Turkey’s Civil Revolt: Istanbul Rising


MILENE LARSSON: The biggest
civil uprising in the history of the Turkish republic kicked
off in Istanbul at 5:00 AM on Friday May 31. The Turkish media downplayed
the protests as the unrest spread like wildfire across
more than 60 cities. The footage showing police
brutality against protesters shocked viewers around
the world. So far, more than 4,000 people
have been injured and three deaths have been confirmed. It all started when Turkish
riot police fired tear gas pepper spray and water cannons
into a peaceful protest to save Gezi Park, one
of the last green areas in central Istanbul. Instead of dispersing the
protesters, the violent crackdowns resulted in the
social uprising growing in strength and numbers as
discontent with Prime Minister Erdogan’s autocratic
style and Islamic agenda hit boiling point. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: Upon landing
in Istanbul, we jumped in a cab to see what was going
down in Taksim. Traffic was stopped so we were
dropped off in Cihangir, a 10 minute walk away from
Taksim square. The closer we got to the heart
of the turmoil, the more injured and traumatized
people we met. What’s happened? -They are targeting people
with those tear capsules. That’s the problem. -They use them as bullets. -Young people dying, man. They just be politicians. But these people’s our
country’s peoples. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: Lots of
people are coming now from the square. There’s been tear gas
fired all day, water canons, pepper spray. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] [APPLAUSE] -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: There
are helicopters everywhere, police sirens. And despite people running away
from the square, being injured, people seem
to still be going. God, I can smell the
tear gas now. OK, let’s do this. When we finally reached Istiklal
Avenue, just off Taksim Square, tens of thousands
of protesters were trying to break the police
barricades to take back the square. We’re being tear gassed. Everyone’s pushing. We hid upstairs in
a bar for hours. Hide your camera. Don’t use your lights. The chemical fumes were burning
our eyes and lungs. Are we safe here? -Let’s hope. MILENE LARSSON: We had no idea
what was happening outside. We just ran into a bar. There’s tear gas everywhere. We saw lots of people just
passing, falling, crying. The streets are empty now. There were thousands and
thousands of people just a few minutes ago. I can feel that something
really bad is happening. The following day, protesters
were back out on the streets in even stronger numbers. The police continued to tear
gas them, even in a residential area where there
were three hospitals. In the afternoon the police
withdrew and people went back to the square. We wanted to speak
to the people who first initiated a protest. So we tracked down two very
tired members of the Gezi Park Protection and Beatification NGO
who had been occupying the park since Monday. So you have actually been out
protesting for almost an entire week now? KAREM AKALIN: Yeah. Well, actually we had just
finished our meeting. On our way back home we
saw the demolition. And this is how we were
able to stop it. MILENE LARSSON: Well,
how come you started focusing on Gezi Park? Why did you want to protect
this green area? FUNDA ORAL: Actually, we were
all fighting against the Taksim project. But we couldn’t stop the tunnels
and things like that. Then we said, OK, let’s focus on
the park because it unifies people easily. KAREM AKALIN: That represents
the last gifts of Earth and nature that we have to protect
as a treasure for our children and next generations. MILENE LARSSON: At sunset, one
of our camera guys was in Besiktas, an area near Taksim
where major clashes kicked off between police and
protesters near Erdogan’s Istanbul office. We headed to Taksim square to
see if the police were going to storm it once again. We’re in Taksim Square,
the heart of the protests in Istanbul. And people are partying despite
having been tear gassed for two days and brutally
attacked by police. And it’s kind of amazing how
many people are here despite all the rumors that police from
all over Turkey are here to basically attack the square
in God knows how soon. Do you think it’s going to
get worse than yesterday? -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: Are you
afraid of what’s going to happen tonight? I mean, you’ve been tear
gassed for two days now and attacked. MILENE LARSSON: So you’re going
to stay on this square no matter what? MILENE LARSSON: We just went
and got gas masks. There are lots of rumors
floating around about all sorts of things. But right now we’re going to
go to a meeting with some protesters, trying to figure out
what exactly is going on and, hopefully, figure out
what the plan is tonight. How did you find out that
things were kicking off? ASIYE: I, for myself, saw
what was happening on Facebook and Twitter. I was at work. And at 5:30, I left work and
I went directly to Taksim. Police came with tear gasses
and sprayed sleeping people and people who were reading
