[The following statement was issued by Taksim Dayanışması (Taksim Solidarity) on 19 July 2013. Taksim Solidarity is a coalition constituted by approximately eighty organizations including civil society groups, professional associations, political parties, and platforms. The statement has been lightly edited for stylistic purposes.]
We are Taksim Solidarity, here to follow up on our demands. Taksim Solidarity is not an illegal organization but the pride of this country.
Taksim Solidarity is comprised of 124 trade unions, political parties, community groups, sports club fan groups, and initiatives embracing diversity and expressing demands in a peaceful, democratic way. It is supported by environmentalists, artists, journalists, and members of the intelligentsia. It voices a yearning for a greener, more liveable and democratic city and country and is adamant about continuing the struggle for the preservation of Gezi Park and Taksim Square and ensuring that those responsible for police violence are held accountable.
Taksim Solidarity’s demand for a healthy urbanization and liveable city, merged with the cries of millions for more freedom and democracy, reflects a social sensitivity symbolized by Gezi Park. The creative genius of the young, the warm embrace of mothers, the power of the working classes and the loud and clear voices of women, the “we are here too” cries of the LGBT community and the revitalized oldies have come together to turn an irreversible page in the democratic history of this country.
Instead of acknowledging this diversity and its demands as a basis for democratic society, a witch-hunt has started criminalizing trade unions and sports fan clubs and detaining young people. This surely is a dark period for our democracy. It is ironic that those who use the metaphor “preparing the conditions for a military coup” are themselves the ones exercizing home raids, strip searches, taking fingerprints by force, roughly treating people, using police reports as bases for court cases, and criminalizing fan clubs, university students, and trade unions.
The primary focus of Taksim Solidarity has always been dialogue between the people and the mayor, the governor, the deputy Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister himself. The emphasis has been on a healthy reflection of expectations rather than claims for representation. The trade union leaders who had attended meetings with Deputy PM Bülent Arınç on 5 June and with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 13 June have been taken illegally from their homes a month later and were held under extended police custody, with some arrested as leaders of an illegal organization. These are worrying signs about the quality of the government we have.
Taksim Solidarity will continue to convey the legal and rightful demands of the people, strengthening channels for dialogue and thus our democratic traditions.
It is now public knowledge that the plans for the dehumanization of Taksim Square and the development of Gezi Park were against the law and the principles of architecture and town planning. This arbitrary approach has been proven to be unlawful, as certified by the verdicts of the court cases initiated by the trade unions within Taksim Solidarity.
Hundreds of thousands of signatures were collected under the initiative of Taksim Solidarity to show the citizens that the project to turn Taksim into a pedestrian-only area was a major blow to Istanbul.
All these efforts turned into something else when City of Istanbul Council arbitrarily and illegally started cutting the trees in Gezi Park on 27 May. Members of Taksim Solidarity and the protesters standing up for the park and living spaces were subjected to violence during dawn operations. Soon, millions were in the streets voicing their democratic reaction against police violence and demands for less interference in personal life, more freedom and democracy, and respect for differing opinions. A tangible request encompassing these was the fulfilment of the demands for Gezi Park.
These spontaneous countrywide civil society initiatives have unfortunately been confronted with tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets. Four youths have lost their lives as result of violence by the police and their accomplices. A young police officer fell to his death in Adana. Tens of people suffered head traumas and strokes. Some were permanently disabled. We would like to once again give our condolences to the families of all those who passed away and wish a speedy recovery to those injured. How inhuman and incomprehensible is it that the government has still not shown any empathy with the families who have lost their beloved children?
Democratic demands can undoubtedly be met by democratic means. Our society needs an approach by the public administration perceiving the issues, demands, and expectations and taking steps for their solution.
We are worried about the criminalization of democratic reactions and the treatment of everyone as guilty, as terrorists, and the use of police force pushing issues to intractability.
Everything to do with Taksim Solidarity, a democratic convening of institutions and civilians, the callers, components, press releases, activities, and demands, are open, transparent, and legal. It is actually illegal to criminalize trade unions, labor unions, political parties, community and environmentalist groups, sports fan clubs. This primitive approach sets democracy back a hundred years.
We invite all segments of the society to respect the law, democracy, and human rights.