Erdogan takes a hard line while protests continue

"Tree shadows do not stop capitalism" spray painted on the French Consulate, adjacent to Taksim Square. Last night, Taksim Square was the site of one of its biggest rallies yet, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan returned to Ankara sounding his usual defiant tone.

Though Taksim remains the "utopic freetown" of several days ago, sympathy protests in Ankara were gassed by police for a second day in a row. Disturbing allegations of police brutality, including an account of a police officer threatening one female detainee with rape, are now emerging. The Turkish media, still eager to please the government, remains in a cycle of narcissistic self-criticism and coverage of Erdogan's speeches, instead relegating these allegations to their sex blog, presumably in the hopes they will escape litigation.

On the other side of the equation, six police have committed suicide since the protests began, according to the police union, facing brutal working conditions and general hatred from the populace. Many police are being drafted in to the centres of protest from far away towns and are removed from their families, forced to sleep on public benches and work long hours. Though sympathy for police is understandably difficult amid reports of such brutality, it probably does not help their sense of proportion and justice to be routinely exhausted and isolated.

Though other members of Erdogan's government, including Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu and Deputy PM Bulent Arinc have made conciliatory motions towards protesters (in the former's case, even expressing a desire to be with them), Erdogan himself remains stubbornly defiant. Taking ownership of the police, he declared in a speech from conservative Ankara: "There are those who side with those swearing against the prime minister of this country. We are going to show patience, but patience has a limit as well."

Continuing to lash out at other opponents, and wildly criticize abstract bodies of opposition including an alleged "interest rate lobby", Erdogan added, "The moment we discover stock exchange speculation, we will ram it down your throat."

These increasingly violent and defiant tones from the prime minister are all the more alarming as the AKP prepares for counter-protests scheduled in Ankara and Istanbul. Amid reports of supporter violence, there is a potential for this to grow ugly as the AKP attempts to galvanize opposition to the protests into a single bloc.

Meanwhile, foreign media outlets appear to be showing considerable sympathy with the protesters, who have escaped stereotyping as young, secular, and anti-religious. "Anti-capitalist Muslims," now a considerable bloc within the protests, have attracted media attention as a symbol of the wide-reaching criticisms of the AKP represented in Gezi.

Two Ottoman-era houses in Sultanhamet. One needs a bit of TLC.

Though the protests began as an attempt to prevent the redevelopment of Istanbul's historic square into what one article called an "neo-Ottoman theme park," the brutality of the police response has created sympathy among opponents of the AKP's religious and economic conservativism.

Despite ongoing protests, Erdogan still maintains he will redevelop the park. In the New York Times, Michael Kimmelman argues the importance of the project for Erdogan is the sanitization and Islamification of the public square, long a disorganized and yet harmonious whole, eschewing class and political distinction. Erdogan's efforts to build a new, sizeable mosque and reconstruct an Ottoman-era building, he writes, are part of an effort to return Taksim to a pre-Republican past, a project dear to Erdogan's religious sensibilities -- the Ottoman period less unforgivably secular than Ataturk's republic.

(It also seems Erdogan has little respect for the national hero of secular Turks, having called him a drunk in discussions over his proposed new liquor restrictions, much to the ire of Ataturk's Kemalist fan clubs. Erdogan has previously stated that anyone drinking more than a few drinks a year is an alcoholic.)

This pro-development, Ottoman-revival attitude is not just limited to Gezi -- as reported today, reconstructing a residence of the Sheikh al-Islam in a university's botanical garden is also a pet project of Erdogan's.

Amid continuing EU pressure and rumours of early elections, Erdogan is coming under increasing pressure to do something, anything, to indicate he is willing to compromise. However, as several commentators pointed out when the protests first began, this has become an issue of hubris, and Erdogan now risks losing his sway over his bloc of loyal supporters if he indicates any desire to be a Prime Minister for the other 49 percent.

