Monday, June 3, 2013

Let Turkey Sing!

We should stand up and show our solidarity with the good people of Turkey who in recent days have been striving to regain the freedoms which the current authoritarian government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slowly stripping away, including the right to peaceful assembly and to a free media. What started as a small sit-down protest in Istanbul's Taksim Square to question the government's plan to destroy one of the few remaining parks in a city of over twelve million people, has now become nationwide effort to safeguard this country's fragile secular democracy.

Image of Young Turks
Thousands of Turks flooding across the bridge over the Bosphorus linking Europe and Asia
The mainstream media is barely covering this story, but it is of utmost importance. What began as a quiet protest last week in Taksim Square against the razing of one of the last green parks in Istanbul turned horribly violent as police fired tear gas and aimed water cannons against peaceful protestors. One death and a number of blindings were reported.
What followed was a nationwide uprising against the anti-democratic rule of Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan as police brutality became a symbol and rallying point against an increasingly unpopular government. This regime has, bit by bit, stripped away the rights and liberties of its people. Despite promising respect for democratic principles, Erdogan has held a tight grip on media and clamped down on the opposition. During the protests over the past five days, state-run media instead ran story after story on Miss Turkey and “the world’s ugliest cat.”

Social media was said to have been the galvanizing force behind the uprisings in places like Iran and Egypt, and so it is no surprise that the Turkish government is now seeking to silence platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. After protests began, the authorities severed access to these popular social media sites, hoping that word of what had transpired would not get out. Even the Western media, which appears to have fallen well short of its obligation to report the truth, remains curiously silent, as if dependent on social media to gauge newsworthiness.

While any political uprising carries with it complex issues, and any “people’s revolution” could have various unknown factions involved, as we’ve seen in other regions and countries, one thing remains clear: The use of violent suppression can only lead to greater unrest and instability. So to Prime Minister Erdogan, I say this: The world is watching.  We call upon your government to stop the violence and engage in peaceful dialogue with the Turkish people.

–George Takei

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