Follow the Turkish protests on Twitter

by Ingrid Robeyns on June 15, 2013

I know philosophers who are skeptical about the value of Twitter—they think it’s merely a time sink, or they make even more ridiculous claims, such as that it is undermining genuine social relations and friendships. Oh Boy. Right now it is an amazing source of information on what is really going on in Turkey – and that doesn’t really look good when I am typing these words. The police is very violently cleaning Gezi park where citizens of all ages have been peacefully protesting. According to various Twitter sources the police is also attacking the hotels in the area which have taken in wounded people. TV coverage (at least in my country) is short and rather superficial—but luckily there is the internet with blogs, online newspapers, citizens’ radios, and twitter. The quickest source of information on what’s going on are live stream coverages like Gezi Radyo and Twitter, where also many pictures can be found. If you want an easy entry point into the tweeps to follow, start with Dani Rodrik and follow those whose tweets he forwards, like Zeynep Tufekci.

Consider this an invitation to post links to more direct sources of information, and also as an ‘open thread’ to discuss what’s happening right now in Turkey.

{ 28 comments }

1

Rakesh 06.15.13 at 9:05 pm

Cihan Tugal, Prof of Sociology, UC Berkeley

2

ogmb 06.15.13 at 9:19 pm

Occupygezipics collects the images available online and has been an invaluable source for since most of the tweets I get from Turkish friends are in Turkish.
http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/

3

P O'Neill 06.15.13 at 9:23 pm

One thing needing to come out of this is more scrutiny of supposed non-lethal crowd control equipment being exported from EU countries to Turkey with less scrutiny than weapons. When they’re using rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon (plus associated trucks) at close range, systematically, they’re lethal weapons.

4

Ingrid Robeyns 06.15.13 at 9:32 pm

#3 – yes, you’re right; and according to some Twitter sources the water in the cannon is mixed with chemicals… (some of the pictures in the link ogmb posted seem to confirm this)….

5

Cheryl Rofer 06.15.13 at 9:44 pm

@aaronstein1

Aaron Stein is a doctoral candidate at Kings College, lives near where some of the protests are taking place.

6

shah8 06.15.13 at 10:14 pm

Brazil protests merit some scrutiny as well.

I do believe that neoliberal ideology is beginning to reach the sell-by date, in terms of broad social peace, rather than just disgruntled intellectuals muttering imprecations. Global politics, with floating globalist elites, is getting reigned in by national and local priorities–like mines in Greece, unsafe and inefficient public transport all over Latin America, pollution in China, deflation in Japan…

The general police aren’t able to do this everywhere, for very long. You need private thugs like Pinkertons of old, or military units. The kind of issue in Turkey, where the military is kind of the quiet enemy is a unique aspect of Erdogan’s struggles… Even if the square is cleaned out, I don’t think this is over. Erdogan really needed to do a “my bad” and let go of it, but that doesn’t really sound like it’s gonna happen. And Istanbul is not Manama, and Gezi is not the Pearl Roundabout. Erdogan doesn’t have the ability to construct anything like the open prison of Shi’ites in Bahrain or Palestinians in Gaza.

7

Clay Shirky 06.15.13 at 11:54 pm

Engin Ayaz (one of my former students) is there now: https://www.facebook.com/enginayaz1

He’s also put up a remarkable collection of images from the occupation: http://www.capturingoccupygezi.com/

8

Clay Shirky 06.16.13 at 12:04 am

Oh, and @shah8 is right, the Brazil eruption is amazing: http://www.policymic.com/articles/48717/13-shocking-photos-of-brazilian-military-police-brutalizing-protesters-in-s-o-paulo

And it just occurred to me to give “20 Reasons It’s Kicking Off Everywhere” another read, written even before Mubarak fled, much less the Chilean student protests, Port of Shanghai, 15-M, Occupy, or #DirenGezi: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html

9

Peter Murphy 06.16.13 at 7:06 am

A policeman’s life is not a happy one, but nowhere are the cops as miserable as Istanbul. This is from a week ago.
Six Turkish policemen commit suicide during Gezi protests, union head says

Policemen who have been drafted in from other cities have been sleeping on benches, shields or cardboard due to a lack of accommodation provided to them by state authorities, Sezer added.

“The violence you see at the end is the reflection of the violence suffered by the policemen. They are not just subjected to violence by protesters, but by 120-hour consecutive working periods, stale bread and food. The police are already subjected to violence within the establishment,” Sezer said.

Sleep deprivation could make one crack. But perhaps the police are suffering both a moral crisis and a crisis in morale. Many join to serve the public trust, others join for a steady paycheck (with possible ‘extras’ from community), but few join to club mothers and send tear gas into hospitals.

It’s rare to hear of cops topping themselves during protests. Generally the state outlasts the occupations and rallies, but what if the Force cracks instead?

10

john c. halasz 06.16.13 at 7:21 am

Well, it’s a bit old or out-of-date, but, at least in memoriam, I think this twitter photo is iconic:

https://twitter.com/DarthNader/status/341325538713018368/photo/1

11

praisegod barebones 06.16.13 at 9:19 am

As someone who lives in Turkey, I’m very pleased to see a post about recent events there.

