#OccupyGezi Protesters Defy Bulldozers and Teargas in the Fight to Save Istanbul’s Last Public Green Space

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East Desk

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish authorities detained at least sixty people Friday in relation to protests against the policies of Turkish Prime Minister Recap Tayyip Erdogan. Demonstrations have broken out in several cities including Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Bodrum.

Turkish police use teargas and water cannons against peaceful demonstrators in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo Courtesy of Aljazeera)

Nationwide protests have occurred since May 28, when activists organized peaceful demonstrations against the proposed demolition of Gezi Park on Taksim Square in Istanbul. Considered the city’s last public green space, the park would be demolished to make way for a development project that would include the construction of a replica of historic military barracks built by the Ottoman Empire. A commercial shopping center would also be built on the property.

Protesters argue that the development plan is not part of a historic preservation project, but rather an excuse to build more malls and commercial shopping complexes in the heart of Istanbul.

Protesters used social media to spread awareness about the proposed destruction of the park as well as organize peaceful demonstrations. On May 28,protesters began setting up tents and sleeping bags to prevent bulldozers from entering the park. Even after authorities cleared the park by using teargas, protesters continued to gather in the park.

On Friday, the term #OccupyGezi was tweeted more than 160,000 times. Several protesters chose to Tweet in English to raise international awareness about the protests and the actions of the Turkish police.

As news of the police reaction to the peaceful demonstration spread though social media and other outlets, demonstrations broke out in other cities across the country. Many people saw the proposed demolition of Gezi Park, and the reaction of the authorities to the demonstrations, as an example of what they claim are the increasing authoritarian policies of Prime Minister Erdogan, who assumed office in 2003.

Many people across Turkey have grown increasingly frustrated with Erdogan’s authoritarian policies, including a law that would ban vendors from selling liquor between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. The people also show frustration over Erdogan’s policies toward the conflict in Syria.

According to Architecture Historian Ugur Tanyeli, Istanbul is “starved for green space.” Tanyeli argues that it is difficult to see this project as a legitimate historical preservation project because we do not know exactly how the Ottoman Empire barracks would have looked. Like many Turks, Tanyeli sees the project as another example of Erdogan’s authoritarian policies: “the real problem is not Taksim, and not the park, but the lack of any form of democratic decision-making process and the utter lack of consensus. We now have a prime minister who does whatever he wants.”

In response to the increased awareness of the protests and the project, a district court has agreed to hear the arguments against the rebuilding of historic barracks and shopping center, and has called for the project to be put on hold.

For further information, please see:

Aljazeera — Protestors #OccupyGezi to Save Istanbul Park — 31 May 2013

Aljazeera — Turkey Arrests Anti-Government Protestors — 31 May 2013

CNN International — Report: Court to Hear Case at Center of Istanbul Protests — 31 May 2013

The Guardian — Turkey Protesters in Violent Clashes with Police over Park Demolition — 31 May 2013

For real-time developments, follow #OccupyGezi on Twitter

Seven Policemen Injured in Bahrain Bomb Attack; 10 Suspects Arrested

By Joe Murphy
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MANAMA, Bahrain – Seven on-duty policemen were injured Wednesday night when a homemade bomb was remotely detonated just outside Bahrain’s capital of Manama. All seven policemen were taken to the hospital for treatment with one in critical condition and two others moderately injured according to Colonel Ibrahim Al Sheeb, General Director of Northern Province Police Department.  He condemned the attacked and praised the policemen for their bravery.

A police tear gas gun damaged in Wednesday’s bombing. (Photo Courtesy of Reuters)


Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior also condemned the bomb attack and deemed it a “terrorist act.” The Ministry of Interior’s twitter account reported in two separate posts that a total of ten suspects had been arrested for suspected involvement in the bombing. The posts also stated that the investigation and search for suspects was continuing.

This incident is one of the more severe of its kind in a country which frequently sees protesters, mostly Shi’ite, clash with police and the country’s Sunni rulers. Shi’ite protesters have been pushing for democratic reform and more involvement in government since February 2011 when large scale protests broke out. However, the controlling Sunni government has moved powerfully and swiftly to squash any substantial revolts. At least sixty people including six policemen have been killed in the conflict since the uprising began over two years ago.

