Turkey protests: 'It's a fight for freedom'
- 6 June 2013
- From the section Europe
There has been further fighting between anti-government protesters and police in Turkey.
The protests initially targeted plans to build on a treasured Istanbul park but have spread into nationwide unrest.
Here, protesters describe confrontations with the police and voice their anger at the government.
Cagri Tosun, technical director, Ankara, Thursday 6 June
I've attended lots of protests in the past few days. Yesterday thousands of us gathered again in Kizilay Square.
It started peacefully and people were having lots of fun. We chatted to some of the police and I even took a photo with a policeman, who no doubt fired teargas the previous day. They were telling us that they are very reluctant to do what they are doing, and that they are simply following orders.
At one point we heard an announced that we should disperse. We didn't. Then they attacked with teargas bombs.
I threw a teargas grenade back to where it came from, before it affected people. It barely affected me because I had a gas mask and gloves. I saw many others, including young ladies, who did the same thing with their bare hands and without a mask. I've never seen this kind of bravery before.
They are so powerful, it took minutes to clear the square. But they don't understand the power of the people and that the more they attack, the bigger the crowd gets.
On Saturday my mother begged me not to go to the protests, yesterday she took my swimming goggles before joining the protesters herself.
What is happening right now in Turkey has never happened before. We are resisting a 'fascist' prime minister and brutal police force in a peaceful way. We don't have guns, only 1% of us throw stones.
This is a movement without a head, without a leader. The bond between the people is what gives the movement its momentum. This is resistance without guns and leaders but with intellect, education, humour and a big heart at the centre of it.
We have already gained enormous ground and the feeling of victory is fantastic. I am in love with everyone on the streets. I am proud of being a Turkish citizen for the first time in my life and this is an amazing feeling.
Cuneyt Goksu, freelance journalist, Istanbul, Wednesday 5 June
Last night the crowds were even bigger than previous nights. The number of people protesting is increasing each day and what is noticeable is that you can now see people from different segments of society - working class, professional, retired.
People are becoming more active and more defiant. The area is full of people up till midnight. After then it's mostly the core protesters, and this is the time when police move in. Tear gas is very heavily used, but the people are getting used to it.
This situation will continue until people see a real response to their demands. They want more than just an apology from a minister (Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc) that isn't even embraced by the core leadership. They want tangible results.
To begin with they should abolish the project for Gezi Park. That's how this whole protest started and I think if that demand is met, people will be much happier.
Everyone now is calling for the government to resign, but I think this is not going to happen. It's just not realistic to expect that.
Another thing people were very unhappy with was that major media channels didn't cover the protests. The only journalists present during the clashes were independent journalists, like myself.
We've been documenting the events, but all our material could only appear on social media. The local newspapers I work for didn't take my reports - the media in Turkey does what the government tells it to do.
This changed yesterday. They've started publishing material, which means a change of direction. They are trying to say that the disturbances were caused by a small minority and that the nation-wide discontent that has gripped the country doesn't exist.
Gokhan Aya, musician, Istanbul, Monday 3 June
I went to Besiktas area on Saturday and I never imagined I could see police shooting almost at random. I was lucky to be in my car. My eyes got watery and I started choking 10 minutes before I even reached the area.
Everyone got enraged because the protesters were peaceful, they did absolutely nothing. They were attacked as if they were members of an enemy army. They thought they'd scare them away and clear the area to build their shopping mall and hotels.
Not only did they not scare the protesters, but things escalated more and more each day. Now many people are taking leave, or quitting their jobs, in order to make it out on the streets.
Right now there are thousands of people demonstrating outside headquarters of various media companies. The media coverage of the events of the past days has been absolutely unbelievable.
The streets were packed with people, yet all you could see on TV were cooking shows and nature documentaries. And you just don't know how much this angers people.
The struggle to preserve this park has become symbolic for people's desperate desire to have their voices heard. Every day we are getting further away from democracy and closer to autocracy with a prime minister who acts like a sultan.