One of the stories of the past two weeks has been about how poor Turkish media coverage has been. (I guess that by this point everyone has heard the story about CNNTurk playing documentaries about penguins while massive demonstrations were going on; but I don’t know how widely it has been reported that a bunch of TV stations which were covering the demonstrations were fined for ‘harming the young’.)

It’s worth mentioning, just as evidence of how tightly the government has been trying to control the flow of information that the Prime Minister has blamed social media (especially Twitter) – along with ‘the interest rate lobby’, the CIA, left-wing terrorists, and pretty much everything but police violence – for provoking and exacerbating the demonstrations. People who have posted information on Twitter about what is going on are taking a non-trivial risk in doing so.

I’ve found the coverage of some of these stories in anglophone media rather disappointing – especially in view of the amount of verifiable information to be found on Facebook and Twitter. I notice that a lot of stories are framed in terms of ‘demonstrations turning violent’ – with the implication that the police’s use of tear-gas and plastic bullets is somehow necessary – if somewhat heavy-handed as a way of keeping the peace. While that might conceivably be the case in some places (there are demonstrations in many places that aren’t getting much media coverage,) there seem to be plenty of eye-witness accounts which suggest that doesn’t seem to be quite what is going on in the centers of Ankara and Istanbul.

12

Stacy Stein 06.16.13 at 3:55 pm

Turkish police attacking hotels that have taken in wounded protestors? Sure glad that could never happen in. . . Oops! Remember Chicago 1968.

13

ogmb 06.16.13 at 4:42 pm

Multilingual news feed: http://gezipark.nadir.org/
Also on Twitter: https://twitter.com/geziparkNadirEN

14

praisegod barebones 06.16.13 at 6:21 pm

15

praisegod barebones 06.16.13 at 6:52 pm

One good person to follow is Ilhan Tanir (@Washington Point).

16

ogmb 06.16.13 at 8:40 pm

Hurriyet Daily News, a bit to my surprise, has been a very good source from the beginning.

17

Ingrid Robeyns 06.16.13 at 9:11 pm

thanks, praisegod barebones and ogmb, I followed your suggestions @ #15 and 16 and these are very informative indeed.

There’s always the question what one can do if one sees such human rights violations (or whichever way one wants to frame them – e.g. violations of democratic rights), in case one is not based in the country where it happens or has local networks. I guess spreading information and debating what is going on is important – as an acknowledgement of the brave citizens that they their actions and rights-violations are watched elsewhere, and as it may add pressure to the Turkish government to stop the brutalities. Perhaps…

18

John Quiggin 06.17.13 at 3:47 am

One thing that fascinates me is the absence of any mention of the army or the old Kemalist establishment in general. I would have expected at least some of them to be talking about action to remove Erdogan.

It’s a sign of progress, I think, that this isn’t happening, and that the resistance to Erdogan seems to be coming from civil society in general. Hopefully, this will mark the emergence of a genuinely liberal and progressive opposition to Erdogan and the Islamists.

As usual, I know very little about what is actually happening and would be keen to get more info.

19

praisegod barebones 06.17.13 at 6:32 am

John Quiggin: I think you’re right, I think it’s important, and I think it’s a good thing.

As I understand it, many of the people involved in the Gezi Park part of the protests are extremely critical of Kemalism (and to the extent they are motivated by environmental concerns, they probably should be.) I’ve had at least one discussion where people strongly committed to the Gezi Park protests were extremely critical of the ‘pot-banging’ protests (people banging pots and pans at home on the evening) because he regarded it as a piece of highly Kemalist symbolism. I also think there is a very important commitment, on the part of a lot of protesters, to non-violence, and I speculate that this is partly because of the bad legacy of military interventions in politics. (But on the other hand, it’s worth noticing that many in the CHP – have been supportive of the protests, albeit in a low-key way.) I’m very disappointed that the international coverage hasn’t
picked up on this aspect of what’s been going on.

But I think it’s also just as important to notice that in his recent speeches (like the two made to huge audiences in Ankara and Istanbul this weekend), Erdogan has been trying to construct a narrative in which these protests are simply a continuation of the tradition military interventions of 1961 and 1997. I think there are a lot of people who will be prepared to accept that interpretation of events, both in Turkey and abroad. I think that that’s an analysis which should come under a lot of scrutiny, but I suspect it won’t do.