More news:

  • EU criticism of Erdogan's reponse to the protests remains heavy on police brutality and public censorship, but suspiciously light on media censorship. It seems the EU thinks Twitter is more important than a newspaper or television station able to broadcast criticism of government, but maybe that's just because it's doing more to undermine Erdogan's government right now. Either way, for shame, EU, for shame.
  • A good article in the Economist points out something many commentators have missed in their criticisms of Erdogan -- that he is preparing a bid to become Turkey's first popularly elected president, while simultaneously expanding the power of the post to dissolve parliament and appoint the cabinet. If you think Erdogan is acting like an autocrat now, the enhanced powers of the presidency would certainly make him more immune to parliamentary criticism. If criticism continues to grow, writes the Economist, current President Abdullah Gul might be encouraged to run again -- and may win the support of Turkey's powerful Gulen movement to do it. Meanwhile, the party rank and file, not immune from the fallout, is concerned Gezi Park may end their majority in the November election.
  • The tourism and spirits industry has criticized proposed new liquor restrictions ahead of their final drafting, saying they were not consulted. The restrictions, which disallow sales between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M. and forbid alcohol within 100m of a school or mosque (which affects most of crowded urban Besiktas) have been widely criticized, leading some within the protests to ironically call it the "alcoholics" movement.
  • An ongoing controversy about whether protesters fleeing police and receiving medical care in a local mosque wore shoes and drank beer is getting a lot of media attention, not least because it trades on the idea that the protests are predominantly anti-religious. Despite the fact that the imam of the mosque denied the claims several times, Erdogan maintains this affront to Islam is indicative of the overall mood of the protest.
  • In neighbouring Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has visited Iraqi Kurdistan in a bid to ease rising tensions, which have increased since militants from Turkey began their withdrawal into the area last month. Longstanding disputes over oil resources have led to threats of "renegotiation" of the relationship between the two governments.
  • The situation in nearby Lebanon is deteriorating as Hezbollah gets more tangled up in the Syrian conflict. Your Middle East has an excellent piece on the sectarian troubles of Lebanon and why another civil war may be immanent.
  • Meanwhile, the Syrian army is gearing up to take the longtime rebel stronghold of Aleppo, according to the Daily Star. A victory here, with the assistance of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, could turn the tide of the civil war, just as allegations of chemical warfare and ethnic cleansing are pushing Western nations to intervene on behalf of the rebels.

Erdogan blames everyone, and other news from Taksim Square

#direngeziparkiTaksim Square awakes each morning like a hangover. The young ones, as always, are the first to bounce back -- at 10 or 11 in the morning,  only the teenagers and the hardcore protesters, wearily unzipping their tents after a few hours of sleep, are milling about the "free zone", where early-morning street vendors and sympathetic capitalists sell merchandise, supplies and food.

Right now, the biggest risk for the government seems to be the growing sense of permanence surrounding the protests. By now, Istanbullus are used to the periodic chants that ring through the metro, and it's become a daily hobby for many to pop down to Taksim after work for a bite to eat and a scene to watch.

Erdogan tweaks the nipples of democracy. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Despite Erdogan's heavily documented triumphant return yesterday, Taksim, and neighbouring Besiktas, remain police free, and even in Ankara reports of police violence have slowed. That's a good thing; so far, a police officer has died in the protests; 4,785 are wounded, among them 14 journalists; and 48 are in critical condition, according to the latest numbers from the Turkish Doctors' Union, sympathetic to the protests.

Right now, the scariest and in my mind biggest risks come from supporter violence. What the police are seemingly unable to do, the legion of AKP supporters might. Erdogan has previously threatened that it is all he can do to keep them in their homes. The thousands that greeted him at the airport chanted violent slogans: "May the hands of those who harm the police be broken," and "Let us go and we will crush Taksim." To his credit, he said they should all go home.

His return certainly indicated the strength of support he still enjoys, due in large part to his strong organization and successful use of identity politics. His response to criticism highlights his constituency. His speech on his return was rife with religious language -- "Only Allah may stop Turkey's rise," "May Allah make our brotherhood last forever," and so on -- and struck out at every oppositional body without sympathy or moderation. Since the protests began, Erdogan has blamed communists, the PKK, foreign governments (including Syria), the European Union, the international and national press, international banks, Twitter, a broad "interest rate conspiracy", and, of course, "marauders".

What remains is the AKP voter base -- the politically and religiously conservative, pro-development new bosses in Istanbul, those who view this confrontation as a test of Erdogan's authority by former powers. Gezi Park is, in their minds, a combined effort by members of the armed forces, the Istanbul elite, communists, nationalists, and foreigners to undermine what is a vast and wide reaching popular movement that swept the AKP to power 10 years ago. They elect to speak legitimately through ballot boxes, and not illegitimately through street protests, the argument follows.

Of course, not everyone shares their view. Joining their critics (finally) is the European Union, long the club which Erdogan has most longed to join. EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule criticized Erdogan's hardline stance to media criticism and protests, threatening Turkey's long-fought bid for EU membership.

