The Facebook posts started a few days ago.
“Police pushing people back past the Osmanbey metro station with lots of tear gas.”
“We thought they were retreating and we were advancing to the park. Thousands of people… They hit us with long range gas bombs. Tens of gas bomb was falling down like rain.”
“Horrible to see the Turkish government’s violent response to protestors.”
“TTnet will block twitter and Facebook so we can’t communicate.”
“Everyone is outside, united, defiant, celebratory, noisy!”
This isn’t the Istanbul I visited in 2010. While three years ago I could sense the culture and climate changing, and heard many locals expressing concern about the shift towards a more conservative Islamist state, the city which my World History teacher had once described as the birthplace of knowledge seemed to be relatively calm.
It is night in Turkey as I write this from Canada; it will be afternoon there when it goes online. Much could change in the next twelve hours (making this post blissfully, or terrifyingly, out-of-date), but at the moment it would seem that police have withdrawn from Taksim Square and are allowing the peaceful protest to continue. I urge the Turkish government, police and military to think about the impact on their choices on the world’s view of their nation. While I have written before about not planning trips around perceived levels of safety– because bad things can happen to good people in good places (and vice versa!)- it is inevitable that the volume and type of tourism occurring in Turkey will change if visitors feel they cannot trust that authorities will protect their basic human rights.
I hope tomorrow is a better day for the people of Istanbul- and other Turkish cities- and that the city can move peacefully, safely and respectfully towards an “Istanbul Modern”.