What’s happening in Istanbul? A letter from Turkey

Sumandef Hakkinda writes on what's behind the movement - and how Turkish media are refusing to report it
2 June 2013

To my friends who live outside of Turkey: I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because most of the media sources are shut down by the government and word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Four days ago a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines. No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media blackout. But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile the local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim Square, where Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked. Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park: The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the tanks and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in the Intensive Care Unit and in a very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.

No hidden agenda

These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no 'hidden agenda', as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.

On top of all that, the government’s control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda, passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the colour of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.

People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the state. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in. What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.

Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. A couple of thousand more passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.

No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and 'the strangest cat in the world'.

Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.

Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3G networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless networks for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.

People in Ankara and Izmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul. Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and 'the strangest cat in the world'.


I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.

As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question: 'What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?' This blog is my answer to her.

By so called 'complaining' about my country I am hoping to gain:

Freedom of expression and speech,

Respect for human rights,

Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,

The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.

But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!

Please spread the word and share this blog. Thank you!

This blog post is republished from defnesumanblogs.com. For further info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help.


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Daniel 2 June 2013, 14.04

Good luck to the people of Turkey. This is something that is going to happen very soon in England. I can feel it.

Peace and love.xxx

Ghavam 2 June 2013, 18.02

Dear Sumandef Hakkinda, Thanks for this useful report of the actual reality in Turkey.
I hope this logical movement against the Islamic rules is not going to stop. specially because of the Islamic oppression which can transform your country to a prison like the Islamic dictatorship of Iran.
long live freedom of opinion

Intruder 2 June 2013, 19.57

Fighting with your own corrupt and arrogant government…
We did it in 2012 and we won ! The new government learned th lesson, no more arrogance and much less corruption… They must realize they are just our employees, they are paid from our money to serve us ! If they will forget this we will shut them down again.

Good luck and courage, Turkey, you have Romania’s respect !
May Allah be with the ones who lost their lives…

Iain 2 June 2013, 21.26

Stay safe, and keep informing the world of what is happening.

iggy 2 June 2013, 22.20

i hope your friend recovers soon, stay safe and keep the info comming, unfortunatly this is happening all over the world, all the govorments are intresting in is making more money and distroying nature, take care and good luck…..

Martes 3 June 2013, 05.33

It is very sad to watch all this violence in your country , you have the right to stand up for what you believe is destroying your freedom as a Human Being. You have our support here in Malta and hope that more people stand up for their rights , to live in a Peaceful world and stop selling our planet for profit to the Corporations whose only interest is Money .

Take care and hope that the wishes of your people will be heard . Your country is known for not having any Human Rights , I hope that your people can change that .

Peace and Love to you all .

Saliath 3 June 2013, 10.10

Good luck neighbours. May our thoughts and our solidarity accompany you to your noble struggle for a better world. The only battle lost is the one that was never given. The hearts of your ”western enemies” in Greece are beating with yours as one.

Bron 3 June 2013, 14.27

Aferin size ve iyi şanslar. From a long-time lover of Turkey, currently in the UK. London is with you.

Mary 3 June 2013, 15.04

Good Report. I want you to know that even in our small town where we live in the United States our newspaper had good information about the protest. The television news also reported it. The world is watching and we support you!
As we say in the United States–Let Freedom Ring!! All the best and I hope your friend will recover. Mary

Laura 3 June 2013, 17.08

Thanks for being so brave and posting against the
Censorship in Turkey. I’m working in Ethiopia but
following the events very closely. Istanbul is like my second
City, and I am with you all the way guys. Keep
strong, resolute, calm and focussed. Most of all know
that many of us are with you.

Karen 3 June 2013, 19.16

Supporting you in your cause and best of luck. When there is no freedom of speech or of expression there is no freedom at all and we are also on our way there. Strongs from South Africa.

Stephen 4 June 2013, 09.25

This blog will make a difference, thanks for sharing

iguu 4 June 2013, 22.22

A similar problem happens at the other side of the earth. It is a grove in kodaira, Tokyo JAPAN.

Tokyo metropolitan has been planning to build a new bypass where is a grove which kodaira people loves and enjoy and also where is a historic water works streams which endengered aminals lives.

Last month, there was kodaira city’s local referendum asking to involve residents idea to that bypass plan or continue as it was This is not simple yes/no voting to make a proper consideration process instead of quick no consideration answer, I think.

kodaira mayor set a bar at 50% of voting count to open a box. if voting rate is less than 50%, maor does not open a ballot box. the voting rate was 35.17% and a ballot box was not opened. most of voting campaigns was done by citizen. I never heard city did some information sesion nor discussion meeting about this vote.

There will be a tree-survey walking tour at 9th June 2013. People is working to protect our values.

donguri no kai

VOX POPULI: Kodaira to test new style of democracy

Almost same size!

taksim gezi park
kodaira central park

IvokainKrieg 10 June 2013, 10.34

This could be the century of fairly unbloody revolutions.
Still they cost full heart engagement.
With accessible informations about the history of bloody stalemate of older revolutions by both sides, we can stop and learn what went wrong.
Protesters can learn to acknowledge the inalienable human rights of the oppressors.
And the Opressores can learn that stopping an idea which time has come serves nobody.
In this light, study, discuss and plan.

Robyn 14 June 2013, 14.56

I read your post; well done! Good luck to you guys! I agree with “intruder” who wrote of the government, ” They must realize they are just our employees, they are paid from our money to serve us”

Steven Richardson 16 June 2013, 13.43

Sometimes the only way to get freedom is to fight for it not through violence or war but coming together and protesting in millions is what you need to do.
stick together

unknown 19 June 2013, 12.49

Fight for your rights.
It is terrible what the police is doing to people , specially that I thought for once that turkey’s policies were lots more respecting than any gov.

But one thing I’ve heard and still have doubts about , I’ve heard that Erdogan was about to renew Othmanian traces and folks refused claiming that Turkey is secular and he has no right to renew Islamic historical traces.. or I don’t know. Can someone please explain to me this.. ? besides the pictures in the internet of people from Turkey within this maze and choas ssaying and writing that ,Don’t mix religion and policy.. ??

So indeed it has something to do with Ideologies.. not in Istanbul what somewhere in Turkey…

Correct me please ,I need to know.

Comments are now closed on this article.

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