is a conspiracy orchestrated by followers of an Islamic movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to discredit the government ahead of local elections in March.

The new Internet controls come as alleged police documents and photographs linked to the corruption probe have been leaked through the Internet. During Saturday’s protest, demonstrators shouted slogans calling on the government to resign over the scandal and held up signs that read: “Don’t touch my Internet.”

Hundreds of people held a similar protest in the capital, Ankara. No violence was reported. The European Court of Human Rights has said that Turkey’s existing Internet regulations were against freedom of expression. Around 40,000 websites — many of them pornographic sites — are blocked in Turkey, according to Engelli Web, a site which monitors banned websites.

Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara.

Turkish protests take on a more sectarian air

September 13, 2013

ISTANBUL (AP) — When demonstrators rocked Turkey in June, their message was clear: an increasingly authoritarian government needed to learn to listen to dissenters and compromise. But a new round of protests set off by the death of a man in a tense border region with Syria appears more complex, sectarian and volatile.

The latest street unrest shows the grievances that prompted tens of thousands to protest Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in June have not faded. And his government has been hurt by those protests — for instance, losing the chance last week to host the 2020 Summer Olympics partly due to Turkey’s damaged international image.

But this round of demonstrations was sparked far from Istanbul and in a very different way — the death of 22-year-old Ahmet Atakan, killed under disputed circumstances during a protest Sunday in the southern city of Antakya.

Thousands of protesters in Istanbul, Ankara and Antakya, many chanting Atakan’s name, have clashed with police every night since then. Young, liberal protesters, the focus of the June demonstrations, have joined, but the epicenter of this week’s protests has shifted to Antakya and has been swelled by grievances of minority groups.

The galvanizing factors seem to be anger at Erdogan and a call for greater civil liberties. “The government has sought to divide us, but has succeeded in bringing a lot of different people to the same cause,” says Oyku Akman, 21, a student at the Middle East Technical University, who has participated in both rounds of demonstrations.

The June protests were larger, but she said the latest demonstrations have taken on a harder edge, as protesters have been launching fireworks and throwing projectiles to provoke police tear gas and water cannon. They are also increasingly using burning barricades.

Atakan, the face of the protests, came from a family of Alevis, a Shiite sect that comprises Turkey’s largest religious minority in the mostly Sunni country. Shunned as heretics by many Turks, Alevis have long-standing grievances about discrimination and religious freedom. To complicate matters, they are close to Syrian Alawites, and tend to back the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, an Alawite. A big part of their current grievances is Erdogan’s strong stance against Assad.

In an interview with The Associated Press this week, Zafer Atakan outlined his brother Ahmet’s grievances, blaming Erdogan’s AKP party for egging on outside powers to intervene in Syria. “Ahmet’s aim was to stop AKP’s fascism and the imperialist interventions all over the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, the armed wing of the Kurdish PKK rebels, noting Atakan’s death, has called for followers to join the demonstrations this week. The call comes as the group is suspending a pullout from Turkey as part of talks with the Turkish government about ending a nearly three-decade conflict that has cost thousands of lives. The government says it is preparing a package of democratic reforms to meet some of the Kurdish demands.

Protesters say the police have continued the aggressive tactics that turned a local Istanbul protest in late May against the government’s plan to demolish a city park into a national expression of dissent.

But the government has changed one tactic: Instead of having Erdogan intervene directly with blunt comments praising the police and deriding protesters, so far he has remained silent on the latest protests, which have also received relatively little attention in the Turkish press.

Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish daily Millyet, says she expects the protests to continue. “The current situation is not sustainable,” she says. “Turkey is either going to get more democratic or more authoritarian.”

Mehmet Guzel contributed to this report from Antakya, Turkey.

