In May and June in 2013 Gezi Park was filled with the citizens of Istanbul. They were protesting the plan to close the park, tear it down and replace the last green area in the city with an industrial park. The real basis were attempts to institute Sharia Law. There were riots and vicious attacks by the police for nearly two months. Recep Tayyip Erdogan is back in the news.
Human Rights Watch, HRW, is claiming that “Turkey, under the helm of Erdogan, has seen the erosion of human rights via a crackdown on media freedom, dissent and a weakening of the rule of law.”
“Over the past year, Erdogan’s AKP (Justice and Development Party) has responded to political opposition by tearing up the rule book, silencing critical voices, and wielding a stick,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “For the sake of Turkey’s future and the rights of its citizens, the government needs to change course and protect rights instead of attacking them.”
The HRW heavily criticized the justice system claiming it was corrupted by political interest and does not operate independently. More than 5,500 people have been placed on trial for the 2013 riots.
HRW reports that in November 2013 the Newspaper Taraf Daily reported that the ruling part of Turkey AKP and the Intelligence organization, MIT, profiled individuals who were linked to religious and faith based organizations. The journalists who wrote the report are facing harsh prison sentences, while members of MIT have been given amnesty by the government.
In December of 2013 a major corruption scandal involving senior government officials and their families was exposed. The government cracked down on the judiciary and police involved in the investigation. The government is also accused of attempting to silence social media. However, Turkey’s to court has ruled that the ban on ‘You Tube’ violates individual rights and ordered access be restored.
Earlier in September of this year, a crowd gathered to protest the death of 10 construction workers. They died as an elevator they were riding in crashed from the 32nd floor. More than 1,000 people gathered to protest Turkey’s lax safety regulations. The crowd chanted: “This is not an accident, this is not destiny, this is murder!”
A 24 year old worker, Omer Oztekin, place himself between the protestors and the police. “I have a request: Don’t fire gas. Let them hear our voice. Your relatives may be working here too. You have become police. Not everyone can be a policeman. You may have 3,000 or a 4,000 lira salary. But we risk our lives for 2,000 liras here.”
The police ignored him and fired their gas canisters into the crowd.
Tensions are rising in Turkey which has the third largest number of accidents in the workplace. 301 miners died in an accident in Soma last May.
Erdogan was elected to the presidency last August. There were doubts regarding the validity of the election. It may be that all this will add up to new protests. Regardless, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is back in the news.