Unfortunately, this evidently only played into Erdogan's hands. Turks are at best lukewarm on EU accession. Fule's criticism allowed Erdogan to fire off charges of hypocrisy against the EU and US for their employment of similar police tactics to end Occupy protests, and play the Turkish "little man" finally standing up to international organizations which have had the AKP government by the political and economic balls over the past ten years (see the IMF; though interestingly, the EU has been relatively mute on social [i.e., human rights] criticisms until now).

And given that the US and EU members have employed brutal police tactics in the past, it's a fair point. But in the eyes of most of the world, it fails to justify Erdogan's unnecessarily severe stance. Once again, he has reiterated that the development project, including the controversial demolition of the Ataturk Culture Museum (AKM) for a mosque, museum, and opera house (one already exists in the AKM), will go ahead as planned (though evidently without a mall), and called for an immediate end to the protests with no negotiations. He is unwavering in this respect.

At least, for now, the risk to Istanbul's protesters seems fairly low. One journalist friend of mine pointed out that even if the AKP supporters wanted to mount an attack on Taksim or sympathetic protests, they are unlikely to have the same tolerance for tear gas and street violence as communists, Kurds, and the supporters of Besiktas football club, who have endured it for years. The only danger, and it is a real one, is if police become complicit in the act -- then it would seem a more widespread state failure is possible.

In addition to scary and escalating news from Turkey, there's also scary and escalating news from Syria, Kurdistan, and Egypt. But first:

  • In an ongoing effort to represent religious alongside secular Turks, the Gezi Park protests held their first Friday prayers by a group of "anti-capitalist muslims," among others.
  • Simultaneously, John McCain made some slightly islamophobic remarks about Erdogan, criticizing him for "push[ing] towards Islam" a "very modern nation and democracy," and relating the long-established self-censorship of the press to the AKP's islamist policies, calling the protests a "rebellion."
  • Speaking of self-censorship, one Guardian reader spotted no less than seven Turkish newspapers with the same flattering headline on the day of Erdogan's return (roughly translated as "we will die for democracy" or something like that). I spent the day myself in Hurriyet's newsroom watching CNNTurk and NTV play on endless repeat Erdogan's journey through throngs of loving supporters. Sadly, EU Commissioner Fule's criticism was woefully feeble on the issue of media censorship -- evidently it's not a priority. (Interesting side note: The Hurriyet style guide says beside is entry on the AKP, "Note: It's okay to call them conservative.")
  • In possibly bad news for the protests, imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has weighed in in favour of the protests. Though I'm sure it was good-intentioned, it will probably lend fuel to Erdogan's argument that terrorists and Kurds are behind these protests
  • One AKP member of parliament, Mehmet Soyuk, has resigned over the allegations of police brutality. He is the first AKP member to leave the party over the Gezi Park protests.
  • The Turkish army has deployed to the eastern border in an effort to contain a deteriorating situation in Syria... or, if you're the government of Bashar al-Assad, an improving situation. The Syrian army recently captured important points in Golan, which will probably turn the heat up on the Israelis involvement. The US and EU, led by Britain and France, are continuing to subtly build the case for military intervention in Syria.
  • In nearby Iraqi Kurdistan, protests against the central Iraqi government have led to the withdrawal of national forces. They've been replaced by Kurdish peshmerga militia, whose ranks are probably bolstered by the recent withdrawal of similar militias from Turkey under the PKK peace process. According to the Iraqi government, they are taking control of key oil fields, which is just not on. Iraq's interior ministry has demanded all forces "loyal to the Kurdish government" withdraw, reports Hurriyet.
  • In Egypt, millions are facing food and fuel shortages due to a deteriorating economic situation. Egypt is totally in the shitter -- its only house of government capable of passing legislation at the moment, the Shura Council, was just ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC), as was about everything else. Ongoing battles between the presidency, the SCC, Islamist allies of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Shura Council are paralyzing the Egyptian state just when it needs to do something about impending shortages and a possible economic collapse.

Taksim celebrates Miraç Kandili, some foreigners finally get arrested, and other news

The view of Taksim Square. Taksim saw a second day of festival-like freedom yesterday, though the impending return of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan could mean renewed police violence on the 10th day of protest.

Taksim Square has been converted into what one journalist called a "utopic Freetown" over several days of police non-involvement. Thousands of protesters are packing the square and adjacent Gezi Park in what began as a protest against plans to redevelop one of Istanbul's few remaining green spaces into a shopping centre, but has now become a more general vehicle for discontent against the policies of Erdogan's AKP government.

