Turkey protesters mark five years since mass anti-Erdogan rallies

Demonstrators mark the fifth anniversary of the Gezi Park protests. The protests which began in May 2013, were sparked by the heavy-handed eviction of demonstrators staging a sit-in protest against the redevelopment of the area and grew into often violent clashes with police as people demonstrated against much broader issues concerning perceived infringements of civil rights. (AFP)
Updated 31 May 2018

Turkey protesters mark five years since mass anti-Erdogan rallies

  • The protests began in late May 2013 in response to plans to build a shopping complex on Istanbul’s Gezi Park.
  • What began as a grassroots protest against the redevelopment of one of Istanbul’s rare green spaces rapidly turned into a nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan.

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday marched through the center of Istanbul to mark five years since mass rallies broke out in a major challenge to his rule.
The protests began in late May 2013 in response to plans to build a shopping complex on Istanbul’s Gezi Park, just off the central Taksim Square, modelled on an Ottoman-era barracks that had previously stood there before being demolished.
But what began as a grassroots protest against the redevelopment of one of Istanbul’s rare green spaces rapidly turned into a nationwide wave of anger against Erdogan, then prime minister, with rallies across the country.
Watched by a large contingent of anti-riot police, protesters marched in the direction of Taksim Square, brandishing the slogan “the darkness will go, Gezi will stay,” AFP correspondents said.
They were unable to reach Gezi Park itself, which had been blocked off by police barricades since the afternoon. But as Turkey prepares for key June 24 elections, there was no major confrontation between police and protesters.
“We are the Gezi protesters, they (the government) are about to go,” read another slogan.
Eight people were killed nationwide in the violence as the police cracked down on the protests, which fizzled out by the end of June 2013. A handful of police officers were later jailed in isolated cases but activists have complained it was far from enough.
Protesters at the Istanbul march held placards with the names and the faces of those killed in the protests.
Among those killed was 15-year-old Berkin Elvan who died on March 11, 2014 following 269 days in a coma after being hit in the head by a tear gas canister fired by Istanbul anti-riot police. He has now become a modern icon for protesters against Erdogan.
His mother was among those present at the protest, reports said.
Half a decade on, opinions remain divided over the Gezi Park uprising, with those who took part in the protests expressing nostalgia for a time when they felt able to take to the streets and express themselves.
“Gezi was a rebellion and a protest where the people and workers in Turkey felt themselves free for the first time,” said protester Fatma Yildirim. “It is very important to be here after five years.”
Erdogan and government supporters scorn the Gezi protesters who they accuse of blocking a needed urban project and being used by his political opponents.
But analysts agree that the Gezi protests, along with the failed coup of 2016, were key turning points in Turkish modern history. Protests on any large scale are now rare with unauthorized gatherings often dispersed by police using water cannon and physical force.


Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

Updated 34 min 4 sec ago

Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

  • 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea
  • It came days after Libyan navy patrols “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats

TRIPOLI: The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told AFP.
He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt.
It came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli,” Kacem added.
The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometers west of the capital.
According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.
One body was also recovered by the coast guard.
Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.
In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.
They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.
On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.
Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organizations.