Monday, June 17, 2013

the sting in the air

We left home on Sunday afternoon to deliver supplies to a friend, and were chased out of one of  Istiklal Caddesi's side streets by some police and a cloud of advancing gas. Nevertheless, we pushed on, finding another route. We moved through a crowded passage toward the bottom half of Istiklal to find ourselves on the street between a line of riot police and an advancing group of about a thousand protesters (this is a very rough estimation). We quickly retreated to the entrance of the passage, where a man was tugging on its metal gate and calling people to run inside, so he could safely close us in. A TOMA sped from around the corner near Galatasaray High School in the direction of the protesters, then stopped short in front of them. A small battalion of police followed, then the spraying began. I struggled to squeeze between the group of people who had gathered behind the gate, so I could take a picture. Suddenly, there was a series of loud bangs— the sound bombs, I believe— then, gas.

We exited through the opposite end of the passage, and made our way back to Tarlabaşı Boulevard, where I saw two police pulling a woman about my age towards the police station. They tore a surgical mask off her face, and the construction helmet she was wearing, off her head. A cloud of gas hung above the top of the Boulevard, near Taksim. Suddenly, a TOMA, in an attempt to manoeuvre a U-turn (I think), pointed its water cannon in our direction, which sent us and a group of bystanders into the crumbling back streets of Tarlabaşı. A resident prostitute yelled after us, warning us about a dead end, and pointed out a better path. Though I don't think the water cannon was going to shoot at us for just being present on the side of the street, I have no more faith in the decision making abilities of the police.

We weaved through the labyrinthine streets and the Sunday market, eventually making it home safely. Soon afterwards, the streets became a war zone once again, with bands of police and government supporters armed with sticks, and allegedly knives too, vowing to attack protesters. I don't know what to think anymore. It was scary with just the police lurking around, but now with these radical AKP supporters shouting things about breaking the hands of protesters, I am having trouble sleeping at night. This violence... Nothing good can come of it.

Gezi Park is now completely occupied by police. I don't know how many people have been arrested, including doctors, lawyers, journalists. There are alarming figures on the internet about the injuries sustained by protesters— eyes lost, burns, lacerations, brain damage— but the reports are conflicting. I believe the actual number is outrageously and unacceptably high.

The air so often stings.


Anonymous said...

..more world voices speaking up..

Sabine said...

Our local paper reports today of allegations that the police has mixed pepperspray in with the water of the water canons. At the same time I watch Erdogan supporters in big crowds, seemingly all men.
This is a nasty situation. Stay safe.

szaza said...

It's good to hear, Sheryl— people need to know.

Yes Sabine, it has been confirmed that the water in the water cannons is mixed with pepper spray. Many of the photos show water that is yellow or orange, and many people have been burned by it. There are many female supporters of the PM too, but the ones with sticks are all men.

Bora said...

"IT WAS the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." Charles Dickens

Anonymous said...

Hi Samantha, greetings and encouragements from the Basque Country!

Basque sketcher

szaza said...

Thank you, Bora— it really is an interesting time, isn't it?

Thank you, Basque Sketcher!