In an atmosphere where people on the streets feel an absolute presence of police on every corner, daily life in Istanbul already has its tense moments. When there is no intervention into protests, very Machiavellian tactics are being played. At Ege University in Izmir just a few days ago, some students reported on the social media that far-Right supporters came to the Faculty of Arts and that riot police followed them shortly after. Not long after, when other students began reacting to the far-Right slogans, riot police started an “intervention” which resulted in gas raids and water-cannon attacks against students who reacted to the far Right. At the end of the day there were arrests of faculty members, and more people protesting against the arrests. Although it does not receive as much coverage anymore, police brutality and harassment still continues in Turkey whenever there is even a small protest of a few dozen people. I would like to draw attention to a few recent incidents. Every day it is a university campus or again the infamous “interventions” on Taksim Square.
A day passed, and this time it was Bogazici University in Istanbul. The most beautiful campus on Earth could also be regarded as the most democratic atmosphere in Turkey, with its traditional tolerance and peaceful attitude. I remember Prime Minister Erdogan’s visit to the Bogazici University campus 2010, when thousands of riot police turned the campus into a hell, and this time for the first time in its history students were shot with water cannon at a protest meeting when leaving the campus. Riot police announced that “This is an illegal gathering, you do not have permission to walk this way.”
As the weekend came, with the pause between university working days, the new venue of police intervention happened to be a more familiar area –Taksim Square. Members of Besiktas’s Çarşı fan club – who played a major role in the OccupyGezi protests in June – were present at Kasimpasaspor Recep Tayyip Erdogan Stadium in the vicinity of Taksim for the Kasimpasa-Besiktas game. When Besiktas fans started marching to the venue, riot police and two water cannons followed them. After the game, they marched back to Besiktas escorted by police, who led peacefully up to a certain point when the police presence became too unbearable and provoking.
Another intervention took place in Gezi Park as the football game was being played. Since it was 15th December, the six-month anniversary of the death of half a dozen OccupyGezi protesters, about 20 people, including opposition members of Parliament, wanted to hold a commemoration ceremony in the park. But police announced “This is a highly sensitive spot where people are not allowed to gather without permission, so disperse the crowd or we will have to intervene.”
Although the park is officially open for public use, it is practically impossible. These kinds of protests, although originally they attract only a few dozen or hundred people, due to the police’s harsh treatment of protesters and interventions with excessive use of force they quickly grow into thousands. Police-state tactics revolve around every aspect of civilian life in a tense atmosphere where there is no strong political alternative to embrace the resentful people who are deeply hurt by the single-party rule (regime) of the last decade.