UPDATE (April 6, 2015): If you were reading this post from Turkey, you would no longer have access to it. Erdoğan has blocked Wesbites using the photo, above, as well as Twitter and YouTube. (The latter was blocked the whole of my time in Ankara, so that I was denied many cat videos from friends.)
For more, please read this from the New York Times today, which has reported that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu called the outlets that circulated the photograph "tools of terrorist propaganda." You can see from my headline last week that I disagree. The federal government is so fragile in Turkey (and I don't mean only the most recent one, the AKP), that dissent, difference of opinion, not to mention the mere reporting of facts, are taken to be overt threats. What is the alternative to reporting? Ignoring, as a first measure, imprisonment and worse as a last.
As I wrote in my book:
More journalists are in prison in Turkey today than in either Russia or China, or anywhere. This is because President Erdoğan and the AKP, like their predecessors on both sides of the aisle, conflate government transparency and investigative reporting, much less criticism, with threat and even terrorism. More recently, the government has also tried to tamp down public protest, even to the extent of pretending it doesn’t exist. This is why the protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013 adopted the penguin as a witty symbol after the state-controlled CNN Türk aired a documentary on penguins at the same time that the police were using pepper spray and pressurized water on the activists that spring, rather than giving any airtime to the protests.
The original post:
My goodness, look what is happening in Istanbul today. In fact it might all be over.
Reuters has just reported that "gunshots and explosions were heard and smoke was visible... from a building [in Istanbul] where members of a Turkish far-left group," the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), had taken a prosecutor hostage earlier today, threatening to kill him if their demands were not met. (The prosecutor is Mehmet Selim Kiraz, and he has been taken to hospital with serious injuries. The two DHKP-C hostage takers are now dead.)
Their demands included a live confession by the police officers suspected of killing Berkin Elvan, the little boy, only 14, who was hit in the head with a gas canister during the Taksim Gezi Park protests against the AKP-led Turkish government in June 2013. (It is said that he was on his way to the store to buy bread, and not even a part of the demonstrations, but even if he had been...) He was in a coma for nine months before dying.
In an act of political theater, the DHKP-C also demanded the prosecution of the officers responsible in a "people’s court." And they demanded the acquittal of all of the people being tried for participating "in solidarity rallies for Elvan," and no doubt against Prime Minister Erdoğan's callous remarks after the boy's death that he had been a "terrorist."
Please take a moment to let that last point sink in a moment: there are people on trial in Turkey, government protestors, people protesting against the basic indecency of a little boy dying due to police (state) overreach, and to their inability to voice their opinions without fear of persecution or prosecution. Freedom of speech is a tricky, tormented topic, but I will always believe no government should oppress a person's ability to speak and speak up or shout out.
Thousands of people turned out for Elvan's funeral last year, and Erdoğan's breathtakingly insensitive and entitled remarks after he was dead led to more, and bigger, anti-government protests.
Now that the men from the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front are dead, too, now what?