The police have accused the “terrorists” of specifically targeting on-duty policemen and increasing their use of homemade explosives since April 2012. Youths around Manama regularly attack police with Molotov cocktails and police respond with stun grenades, tear gas, and bird shot. However, the Shi’ite opposition has frequently accused the police of using excessive force against protesters.

It is evident that tensions are on the rise and the conflict is intensifying after the events of the last few weeks. The attack comes on the heels of the peaceful sit-in last Friday by hundreds of Shi’ite protesters that turned violent after government security forces raided a senior Shi’ite cleric’s home. Shi’ite protesters claim that the raid was in retaliation after the cleric met with U.S. officials. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Krajeski condemned the attack, stressing that dialogue is the only path to reconciliation.

“We strongly condemn this attack on police and extend our deepest sympathies to all those injured. All violence is completely unacceptable and unhelpful in efforts to rebuild trust and pursue meaningful reconciliation in Bahrain,” he said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website.

For further information, please see:

Albawaba News – Bahrain bomb attack injures seven policemen – 30 May 2013

BBC – Bahrain police hurt in explosion near Manama – 30 May 2013

Huffington Post – Bahrain ‘terrorist’ injures 7 policemen; 3 suspects arrested – 30 May 2013

News – ‘Terrorist’ bomb wounds Bahrain policemen – 30 May 2013

Reuters – Bomb injures seven policemen in Bahrain – 30 May 2013

SNHR: 83598 people have been killed since Syria’s uprising against Bashar al-Assad

