A Letter from Istanbul

photos: Zeynep Ozdemir

What started as a peaceful demonstration against the destruction of a park in Istanbul turned into a national outcry against police brutality and surpression of the freedom of speach and it became a political scandal of international magnitude in a matter of only a few days. I’ve been following the situation in Turkey now for over a week thanks to many Turkish friends on Facebook who share first hand impressions and media coverage. I’ve read horrible stories of the things happening around Taksim Square and Gezi Park that left me pretty much speachless.

Today I received a letter from a Turkish friend who is right in the middle of it all in Istanbul and I would like to share it here with you. There is not a whole lot that we can do from the distance, so giving our Turkish friends a voice is the least we can and should do to raise attention on the issue. Read about his devastating first-hand experiences from last night’s brutal attack against the protesters that did not only include a German MP from the green party (Claudia Roth), but also defenseless senior citizens and children – after the jump.

“Dear Frank,

Istanbul is now a war zone! I was in Gezi when the “operation” started. THOUSANDS were in the park – listening to music, sharing food, talking, reading, doing art… the “children’s art tent” was full of children!!! Many other children and totally unprotected civilians were all over the park when they started storming in with heavy heavy gas! I worry most about the children who were in the park!
For the last two hours, the hotels in the area that have been safe houses for the wounded and those who are affected by the gas are themselves being gassed: Divan Hotel’s lobby has been gassed numerous times and the police are apparently trying to take into custody everyone who has taken refuge in the hotel, including the wounded! several parliamentarians are wounded and hospitalized!”

“Among those gassed in the Divan Hotel is Claudia Roth (chair of the Green Party in Germany). Tens of thousands of people from all over Istanbul are trying to walk in masses towards Taksim (and have poured onto two highways and the Bosphorus Bridge), but each group has been gassed and blocked by the police. I fear for the lives of everyone out in the streets, especially those around Taksim.”

“Turkish mainstream media is deaf and silent again! We should work hard to increase international pressure on the government and force it to stop the violence and start treating its citizens as human beings. Tear gas attacks and water canons target Gezi Park protesters again.This is one of the heaviest attacks at Taksimand in here but the cause of the current crisis is Erdogan himself. It is not just that he is arrogant and stubborn. He is not disciplined. He gets angry and reverts to his scrappy street fighter self, having grown up in a poor and tough Istanbul neighbourhood.”

“Istanbul is living a hell. They are trying to kill the city, the voice of its people. The situation is terrible. The police attacked the part while it was full of thousands of people, including hundreds of small children, old people, disabled and also helpless animals. People were gassed mercilessly. Hundreds of us took refuge to Divan Hotel, which has always opened its doors to protesters. It was hell. Gas entered the hotel together with the protesters. They told us to go to the conference rooms downstairs. There were many children and many hurt people. It was terrible. Like scenes from a gas chamber, a horror film. It was hard to breath, our skin hurt, it was very hot, we sweat like crazy, people cried, fainted, threw up, begged for help… After about an hour and a half, they told us it was safe to flee towards Harbiye. We crossed hundreds of policemen and many armed vehicles in order to reach Nisantasi. The people had taken to the streets to protect this barbarity, shouting and banging pots. Two of my aunts (my friend’s aunts) were on the street, soaked, an armed vehicle had thrown water on them, they are in their late 60s and they were almost thrown to the wall.”

“As for the event the other day, Kizilay, the Turkish Red Crescent, refused to transport hurt people, and a very reliable source (doctor) narrated me the event. The doctors in a small private hospital had to pay a private company to transport a seriously injured person who in the end survived. It’s a scandal. We are living in a police state. The police arrested 49 lawyers invading the Palace of Justice the other day. Now they are trying to arrest every single doctor and nurse who aids the injured protestors. The government and the governor of Istanbul still talk of “marginal groups”. The mask of democracy and the rule of law have fallen in this country. Pray for us and spread the news.”

Here is an interview with German MP Claudia Roth (Green Party) after her experience last night.

Stand strong, Turkey!

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<a href="https://www.iheartberlin.de/author/admin/" target="_self">Frank</a>



Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of iHeartBerlin. He takes photos, makes videos, and writes texts mostly about what's going on in Berlin. His vision and interests have shaped iHeartBerlin since its conception back in 2007 - and he hopes to continue bringing you the best of Berlin for many years to come.