Amid protests in Turkey, an opportunity for Erdogan

25 June 2013

by S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

Washington, DC – What started as a small environmental protest at Gezi Park in Istanbul quickly escalated into nationwide anti-government demonstrations that pulled together artists, feminists, soccer clubs, Kemalist-secularists and Kurds after riot police cracked down on the protesters. Undeterred by the harsh response of the government, demonstrators resorted to non-violent civil disobedience using humor, music and art to protest the government.

Turkey, a secular and democratic state currently led by an Islamist party, has been applauded as a model for Muslim-majority countries especially since the Arab Spring uprisings. If the Turkish government passes this critical test, Turkey will emerge a stronger democracy and continue to be an inspiration in the region. The Turkish government therefore has an opportunity to set a critical example.

As events in Turkey affirm, repression tactics such as threats, arrests, the deployment of riot police, use of gas bombs, rubber bullets and water cannons are combative tactics that escalate conflict rather than subdue protesters. This escalation is marked by an increase in the number of groups and individuals pulled into the conflict and the formation of new alliances among them.

These alliances include groups and individuals with different interests, goals and motivations that might even appear contradictory. Nationalists, for example, are critical of government’s engagement with Kurdish groups while they are united with Kurds against police brutality.

For their part, many young people fear growing government intervention in their lives, while Kemalist-secularists worry about religion’s role in state affairs. In response, supporters of Prime Minister Erdogan organized demonstrations to show solidarity with the government, criticizing the protesters for undermining economic stability and security in the process.

Fears, grievances and perceptions of injustice are linked to motivations and ultimately become integral to a group’s identity. Compromise is perceived as a threat to identity and becomes unacceptable. For example, Kemalist-secular groups see alcohol regulations as an indicator that the government wants to impose religious conduct on the country and thus as a threat to its secular identity. Parties become increasingly polarized into camps such as pro-government and anti-government ones, sharply delineating differences. Such dynamics increase the risk of further conflict.

Decreasing tensions and moving toward reconciliation after such events involve a process that takes time, patience and careful planning. In this process, a state’s response to protesters plays a particularly important role because of the asymmetric power dynamics. An important aspect of this process is rebuilding trust between the parties and transforming hostile relations into cooperative ones.

The first step in this process involves avoiding the disproportionate use of force. A close second requires separating nonviolent protesters from violent groups and providing immunity to the former.

Equally important for rebuilding trust and stabilizing the situation is the transformation of negative perceptions and attitudes, such as ones that regard the government as despotic or protesters as vandals. It is necessary to control rumors and false information, like when protesters who took shelter in a mosque were said to have consumed alcoholic beverages while there, or that the deputy minister had resigned. This can be achieved by creating rumor control mechanisms like setting up independent sources to verify or debunk rumors.

Avoiding hostile or provocative statements and adopting language that reflects respect and understanding, while emphasizing common identities like the national identity, or shared goals and concerns such as economic stability, regional security and respect for personal freedoms, can help transform negative attitudes.

Establishing direct communication and dialogue mechanisms, such as forming a dialogue committee, is another important strategy to defuse the tension. However this can be challenging, especially in mass protests where various groups with different interests, motivations and goals commingle. Some groups may disagree or refuse to participate in the dialogue process. Thus it is important for the state to reach out to different groups separately and listen to their needs and concerns respectfully and empathetically. During these discussions, recognizing the legitimacy of grievances, understanding the underlying interests and needs as well as developing mutually acceptable solutions are important.

Recognizing mistakes, demonstrating a willingness to work with the protesters to correct such mistakes and jointly developing a road map for implementation within a given timetable can also defuse tensions and help restore trust.

The Gezi Park events will continue to test Turkish democracy in the coming weeks. Restoring peace and trust will take time and patience. Critical in the process will be the Turkish government’s willingness to listen to the protesters’ concerns and needs, its readiness to work with them to find mutually acceptable solutions to their concerns and its commitment to uphold democratic values and human rights such as the right to peaceful protest, freedom of expression and assembly.

Source: Common Ground.


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