From the Front Lines
I am not a war correspondent (or any other real correspondent for that matter). But I am trying to correspond, and I certainly am in a war zone: Turkey. Though you would never know it's a war zone from reading local newspapers, listening to the radio, or watching TV.
The night I arrived ten days ago, I was greeted with tear gas. Now my eyes burn as I sit in my hotel room about a mile away from the epicenter of the revolt that arose in Taksim Square, Istanbul. Such revolts have been popping up in over 60 locations through Turkey.
Most (probably all) of what you hear from Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan is falsehoods (okay, let's call them lies, 'cause that is what they are). I can write this with assurance, seeing firsthand what happens and then hearing what he says about it.
The "isolated act of violence perpetrated by hooligan agitators" (direct translation of Erdoğan's words) was in fact multiple peaceful rallies throughout Turkey, with people bringing small children -- no guns or bombs, but flowers and a grand piano.
Tonight again, Erdoğan brought out the tear gas and his acid-laced water-cannon. What violent uprising necessitated this action? People came to Taksim to place pink flowers on the obelisk in the center of the Square to honor those killed -- repeat: killed -- in the previous protest rallies.
Last week, several lawyers and judges in their robes came to Taksim to help. They knew that people who had previously "peaceably assemble[d to] petition the government for redress of grievances" were jailed without due process, or any legal basis whatsoever. What happened? The legal representatives ended up in jail alongside the protesters they came to keep out of jail. So much for the government obeying the rule of law.
Five days ago, a single Turk in everyday clothes, who was a mime/performance artist, walked in to Taksim, picked his spot, and stood silently most of the entire day without moving. He simply stood there with his hands in his pockets, saying and doing nothing. I do not know what happened to him, but his action sparked hundreds of others through the country to do the same thing in silent protest of the autocratic rule of its prime minister.
Reputedly, over 8,000 American tourists have canceled their plans to travel to Turkey. The area where we are staying, Beyoğlu, is normally a hotspot of commercial activity, particularly at night. Restaurants, stores, bars, and hotels usually are bustling with people and movement. From my window, I can see one bar and one restaurant. It is 11PM, normally the height of action. Both are closed up tight.
The whole area is hunkered down, with windows closed (to minimize the gas exposure). Police roaming the streets in groups of three to six. I do not want to find out what they would do if I went down to the street, put my hands in my pockets, and just stood there.
This is a war zone. Only one side is armed, and only one side is using force: the police. Forty-five years ago, at the Chicago Democratic National Convention, I witnessed a massive crowd protest that quite intentionally provoked a(n over-)reaction from Mayor Daley's government so the free press -- national as well as international -- could embarrass the government. What I see this week is nothing like that.
The people in Turkey offer no agitation or violent behavior, no threat to peace and tranquility of the sovereign state. You can see from what I write how the sovereign state has responded. As for embarrassing the new sultan (Erdoğan) and his government, the media here is controlled by the government, so no embarrassing pictures shown of police hauling judges and four-year-olds off to jail. O nly CNN online, Facebook, Twitter, and American Thinker are getting the truth out. Erdoğan has even talked about trying to shut down the internet. (We all know how that worked out when Morsi tried in Eygpt.)
I am leaving tomorrow but will continue to report from a distance what I can from internet contacts. Anything you hear from the prime minister or read in the government controlled media should be considered fabrication.
The author is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He prefers to remain anonymous due to fear of reprisals by Turkish government against his son, who remains a resident of Istanbul.