(Incidentally, if anyone what’s to know what Erdogan said in his big rally yesterday I believe Ilhan Tanir live-tweeted a large part of it in English)

20

praisegod barebones 06.17.13 at 11:02 am

My apologies for what may seem like over-posting. I think these two stories from English-language newspapers published in Turkey relate directly to things that Ingrid Robeyns and John Quiggin have been discussing:

The first is about changing the law to enable prosecution of individuals who spread false and provocative information via social media.

http://www.todayszaman.com/news-318471-provocations-on-social-media-to-be-investigated-with-new-law-minister-says.html

The second is about the possibility of the government calling in the Turkish armed forces (TSK) to suppress demonstrations:

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-security-forces-will-use-their-authority-to-end-protests-says-deputy-pm-arinc.aspx?pageID=238&nID=48946&NewsCatID=338

For those who like to know these things:

1.) Today’s Zaman is a news-paper which is typically supportive of the AKP. It’s the English version of a Turkish newspaper, Zaman which is definitely supportive of the AKP. I’m told by people who read both the Turkish and the English version that while Today’s Zaman sometimes publishes articels which can seem quite critical of the government, lots of the articels in the English version don’t appear in the Turkish version. (I would imagine the reverse is true, but I don’t even have second-hand evidence for that)

2.) Hurriyet online is the English version of a paper which is strongly secularist, and frequently contains criticisms of the government. (But, for example, the other day it contained an op-ed by Taha Akyol which could not really be described as critical of the government’s handling of the protests).

21

ogmb 06.17.13 at 10:58 pm

It’s worth following the hashtag #standingman on Twitter now.

22

ogmb 06.17.13 at 11:19 pm

Also, the Turkish version, #duranadam.

23

Ingrid Robeyns 06.18.13 at 7:00 am

praisegod barebones @20: no apologies needed at all – quite to the contrast, it’s great that you’re sharing this with us – thanks!

I’ve seen the pictures of the ‘standing man’ (and later: standing people) – It provoked memories to what happened to those who opposed the dictatorship at the Tienanmen square in 1989…

24

Zamfir 06.18.13 at 7:35 am

I’ve seen the pictures of the ‘standing man’ (and later: standing people) – It provoked memories to what happened to those who opposed the dictatorship at the Tienanmen square in 1989…
Is there really much resemblance between Erdogan and the Chinese government in 1989? I am surprised how easily people draw comparison between the Turkish protests, and protests against undisputed dictatorships. Has Erdogan really gone that far beyond the bend?

25

ingrid robeyns 06.18.13 at 11:31 am

Zamfir, you are asking a valid question – but the violence has been quite brutal, hasn’t it? That was the point of comparison I was thinking off, and especially the visual image of teh single men who was standing on the square yesterday. Amnesty International had a very moving poster on Tienanmen, which showed a huge square, with a single man, halting a line of tanks. That image came to my mind (let’s say: the power of single man) and provoked the comparison with Tienanmen.

Turkey may be a democracy according to the rules that people have voted for Erdogan, but shouldn’t we be allowed to expect more of a democratic regime? I mean: if you add chemicals to the water in the water tanks, if you gas people who try to take refuge in hotels, if you first remove journalists before arresting the demonstrators (which Turkey-commentators take to imply that guns and other illegal material is put into the tents of people who are arrested), if people are detained but no-one knows where, if doctors and lawyers who are offering their help are criminalized — then are we happy calling this a true democracy?

26

praisegod barebones 06.18.13 at 3:09 pm

I’ll just go on the record (insofar as a pseudonymous blog commentator can do any such thing) as saying that I think that although the police violence has been extreme, comparisons with Tiananmen Square – or indeed Tahrir Square are entirely inappropriate. One reason why is that what we are seeing is police action, not military action; plastic bullets, not lead ones and so on.

There’s been some suggestion that the military might be brought in – but it’s noticeable that the idea seems to have been floated by deputy prime minister Bülent Arīnç, rather than by Erdogan, and back-pedaled from pretty rapidly (at least for now). (See link above for the suggestion – I’ve also seen a report today claiming that this was all a ‘misunderstanding’, which I take to be a way of backing away from a suggestion in a context political culture where admitting that you’ve made a mistake is likely to be devastating, but I don’t have a link right now)

That does raise a question of what the right frame for this might be – and that’s a good question. Back in the early days, an English colleague of mine of about my age compared it to the anti-poll-tax riots in the UK in the late 1980′s. I think things have gone beyond that now, but that didn’t seem like an inappropriate comparison 10 days ago. I don’t think it would ever have seemed appropriate for Tiananmen Square.

27

praisegod barebones 06.18.13 at 4:19 pm

Some other people to consider following: Louis Fishman (@istanbultelaviv); Claire Berlinski; Ziya Meral (@Ziya_Meral).

Also, given the characterization of Today’s Zaman which I offered above, and which I still stand by, this article strikes me as astonishing:

http://www.todayszaman.com/columnist-318630-after-the-survey.html

28

ogmb 06.19.13 at 12:03 pm

@praisegod Remarkable survey (and discussion) indeed.

The Tayyip = dictator rhetoric is obviously the kind of hyperbole that pops up during public protests, but the trajectory he is on is nevertheless unsettling. The more obvious comparison is Viktor Orban’s Hungary, where similar attempts to undermine the checks and balances are underway. The recent belligerent rhetoric towards the EU shows that Erdogan doesn’t think he needs the EU anymore — understandable in a way because many Turks think that as part of the Eurozone Turkey might have shared the fate of Greece. This is bitter in two ways, one because a close engagement with the EU in any form provides a set of checks and balances the current political system is lacking, and two, the already bubble-prone Turkish economy might move even closer to the brink. And I don’t even want to envision what happens when the Turkish economy falls off the cliff, if we see such strong discontent even in times of relative prosperity.

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