My girlfriend, a fellow Haligonian, and I met up in Taksim to take in the protests on their ninth day, which were full enough to paralyze Taksim's metro station and turn everyone into a giant bucket of dripping sweat.

The view inside the metro.

Being a foreigner with virtually no knowledge of Turkish, I had to wait until today's news to understand why everyone around me was offering me free baked goods, and why my quests for beery refreshment were thwarted. Turns out that Gezi Park was collectively celebrating Miraç Kandili, an Islamic holiday. Via social media, occupiers declared a no-alcohol zone out of respect for Muslim protesters, even inviting an imam to read at these typically secular protests. And I just thought they were trying to sell me cookies...

Government efforts to brand the protests as overwhelmingly young, liberal, and secular have evidently failed, with members of the religious community lending their support in the form of safe havens, medical supplies, and religious services.

While all was peachy in Istanbul (and while Taksim metro was paralyzed by untold numbers of excited protesters and curious citizens), sympathy protests in other cities in Turkey were met with police and AKP supporter violence (see below). Censorship and arrests continue to affect Twitter users and other sympathetic citizens. While the barricades may be keeping police at bay in Istanbul for the moment, late-night football fan-led marches planned at Dolmabahce Palace, where Erdogan has an office, have previously been met with brutal repression and are likely to face it again, should Erdogan come to Istanbul.

More flags this time.

In largely positive news:

  • Taksim Platform met yesterday with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç. Sources cited by Hurriyet quoted Taksim Platform as saying they had no authority to end the protests, and were merely presenting a list of demands. According to the article, they are mostly environmental, though not limited to Gezi Park. Taksim Platform demanded an end to several of Erdogan's other controversial unilateral development projects, including the third bridge over the Bosphorus, the "crazy" Istanbul Canal project, the demolition of the Ataturk Culture Museum, and plans for a third airport. They continued calls for the resignation of public officials and an end to tear gassing. Arınç said the government would discuss "binding promises".
  • Turkey's foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu has criticized the US response to reports of police brutality, saying, "These sorts of incidents happen everywhere and they are considered unexceptional." Kurdish blogger Dilar Dirik certainly thinks they are unexceptional, citing the hypocrisy of Kemalist Turks taking to the streets when Kurds have experienced the same systematic state repression for decades. She writes, "Millions of Kurds occupied the streets in Turkey this year and this sort of terrifying police violence is not at all new to them. The difference is that nobody cared."
  • In an apparent exercise in irony, Erdogan received an honourary degree from the University of Algiers while on his tour of North Africa for his "contributions to humanity". Turkey's human rights record is the worst it's been in a decade, when Erdogan took power, with more journalists imprisoned than Iran and China.
  • Turkish Airlines flight attendants, who earlier this year were banned from wearing red lipstick or nail polish (since overturned) -- and who just received some hideous new uniforms from a conservative redesign process -- have joined the protest by demonstrating flight safety in Guy Fawkes masks in Istanbul's Galatasaray Square.
  • Violence between police and protesters continued in the capital of Ankara, where police hit union and opposition members with a "sudden tear gas attack". Reports have been coming out of Ankara that a minority of protesters are throwing stones at police approaching Kizilay Square.
  • A Turkish game show is facing censorship after changing all of its questions and answers to subtle references to the Taksim protests. Answers included "gas mask", "apology", and "twitter", for which the question was, "The microblog and social network site that has been described as a 'menace'" -- a reference to Erdogan's declaration that Twitter caused social unrest. For full translation and more on media censorship in Turkey (including the infamous penguins), see Zeynep Tufeki's post here.
  • The first confirmed instances of supporter violence occurred yesterday in Rize, the hometown of PM Erdogan. AKP supporters allegedly attacked members of the Turkish Youth Union protesting in solidarity with Gezi Park. The PM's earlier threats that he could mobilize his supporters to quell protests seem a lot scarier now that instances of violence are beginning to pop up. As the New York Times reported earlier, even Istanbul has its pro-Erdogan neighbourhood, where a stadium is named in his honour.
  • Eleven foreign nationals, including four exchange students, have been detained for allegedly "provoking protesters", whatever that means.
  • Whit Mason in the Financial Post writes that the cause of the protests isn't Erdogan's conservativism, but his illiberality. According to Mason, the desire for reform has less to do with religion and more to do with restraining the power of majoritarian governments. Given that Erdogan is changing the constitution in an effort to set up a presidential run for himself, giving himself potentially 10 more years in power, it seems like a fair point.

