The brutal suppression of a peaceful environmental sit-in in Istanbul ignited a nationwide protest against the Turkish government. Allegations of police crossing the line between keeping the order and oppression are mushrooming in the social media.
Over the days of clashes with the protesters, Turkish police excessively used water cannons and tear gas, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International and calls for restraint from Turkey’s closest allies.
“The use of tear gas against peaceful protestors and in confined spaces where it may constitute a serious danger to health is unacceptable, breaches international human rights standards and must be stopped immediately,” Amnesty stressed in a statement, calling on the Turkish government to investigate all reports of abuse.
Photos and video footage of officers clubbing activists and spraying them with irritants at point-blank range are circulating across social media, further inflaming the Turkish riots. The online anger is fueled by the dismissal of the protesters as “simple looters” by the government and the apparent downplaying of the importance of the protest in the official media.
The Turkish government insists that the protests are irrelevant and inspired by extremist forces. As he was leaving the country on Monday for a North Africa visit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said that the Turkish intelligence services are investigating possible foreign links to the weekend riots. He also said the protest have nothing to do with the Gezi Park sit-ins.
Orchun Sunear, a musician, told RT that he had seen a lot of people being seriously hurt by police, and even witnessed people being crushed by a police tank. A friend of his called Lednah, also a musician, is in a coma after being caught up in the crackdown.
“My father, and grandmother have never seen anything like this. In three generations the police have never behaved like this. This is not normal in Turkey and I don’t understand why this is happening,” he said.
Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler said that 115 police officers and 58 protesters had been injured in the clashes as of Sunday. Amnesty International said the victims of the clashes are numbered in their hundreds, while rumors in social media claim that more than 1,000 people suffered.
There are also claims of at least two protester deaths at the hands of the police. The government says those reports are lies, while Erdogan branded social media “the worst menace to society.”
Widely-circulated graffiti in the capital, Ankara, describes the information stand-off: “Revolution will not be televised, it will be tweeted”.