The peaceful demonstrations since 31 May in Istanbul and other Turkish cities continue to face excessive brutal violence by police forces. Coordinated by the group called “Taksim Solidarity” composed of 117 different constituents, including trade unions, the grass-root actions started with peaceful sit-ins to save the famous Gezi Park from being destroyed and turned into yet another shopping mall or so-called historical Artillery Barracks, or a city museum.
Under rampant pressure from civil society, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with representatives of the platform several times, the last time being on Friday morning, and the spokesperson for the government stated that they would respect the final court decision which already suspended execution of the Municipality’s decision to construct a shopping mall in Gezi Park, and conduct a referendum if the final verdict would say otherwise. Following the meeting with the Prime Minister, Taksim Solidarity called on all constituents to meet at Gezi Park to discuss the meeting and decide on how to move forward. It was finally decided on Saturday, 15 June, that the struggle in the park will continue until the demands are met.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Erdogan gave an ultimatum to the demonstrators to evacuate Gezi Park within 24 hours; otherwise the government would do the necessary. On Saturday night, contrary to early announcements, police forces came to the park, blocking all roads to Taksim Square, and began to attack the crowd with water cannons and tear gas fired by tanks. They charged into the park which was shrouded under white clouds of gas. While the news spread out, people of Istanbul took to the streets, on both the Asian and the European sides of the city, and began to walk towards Taksim, in large groups that blocked highway traffic. Police continued to gas bomb enclosed spaces, such as hotels and field hospitals.
The excessive violence resulted in deaths and injuries of many people. While 55 people have severe injuries, 91 are suffering from head trauma, and there are five people in critical condition in Ankara, Istanbul, and Eskisehir. Fifteen people have lost an eye, and one person had to have a spleen removal. According to the Association of Turkish Doctors, “a total of 7,478 people in 13 provinces have applied to public or private hospitals, medical centers, or makeshift clinics set-up close to conflict areas”.
Also concerning is that thousands of people have been taken into custody, and the whereabouts are unknown for many of demonstrators since police took them without giving any proper information. In all cities millions of people poured into the streets demanding the resignation of the government. The number of people to have joined this mobilization is estimated to be almost 10 million by the press but the figure may be higher. The Government halts any mobilization towards Gezi Park, and is labelling demonstrators as “marginal, illegal groups" and even “terrorists”.
On 16 June, five major trade union centers and professional organizations, DİSK (Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions), KESK (Public Employees Unions’ Confederation), TMMOB (Turkish Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects), TTB (Turkish Association of Doctors) and TDB (Turkish Association of Dentists) decided to go on general strike to protest the government’s repressive attacks on peaceful demonstrations that clearly violate fundamental rights.
IndustriALL Global Union sent a letter of protest to the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and a letter of solidarity to the President of DİSK.
To Prime Minister Erdogan, Raina wrote:
It is with deep outrage that we have followed the violent crack-down by your government on peaceful protestors since 31 May. This brutally authoritarian reaction from your government has been broadcast all over the world and IndustriALL members everywhere are disgusted and increasingly concerned about the safety of their fellow workers in Turkey.
To the DISK General President, Raina wrote:
IndustriALL Global Union continues to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the grass-root mobilizations conducted by widely-attended civic society platform, including trade unions, since late May.