According to initial media reports the protests were in reaction to a planned demolition of Gezi Park, a traditional gathering point for rallies and demonstrations, the park is also a popular tourist destination and Istanbul’s last green public space.
The number of protesters has only increased with each passing day and Istanbul’s Taksim Square has become the center of protests. What started as a peaceful sit-in protest soon turned violent when the police force; under direct orders from the government, started using violence to disperse the protesters. Amnesty International observers at the protests witnessed the use of water cannon and tear gas against peaceful protestors. Later in the week, two major trade union members with a huge strength of 600,000 went on a strike to express their support for the protesters facing police brutality.
Testimonies of protesters, lawyers, civil society observers and medical professionals at the scene and video evidence confirm the use of widespread brutal tactics employed by the police at demonstrations continuing across central Istanbul.
Reports suggest that thousands of protesters have been injured and at least three have succumbed to their injuries. According to a press release by Amnesty International on 3 June 2013, “The Turkish Medical Association has said that as many as 4,100 people injured during the police response to protests have been treated in hospitals across Istanbul over the past two days. Two of them had life threatening injuries and five remain in intensive care as a result of injuries sustained at demonstrations in the city.”
It may be too early to predict Erdogan’s fall, but a careful observation of the recent events in the Middle East makes one wonder whether Taksim Square will turn out to be another Tahrir Square.