SNHR’s documentation policy requires that documents be provided from at least two different sources unconnected with each other.
SNHR does not issue statistics unless they are provided from files containing very precise details of each death case, fully identified by the name of the victim, as well as the date and location of death.
Using these standards, SNHR was adopted by the UN as one of the most important resources in statistics related to the victims of the Syrian conflicts, and from the renowned statistics provided at the beginning of this year, which stated the killing of 60.000 Syrian citizens.  SNHR was also adopted as the main source for many news agencies.
SNHR documented civilian casualties in addition to free army victims as a result of the possibility to apply the network’s criteria in documentation and verification.  This criteria is not applicable to the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces’ dead because such information compiling is restricted and subject to prosecution.
Between Syria’s uprising began in March 2011, and as of May 15 2013, SNHR documented that at least 80159 people were killed.  The distribution is as follows: 75992 civilians (91% civilian victims), 7606 Syrian Free Army (9% fighter brigades).
Among the civilians: 7686 women, 8329 children, and 2441 people who were tortured to death
(The following link to the official SNHR website is provided below, you can find the names and details of all the victims)
As a reference, we were able to document by name, location, photo and video within the available possibilities under the embargo and censorship imposed by the Syrian Government.  Although our estimation suggests that the real number of victims is double, up to nearly a quarter million.
In Syria, a civilian is killed by the Syrian Government’s Armed Troops every eight hours, 135 civilians are killed on a daily basis.  Every two hours a child killed, and every three hours a woman is killed.
The following chart shows the distribution of the 83598 victims in the Syrian governorates:
Damascus countryside: 17551 victims
Homs: 14254 victims
Aleppo: 11770 victims
Idlib: 10161 victims
Daraa: 7472 victims
Hama: 6492  victims
Damascus: 5597 victims
Dier Alzoor: 5477 victims
Lattakia: 1435 victims
Raqqa: 953 victims
Qunaitra: 651 victims
Hasaka: 638 victims
Tartous: 338 victims
Swidaa: 119 victims
Child victims:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces killed 8329 children, including 82 children who were arrested and tortured to death.  The proportion of child victims relative to victims overall is 9%, which is considerably high, and indicates that civilians are deliberately targeted and systematically killed.  In addition there are almost 9000 children currently detained by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces.
Female victims:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces killed 7686 women, including 24 women who were arrested and tortured to death.  Among the female victims, 2507 girls were killed.  The proportion of female victims relative to victims overall is 9%, which is considerably high, and indicates that civilians are deliberately targeted and systematically killed.  Nearly 6500 women are currently detained, and more than 5000 women were raped by Syrian Government’s Armed Forces.
Torturing to death:
Syrian Government’s Armed Forces systematically and deliberately violated international conventions and laws that clearly and explicitly prohibit torture by using very brutal torture methods against detainees.  Such actions led to the deaths of 2441 Syrian civilians, including 82 children, 24 women, 51 over senior citizens, and 106 armed rebels; This shows that less than 5% of those tortured were armed rebels, and the rest were civilians.
There is a high volume of cases for those who were tortured to death, but due to the restrictions and inaccessibility to work in the Syrian territory, we were unable to document them.  This reveals that the real number could be far greater than what is currently known, especially since there are prisons who torture people to death and throw the bodies of the tortured into vacant land or rivers in an effort to decompose and disintegrate them and blur the crime.
Condemnation And Responsibilities
Responsibility of states for internationally wrongful acts, similarly Customary IHL provides that the state is responsible for all acts committed by a member of its military and security forces, thus, the state is responsible for those wrongful acts committed by its military and security forces including crimes against humanity.
Prohibition crimes against humanity are among the rules of jus cogens or peremptory, and the punishment of such crimes is compulsory according to the General principles of international law.  Moreover, the crimes against humanity are the highest violations of basic human rights, such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.  In accordance with the principles, the State is responsible under international law.  Syrian Arabic Republic must be held responsible for such crimes and violations, for the duty to ensure punishment of the perpetrators individually, and the duty to provide compensation to victims.
SNHR holds that all violations committed by the Syrian Government Armed Forces to the Syrian government and the  General Commander of the army and the armed forces, Bashar Al-Assad, and to all the officials of security branches, and to all  financial and moral supporters to those forces, with the legal judicial and material consequences to the victims and their families in addition to all the reactions that will come from the victims’ families or their friends.
Legal conclusions:
1-    Syrian Government Armed Forces committed extensive systematic crimes against humanity by unlawful killings
2-    Syrian Government Armed Forces committed these extensive systematic crimes in non international armed conflicts, so such crimes should be considered war crimes
3-   Syrian government by killing and targeting civilians violated both International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law
Recommendations :
Syrian Governments   
1-    Immediately stop all human rights’ violations.
2-    Respect international obligations in the protection of civilians in time of war, and respect the rules of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
Lebanese and Iraqi Governments   
The Lebanese and Iraqi Governments should control their borders, and the Government of Lebanon must take necessary measures to prevent Hezbollah from  attacking and occupying  Syrian territory, stop them from shelling Syrian territory from Lebanon, and to stop facilitating logistical supplies to Syria Government’s Armed forces.
International Commission of Inquiry :
The International Commission of inquiry must live up to its level of expectation and give an accurate description of violations committed by the Syrian Government’s Armed Forces against the Syrian people.
Human Rights Council:
1-    Demand the Security Council and the concerned international institutions to hold the Syrian government responsible for what’s happening for the Syrian People who suffer from murder, rape, displacement, and unlawful arrest
2-    Pay serious attention to cases involving death by torture, considered to be the worst type of crime.
3-    Pressure the Syrian Government Troops to stop torturing and  killing, and release all those who were kidnapped and arrested
4-    Hold alias and supporters of the Syrian Government Troops: Russia, Iran, and China, morally and physically responsible for what is happening to the Syrian people
Security Council:
1-     Refer all the criminals involved to the ICC
2-    Warn the Syrian Government Troops of the repercussions of using brutal methods on the stability of civil peace and coexistence between the people of the same society
3-    Add the Syrian National Army, Shabiha troops loyal to Syrian Government’s Armed troops, and Lebanese Hezbollah on the international terror list
Arab League:
1-    Demand the Human Rights Council and United Nations to give serious, and the appropriate attention, necessary to stop the daily killing
2-    Political and diplomatic pressure on the Syrian Government Troops ‘s mainallies-Russia, Iran, and China – to prevent them from continuously providing cover, and international and political protection for all the crimes committed against the Syrian people, and hold them morally and physically responsible for all the excesses of the Syrian Government Troops
3-    Serious attention of this case and give it high priority, and try to take care of victim families psychologically, materially, and educationally