Taksim Square Protest: These Crazy Conspiracy Theories Show the Turkish Government Has Lost It
The aftermath of a revolution is a peculiar sight to behold. It is the public opinion that Turkey is on the brink of a financial crisis, since the most profitable month of tourism is now about to come to a close with most hotels already laying off staff.
The ruling party has begun a smearing campaign of the entire Occupy Gezi movement, with Prime Minister Erdogan feverishly describing how Chapulers entered a mosque wearing their shoes and drinking beer, and offering various other incorrect details from the past month.
Taking advantage of the relatively peaceful atmosphere in Istanbul, the government has already begun to refer to the movement as "over," despite police attacks and resistance movements going on in various parts of Turkey, namely the capital Ankara.
AKP's current policy, it seems, is to discredit the movement with a volley of false information. Here are some myths and truths about Occupy Gezi:
-Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu denied reports that the water cannons fired at protesters contained chemicals, and a photo of policemen pouring chemicals into a water cannon's reserves surfaced on the same day. The official story can be found here, viewer discretion is advised.
-The Mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, who has sued countless people over Twitter arguments, claimed (via Twitter) that a Turkish journalist working for the BBC was a British spy. He then spent several hours attempting to make his accusation a trending topic on the site. The BBC responded today, expressing their disapproval of the stunt and asking for any issues regarding BBC correspondents to be expressed via official channels.
-Erdogan claimed to have had one million supporters attend his Istanbul rally. In reality, 219,000 people attended the rally, as there is no room in the square for over 400,000 and nearly half the square was empty.
-Below is an image from the Facebook group 1TCV. The photograph on the left, used by almost all of the major newspapers, is shot or warped with a fisheye lens to make the focal point larger than it actually is. It is also tinted red to give the impression that everyone had Turkish flags. Having watched the live coverage, I can assure you that the image on the right is much closer to the truth.
The most important issue surrounding this image, however, is that it is a critical component of Erdogan's attempts to drive a wedge between AKP supporters and the rest of Turkey. His repeated use of "my people" vs. "you people" is indicative of this approach, and it is clear that he intends to justify his actions by demonstrating, sometimes falsely, that his support base still exists.
Since the park has been evacuated, the people of Istanbul have been gathering in parks throughout the city, hosting forums, debates, and panels. These gatherings have been repeatedly attacked by groups who come in running, shouting Allah's name and swinging knives and bats.
Oddly, it is reasonable to think that perhaps this was part of Erdogan's plan. After all, what better way to inspire a nation obsessed with antiquated concepts of honor to begin policing itself than to point a finger to the group you need silenced and accuse them of attacking cultural values? Erdogan is very good at repeating himself until someone believes him. Conservative, underprivileged groups capable of physical violence are likely to believe that Gezi Park protesters entered mosques with alcohol. They are also likely to believe Mayor Gokcek when he claims that the movement is orchestrated by the Mossad, CIA, MI6, Angela Merkel (specifically Merkel, not necessarily Germany), France, and the UK. If there truly is a global plot to undermine Turkey, I am willing to bet those meetings would have made for some great jokes.
The famous #duranadam (standing man) who executed a silent protest in the middle of the square last week has also been accused of being a Serbian and/or CIA agent.
On Saturday, June 23, people met at Taksim Square with carnations to demonstrate peacefully and were met with tear gas and chemical/water cannons. Meanwhile, the son of an AKP congressman attempted to have someone else take the college placement exams in his stead, using a fake ID. The incident caused further controversy and increased mockery of AKP's poor photo-shopping abilities.
The Ministry of Education sent out an official letter to every single school in cities where demonstrations took place, asking for a list of students and teachers who participated in the protests or were absent from the school during the demonstrations. The degree of vindictive accountability has reached alarming heights, but AKP shows no sign of slowing down until all dissenters are accounted for.
Erdogan recently reiterated his position on birth control, abortions, and C-sections, claiming that these are all elements of the international conspiracy to slow down the growth of Turkey's population. He also asked people to hang Turkish flags, but without any additions, referring to images of Ataturk traditionally hung alongside the flag. He added, however, that the three crescents of the Ottoman Empire flag were "ours" and that they could be hung as well.
The AKP team's drive to manipulate truth and reinterpret reality does not yet threaten the Occupy Gezi movement. The trending tweet of the day when Mayor Gokcek accused the reporter was #ProvocateurMelihGokcek. In other words, social media remains in the domain of the Chapulers. For now.
With love from Absurdistan,