new report on human rights violations during turkey’s response to gezi park protests

by Tim Phillips

In late May, police used tear gas, pepper spray, and water cannons in an attempt to break up demonstrations in Gezi Park, one of the last green spaces in central Istanbul, Turkey. Early one morning, police also set fire to the tents of protesters occupying the park. The number of protesters then increased significantly due to public outrage regarding the force used by police.

Mass protests spread to several other cities. On June 1, a police officer shot Ethem Sarısülük in the head with a live bullet during protests in Ankara. On June 3, 22-year-old Abdullah Cömert was apparently hit with a tear gas canister fired by police. The same day, 19-year-old Ismail Korkmaz was running away from police intervention at a protest in Eskişehir when he was brutally beaten by people in civilian clothes.

Cömert died on June 4. Sarısülük died on June 14. Korkmaz died on July 10, and five individuals (including one police officer) were subsequently charged with his murder.

By mid-June, hundreds of thousands of people had participated in ‘Gezi Park protests,’ which occurred in nearly every one of Turkey’s 81 provinces. Large scale protest continued across Turkey into early July. By July 10, more than 8,000 injuries had occurred at the protests.

Yet the repression isn’t over. Many of the people accused of organizing the protests are currently being investigated under anti-terrorism laws and related provisions. According to a report released this week by Amnesty International,

These provisions, which carry harsh penalties, are often used to prosecute critics of the state for conduct and the expression of views protected by the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. All the indicators available so far point to similar abusive use of anti-terrorism provisions in the context of Gezi Park protests.

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