Taksim Square under police control today (Photo Courtesty: Ahmet Şık/ NarPhotos).
I [miss] the days I used social media to connect with my high school friends. In #istanbul, it’s only used to ask “are you safe” these days
So writes one of my friends in Istanbul today after a weekend of some of the most shocking police violence that Turkey has seen in years. It will take many days, weeks, and perhaps years to understand the full cost and ramifications of the storming of Taksim Square that occurred Saturday night.
We do not know yet, for example, how many were injured, but the promiscuous use of water cannon and tear gas against protesters, by-standers, journalists, and medical personnel suggests the numbers will be very large. There are additional reports, which I have not yet been able to confirm, of the use of plastic bullets. Tear gas was hurled into buildings like the Divan Hotel, where people sought refuge. Video footage shows a water cannon was directed at the inner courtyard of the German Hospital down the road from Taksim.
We had a makeshift hospital here for two days. We used our desks and tables as beds for injured people, there were sleeping bags on the floor, and medicine and food everywhere. On June 11, we finally had time to clean up the mess and put our desks and computers back.
Russia’s crackdown is not just about silencing opponents at the political fringes. It is about stifling all who would question his consolidation of power (Photo Credit: Mikhail Klimentye/AFP/Getty Images).
New controls over the media are being used to smear government critics and bolster the government’s policy line. Authorities use secret detention facilities and torture, especially in the North Caucuses region, to silence critics and deny them access to counsel. These measures are widespread and systematic.
This crackdown,should be a matter of grave concern to the United States. Moscow’s lack of respect for human rights speaks volumes about its reliability as a potential partner to the United States and Europe in addressing pressing international security concerns, from the conflict in Syria to the danger of nuclear proliferation.
Demonstrators try to escape from riot police on June 11, 2013 on Taksim square in Istanbul. Riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to clear protesters as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would show ‘no more tolerance’ for the unrelenting mass demonstrations against his Islamic-rooted government (Photo Credit: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images).
As international condemnation of Turkish police repression against peaceful protesters continues, the Turkish government doubled down today with an early morning raid on Taksim Square.
Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu assured the public that the intervention was only to remove some banners. Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey reports ”[when] we met with the Governor this afternoon, he continued to insist that the police were using appropriate force in pursuit of legitimate goals. Neither of these claims is consistent with the reality on the ground.”
Since May 31, more than 4,000 protesters have been injured as Turkish police continue to use excessive force in an attempt to disperse them. Amnesty International has seen a growing body of evidence of police brutality, including extensive use of teargas and water cannons against nonviolent protesters. Video footage taken at the scene of demonstrations has shown police officers kicking visibly defenseless protesters and even beating them with batons.
During the first days of the crisis, Amnesty International’s office, located in the heart of the Istanbul protest zone, stayed open around the clock, while volunteer doctors treated injured protesters. Amnesty staff and volunteers have risked their personal safety to document abuses and ensure that the world receives accurate information about the events unfolding in Turkey.
Opposition activists attend an anti-government rally in Moscow to demand the release of political prisoners, among them the still-jailed members of the female punk band Pussy Riot (Photo Credit: Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images).
Sixteen months ago, three young women were arrested in Russia for performing less than 40 seconds of a punk protest song. Since then, millions of people have been captivated by their YouTube video. Five young women dressed in brightly colored balaclavas dance on the altar of in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, singing their opposition to the return of President Vladimir Putin.
As the world’s eyes turned toward Pussy Riot, it became clear that their arrest and trial was emblematic of something even bigger happening in Russian society. Pussy Riot became the story of the Putin-led government’s absolute intolerance – not just of punk rock, but of all forms of dissent.
Police reportedly used tear gas on May 28 to disperse a group protesting the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul. This was just one of many recent instances where Turkish police have used excessive force to repress peaceful protests (Photo Credit: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images).
Russian LGBTI activists. The LGBT community faces increasingly repressive legislation in Russia (Photo Credit: Charles Meacham/Demotix).
Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and activists around the world will recognize the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Exactly twenty-three years after the World Health Organization’s landmark decision to declassify ‘homosexuality’ as a mental disorder, LGBTI people and allies continue their work to ensure that the full spectrum of their human rights is respected and upheld.
Just last week, news out of the Russian Federation served as a tragic reminder of just how critical that work is.