by Jessica Stone
In June, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the Turkish government and Turkish citizens to take immediate action to ease social and political tensions caused by Taksim Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. According to a BBC News article, the protests started out as a small group demonstration, consisting of a few city planners and environmentalists hoping to preserve the aesthetic environment of the park, since the property may be used for urban development.
This BBC article examines how the new development, a shopping center, would affect Taksim Square and Gezi Park.
But the protests soon attracted “a diverse array of people disenchanted by the government’s Muslim conservatism, its free-market policies, or both.” The protests turned into violent riots that raised considerable concern about the Turkish police’s “excessive use of force against peaceful groups of protesters.” Demonstrators alleged that police fired tear gas canisters, pepper spray, and rubber bullets at them from close range or into closed spaces, and sexually abused and beat protesters. Human Rights Watchdog Amnesty International provided a comprehensive report of Gezi Park human rights violations.
Pillay told Turkish officials that such allegations of human rights violations need to be “promptly, effectively, credibly and transparently investigated.” Pillay said Turkish officials they must seize the opportunity to resolve “some remaining systemic problems in the country’s approach to the rule of law” to punish those who perpetrated the excessive violence, adding, “the government must also provide adequate reparation to victims of excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations by security forces.”
One of the most compelling videos from the protests comes from the the VICE blogging network:
For more information on Turkey’s human rights violations, this CNN article provides more in-depth coverage of various accounts and includes Turkish authorities’ response to the allegations. Also, Hürriyet Daily News provided a detailed timeline of the protests.