books with tear gas. And they burned their tents
down, like, actual live fire. One of the PM’s of Turkish
Parliament got shot in the shoulder with a tear gas
canister, and then he was hospitalized. At that point, it was no
longer about trees. It was just about tyranny. RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] ASIYE: This an official threat
from our prime minister. I didn’t vote for him. Doesn’t matter, the majority
voted for him. He’s my prime minister too. And it’s his duty, unforgettable
and obvious duty, to protect me as well. I, as a citizen of this country,
do not feel safe to live here anymore. Like yesterday, around noon time
when protests weren’t so bloody, we saw this canister
twice the size of a regular grenade. And it says it should not
be used on humans. And, yeah, there was this doctor
saying that they’re using nine different varieties,
because they all have different remedies. One of them, if you, like,
drink water with it, it’ll burn more. But one of them you have to
drink water because otherwise there’s no remedy to it. And one of them you have
to use vinegar. And the other one you have
to use an anti-acid. It feels like you’re drowning. Like, it feels like somebody’s
actually holding their hands on your throat, and they’re
trying to kill you. This is a chemical war. This is against, like,
human rights. We have grown up in
a free country. We have gone to schools that
provide us education in our own language. We were free to practice
our own religion. We were free to be gays or lesbians or Kurds or Armenians. And we were free to respect
each other. But now we’re being forced
to take sides. And this is the biggest, biggest
damage that government has done to us. MILENE LARSSON: By midnight,
clashes in Besiktas had gotten extremely violent and didn’t
die out until 2:00 AM. MILENE LARSSON: How
many people are injured in the mosque? -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] -We wrote our names and blood
types on our arms, because we don’t know what will be
going on for today. So we want to be safe in a
hospital, in a government hospital and et cetera. That’s why we need that on. MILENE LARSSON: We heard there
were six civilian medical points around Taksim. So we went to visit
one of them. Are you a doctor? MILENE LARSSON: Are there a lot
of people coming into your emergency clinic? MILENE LARSSON: You hear
lots of, apparently, tear gas being shot. And it sounds like things are
really kicking off there. Has it been like this all day? -He’s going for an emergency. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: What are
you expecting tonight? -We expect that things
will get worse. God knows what awaits us. MILENE LARSSON: Yeah, we’ve
heard that police from all over Turkey has come
to Istanbul now. -Yeah. Also tear gas from all over
Turkey has come to Istanbul. MILENE LARSSON: Oh, my God. So we’re at Taksim Square. It’s almost 2:00 AM. People are building barricades
to keep the police out, or trying to. You can see fire. I think 150,000 people can
fit on this square. And it looks way more
crowded than that. I can’t believe how brave they
are after all the news of what’s happening in Besiktas. -You will eat a mussel? MILENE LARSSON: Yeah,
I’ll have a muscle. We were so sketched out about
coming to this square. And now people are just feeding
us muscles, which feels a bit random. But it’s nice. On the third day of riots
shaking the country, the people had taken back Taksim
Square, which was now the scene for a massive
street party. The park was still standing, and
the bulldozers and diggers that were sent to flatten
it had been destroyed. This area has been a really
important monument of civil society in Turkey ever
since the ’60s. This is where people
come to protest. So, obviously, they don’t want
this place to get destroyed. -[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: We left the
celebrations to meet the MP who had become a
national hero. We’re on our way to meet Sirri
Sureyya Onder, the MP who stood in front of the bulldozers
when they tried to destroy Gezi Park
the other day. And he was reportedly hit by
a tear gas cartridge and hospitalized later on. SIRRI SUREYYA ONDER:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MILENE LARSSON: Celebrations
continued throughout the evening in Taksim. Football fans were joy riding
a digger in Besiktas. By this time, 1,700
protesters across Turkey had been arrested. It was time for us to leave. On our way out, we stopped
by Taksim Square. So it’s 1:00 AM on
Monday morning. The police have, tonight, again,
been brutally clamping down on protesters
in Besiktas. There are a lot of
people hurt. People are building massive
barricades to, basically, prevent police coming back
into Taksim Square. It’s been about a week since
the first people stood over there by the trees in Gezi Park
trying to prevent them from getting destroyed
by bulldozers. The square’s the emptiest
I’ve seen it so far. It could very well be because
it’s Monday morning and people need to go to work tomorrow. MILENE LARSSON: Do you think
they will come tonight? [MUSIC PLAYING]

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