We are absolutely tired of shopping malls and turning of green areas and historic monuments into temples of commercialism. There's been a continuous attack on our lifestyle, our beliefs and freedoms and we are now reaching a turning point.
Mr Erdogan has often been saying that he is not backing down. But this time I think people won't back down either.
The only exciting thing for me has been the unity among people from different social and religious backgrounds. This united front wasn't organised by anyone and it's great to see such solidarity between all parts of society.
Now, this is a matter of democracy and freedom and I hope this government comes out of its state of denial before there is more trouble.
Elif Irem Koc, student, Istanbul, Monday 3 June
I've been at the protests over the past three days. No-one knew on Friday morning just how big the protests were going to get.
Information started appearing on Facebook and Twitter with eyewitness accounts describing brutal police action against peaceful protesters.
The whole city reacted. Some people, like myself went to Taksim to join protesters, others who didn't go out expressed their solidarity in other ways.
People would open their windows and doors and start making noise by banging pots and pans, or turn the lights on and off.
We reached Besiktas area to join hundreds of others. Police used water cannon, gas bombs, trying to push people back. People would go closer to the firing line for as long as they could before starting to choke and throw up. Then they'd pull out to breathe, while others would move closer to police.
Last night we went back to Besiktas to discover road blocks, barricades, and police firing gas bombs. I was in the middle of it, about 100m away from them. They were firing four, five gas bombs every minute. We didn't have anywhere to go, because all side streets were blocked.
Somebody from one of the apartment buildings opened the door and let us in. From a few floors up I saw police firing gas into an apartment building to get the protesters out.
The government should be ashamed of these actions and it should resign immediately. So many people disagree with their policies. Yes, they have their voters, who because of the media blackout don't know, and probably don't care, about what is happening. But we are voters too and we are not happy and the only way out of this situation is early elections.
Until that happens, people will keep protesting.
Deniz, computer engineer, Istanbul, Monday 3 June
I've been protesting for the past three days. I've taken part in protests before, but this was very different.
On Friday I left work with a lot of anger and sadness because I had read accounts on social media about what happened in Gezi Park and how the police attacked protesters there.
Me and my friends decided to see what's happening. We gathered information about how we can protect ourselves. We made special solution for our eyes and mouth for the teargas. We bought simple masks and swimming goggles.
In our numerous attempts to reach Taksim through blocked roads, we came face to face with the police. They fired teargas or gas bombs, I am not sure which one. Me and my friend were very close to them.
I've never been so scared in my life. I turned around and started running in the other direction. My friend was hit by something on her chest. It was dark, we couldn't see what happened. She was crying and saying how hot it was.
I know a lot of people seriously injured.
A friend of mine set up a medical room in a mosque, they took care of people there. He said there were people who lost their fingers.
The small protest turned into a much bigger one, all over Turkey.
All kinds of people got together for a common cause. Complete strangers helped each other. People opened up their houses for those who were running from the police.
These days were remarkable, I only wish no-one got injured.
This is a protest not only against development of the park, but against the dictatorship of our government and the brutality of our police.
This is the start of a revolution in Turkey.
Burcu Keskiner, student, Istanbul, Monday 3 June
I haven't taken part in protests so far, but I will join protesters later in Taksim square. The people already there need the support of all of us, we should stand together and make our position clear.
Our media portrays the events of the last few days as protests against the development of Gezi Park. They've described protesters as criminals and not surprisingly many people across Turkey are not aware of the real situation here.
The only source of real information have been social media sites and people like myself have become more determined to join forces with protesters.
It's clear that the police's intention was to hurt people who are against the government. They've been throwing gas bombs not just in open spaces, but inside buildings too.
They haven't been letting ambulances reach Taksim Square to treat injured people.
But despite all of this, the crowds are getting bigger and bigger. The government has no right to tell us how much to drink, to use Islam to manipulate us, or to harm us during peaceful protests.
This is no longer a fight for trees. The people of Turkey are fighting for their freedom.
Interviews by Krassimira Twigg