Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Extreme police brutality in Turkey

Turkish protests erupted on June 1st after riot cops using tear gas & excessive force  attacked a small group of environmentalists holding a sit-in at Gezi Park against a development project that would turn the public green space into a shopping mall. Extreme police violence using tear gas & water cannons is now international standard police procedure against peaceful, unarmed protestors, including small children & seniors. But the Turkish government, which has a long history of police brutality, has distinguished itself by using tear gas & water cannons in particularly brutal ways--rivaling its profligate use by riot cops in Bahrain. Before a major assault on protestors on June 15-16, police were witnessed adding pepper spray to water cannons & the Istanbul Doctors Association report a high number of first & second-degree burn injuries from an unidentified substance mixed in water cannons. Amnesty International (AI) said water cannons targeted peaceful protestors (including a man in a wheelchair) but "the inappropriate use of tear gas by police has been the most devastating on the safety of demonstrators.” (Perhaps AI could define for us the appropriate use of tear gas against peaceful, unarmed protestors.)

According to Amnesty International, police had already set off 150,000 tear gas canisters & 3,000 tons of water against protestors in the first two weeks. The Turkish Doctors’ Association reported that in the same period over 11,000 people had been treated for tear gas exposure & nearly 800 for injuries from tear gas cartridges, including   head & brain traumas & loss of eyes. The high incidence of head injuries is because cops are directing tear gas canisters at head height specifically to cause those kind of injuries.

Police are now prowling the streets at night in league with right-wing nationalists breaking ground level windows & lobbing tear gas canisters into people’s homes; they pursue protestors taking refuge in businesses, hotel lobbies, & even field hospitals set up by volunteer medical personnel to inundate the sites with tear gas. Medical personnel have been beaten & arrested, as in Bahrain.

The reason we aren’t reading much about this in the media is because photojournalists are being targeted. The NY Times reported on June 16th that a foreign photojournalist documenting police assaults on protestors had his gas mask torn off by a cop & was forced to clear his memory card of photos.

The Erdogan regime also distinguished itself in inflammatory accusations against protestors. According to Erdogan, the protestors are looters & bums, extremist fringe groups, & internal traitors working hand-in-hand with terrorists & foreign collaborators. Adding farce to brutality, he now has his National Intelligence Organization investigating which foreign elements are involved.

According to several media commentators, lower-level regime officials & a deputy prime minister, protests are being orchestrated by foreign agents, Turkish Jewish groups, & the Jewish diaspora (which took place in the 6th century BCE). Turkish Jewish groups issued appropriate strong protests since this could get them targeted by right-wing nationalists. The Jewish diaspora aren’t alive to register their objections.

Many governments presently engaged in murderous assaults on their own citizens & in other countries (the US, UN, UK, Syria, Spain, Malaysia, Iran, France) had the shameless temerity to chide the Erdogan regime for committing the same crimes. Apparently Israel has enough good sense left to keep its trap shut.

This photo called the “woman in red” has become iconic of the protests. She stood her ground against a riot cop directly firing tear gas at her. You can see she is completely unarmed but defiant as hell. The Reuters photographer, Osman Orsal, was hospitalized after being struck in the head by a tear gas canister.

Gezi Park was reopened today for only a few hours; when cops saw protestors marching peacefully to rally there, they again went after them with water cannons, tear gas, & rubber bullets.

The movement that is developing is impressive in its organization & its politics & full of the most boisterous mockery & wit directed at the government. An example is their taunt, "You’re messing with the generation that beats cops in GTA.” (A reference to Grand Theft Auto)

Our fullest solidarity with our Turkish brothers & sisters. No US aid to Turkey!

(Photo by Osman Orsal/Reuters)

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