Censorship and Police Brutality Mark Three Weeks of Turkish Protests

This post originally appeared on the author's own blog, Azadolu.

It's been three weeks since massive protests started across Turkey. Since their start on May 31, the country has witnessed media censorship, police brutality, protests by the thousands and the deaths and injury of protestors. Here is the summary of past three weeks:

In the early stages of the demonstrations, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan defined protesters as “Capulcu“, which translates to looters from Turkish. This action backfired when protesters embraced the label. Protesters even made a music video by changing the lyrics of the song “Everyday I am Shuffling” to sound “Everyday I am Capulcuing”:

Media Censorship:

Even though Turkish mainstream media self-censored the protests, social media was active and is still active in covering the protests. CNNTurk, NTV and Haberturk (the main news channels of Turkey) were all involved in self-censorship. After CNNTurk published a documentary about penguins instead of covering the protests, Twitter user emre erdem tweeted [tr] with sarcasm:

@emreerdem Memlekwt yerinden oynuyor CNNTURK'te penguen belgeseli var, medyamizi seveyim…

The whole country is shaking, but there is a documentary about penguins on CNNTurk. Love our media…

The protests against media censorship continued in front of the NTV headquarters, since the station chose to play down the anti-government protests. Its partner company, Garanti Bank, which is a national bank, was targeted by protesters too – many of whom stopped using its services. The bank announced it had lost around 1,500 customers.

And recently, BBC suspended its cooperation with NTV, after the latter refused to air their programme “World Agenda”.

The programme was prepared by Selin Girit, who tweeted:

@selingiritBBC suspends partnership with Turkish news channel @ntv over television censorship on a piece about press freedom. @bbcworld@bbcturkce

Seven Turkish newspaper ran the same headline on the protests. Photograph shared by @ozlemmisler on Twitter

Seven Turkish newspaper ran the same headline on the protests. Photograph shared by @ozlemmisler on Twitter

There were also some interesting coincidences in the Turkish media's coverage of the protests. Seven different newspapers had the same headline on the same day. Twitter user Ozlem Isler shared a photograph of the newspapers:

@ozlemmisler 7 gazete ayni manset! pic.twitter.com/LGN5D9EaGU

Seven newspapers, same headlines! pic.twitter.com/LGN5D9EaGU

The headline reads: “I would give even my life for any democratic demands.”

Police Brutality:

Police brutality was the biggest concern of protesters. A video of policemen detaining a protestor showing on-lookers trying to protect the protestor by throwing whatever they could find on the policemen draws home the sentiment many harbour against police heavy-handedness. Here is the video:

Twitter user Capulcu S A explains the togetherness of the nation against police brutality:

@Sedat2Aral Never been like this… Doctors, Journos, students, artists, actors, business men…all turkey helping each other against Police brutality.

Ethem Sarisuluk's death after being shot by police was certainly the most heartbreaking moment of the protests. The policeman, who killed the protestor, is still missing. Sarisuluk was among four people killed and around 5,000 injured during the protests. The mayor of Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, said on a live TV show [tr] that it wasn't the police who killed him; that it was the other protesters, who killed him by throwing a rock at him. This video, which appeared online following the death, tells a different story. It shows a policeman running away with a gun, after what appears to be shooting a protestor at close range [Warning: graphic]:

You can learn more about police brutality during the protests here.

Social Media: “The Worst Menace to Society”

In return, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vented off his anger at social media and called it “worst menace to society“. Twitter user Pelin explains the reason behind Erdogan's anger by sharing the Bloomberg report about Twitter usage in Turkey during protests:

@BettySpades Data shows why Twitter is a menace to Erdogan. Impact of social media on the gezi protests: #occupygezi#direnankarahttp://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-10/twitter-really-is-a-menace-to-erdogan.html …


Erdogan was also angry at the protesters who took shelter in a mosque during the police attacks. He told media that protesters dishonored the mosque by entering it with their shoes on, and that they drank alcohol in the mosque. This video here shows the opposite of what Tayyip Erdogan said. In the video, protesters are seen taking refuge in the mosque, with doctors treating injured people (Warning: graphic video):

Contradicting Messages:

Huseyin Avni Mutlu, the governor of Istanbul, also gave contradicting messages. On his Twitter account, he wrote there will not be any attacks on Gezi Park, where the protests began, by the police. Just hours later, the police attacked Gezi Park:

@Valimutlu GEZİ PARKI ve TAKSİM’e KESİNLİKLE DOKUNULMAYACAK,SİZLERE ASLA DOKUNULMAYACAKTIR.Bu sabah ve bundan sonra polis kardeşlerinize emanetsiniz.

Gezi Park and Taksim will not be touched, nobody will touch you. You are entrusted to your police brothers since this morning and henceforth.

Twitter user Utangac Adam replied to the governor:

@UtangacAdam Büyüklerimiz “İnsanlığın okulu yok” derdi.Şimdi ne demek istediklerini daha iyi anlıyorum… @Valimutlu

Our elders would always say “There is no school for learning humanity”. Now, I understand them better…

Prime minister Erdogan arranged several rallies for his supporters, including in Ankara and Istanbul. Erdogan threatened the protesters to clear Gezi Park by calling them terrorists. After his statement on clearing the Gezi Park from protesters, Turkish police attacked Gezi Park on June 16, and took control over Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

Passive Resistance: Standing Man Protests

Now the protests have turned into a passive resistance. The Duran Adam (Standing Man) protests started by a performance artist, Erdem Gunduz, who stood at Taksim Square without moving for three hours. Similar protests spread quickly all over the country.  Poet Bejan Matur said on her Twitter account:

@bejanmatur duran adam;tc tarihinin gördüğü en sofistike eylem;.iktidarın asla baş edemeyeceği şahane bir performans.

Standing Man is the most sophisticated protest in the history of Turkish Republic. A great performance that the ruling party cannot deal with, ever.

Turkish people showed their desire for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation over the last three weeks. Even though the policemen were fierce, politicians were angry and the media was silent, they continued on their journey for a better life. Perhaps this video of protesters cheering sarcastically for more teargas to be thrown on them by the police speaks volumes of their ambition for a better country and a better tomorrow:


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