News, Links, and Photos from June 4-5 Taksim/Gezi Protests

Besiktas JK's "Çarşı" football ultras march through Taksim and Gezi. Last night I went down to Gezi Park, joining the self-declared Turkish "marauders" on what appeared to be the first calm night of the now more than week-long Occupy-style protests.

The protests began last week in opposition to plans to develop Istanbul's central Gezi Park into a shopping mall, but have ballooned into a larger protest against Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and the pro-development policies of his government.

One journalist described the atmosphere as like a "pop festival", and it definitely had the same languid-yet-energized vibe of an outdoor music fest (although it may have just been the tear gas and flares in the air, but I didn't catch that familiar whiff of weed...). The key difference being, there was no act -- protesters entertained themselves, singing, dancing, chanting, talking, eating, or lounging, and though one organization or another marched here or there, the whole place had a spontaneous, unorganized, communal feel.

A kid sells Guy Fawkes masks in Gezi Park.

Street vendors selling beer (in violation of Erdogan's restrictive new liquor law), patriotic headgear, and street food made a killing in sales, while the air was filled with mingled smoke from celebratory flares, kofte grills, and the odd whiff of old tear gas.

Police appeared inactive yesterday in Istanbul, with the majority of clashes occurring elsewhere in the country. In my pursuit of getting pepper sprayed, I went down to the Dolmabahce neighbourhood (where Erdogan has an office), clambering over barricades made of paving stones and passing teenagers suiting up as if for some urban revolution.

There I witnessed the Besiktas JK football club's fanatical "Çarşı" fans rile up a crowd for a march on the palace. According to the Guardian, however, they've arranged a truce with police who have gassed them for the past five days.

A street barricade made of paving stones.

Back in Gezi Park, I thought I had escaped the Çarşı Army only to be accidentally stuck at the front of their march through Gezi Park. These guys know how to control a crowd -- two teams of strongmen with whistles cleared a path and helped move food carts and banners so there was room for the procession to pass.

Fenerbahce and Galatasary fans represent alongside Besiktas Çarşı, continuing this week's momentary cooperation between the three rival clubs.

I never did get gassed, but at least no one else did either. There's a lot of news today, not just from Turkey, but also some depressing developments in Syria and Canada:

  • Deputy PM Bulent Arinc has agreed to meet with the original protesters and (bizarrely) animal rights activists today at 11 AM, according to Hurriyet. That said, Hurriyet has just today pulled that story and replaced it with one about Ankara's continued battle to "contain" the "wildfire" of protests. Arinc will be meeting with the same organization that published the list of demands, Taksim Solidarity or "Taksim Platform", making, in my mind, any negotiation unlikely.

Protesters film organizers lighting flares on the roof of the Ataturk Culture Museum (AKM), scheduled for demolition as part of Erdogan's renovation plans for the square.

  • Turkey's Alevi minority have joined the protest in the eastern town of Tunceli. Their particular grievance is over the controversial third bridge over the Bosphorus, which in addition to eradicating acres of forested land, will also be named for Sultan Selim, "historically known for slaughtering Alevis."
  • The Moroccan king, Mohammed VI, has snubbed Turkish PM Erdogan in his four-day tour of North Africa. Erdogan's arrival was met with solidarity protests.
  • Canada, the US, and Britain have all issued warnings to travelers to avoid demonstration areas. The Canadian consulate said that I "should remain vigilant at all times, avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media." That last point may be a bit pointless, given that local media is now engaged in a vast, narcissistic project to evaluate their own inadequacy in reporting the events of the past week, instead of reporting the events of, for example, today.
  • John Kerry has asked for an investigation into police brutality and "restraint on all sides" -- my Turkish friend suggested that he may have used a form email given his particular lack of imagination.
  • One of Turkey's largest trade unions (KESK) is joining the protest in a two-day strike starting today, accusing Erdogan of "state terrorism". They will bring 240,000 public sector employees to the protest.
  • The mayor of Antalya has denied the use of the municipal water supply to TOMA crowd control tanks and water cannons. Antalya is controlled by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which has supported the protests since it was evident that they could be used to attack Erdogan and his ruling AK party.
  • Bianet is reporting that police gassed an "infirmary" in Ankara that was helping helping injured protesters. There have been rumours on Twitter about this sort of thing for a while, but this is the first such instance confirmed by local media

A candlelit library, stacked with revolutionary books, in Taksim's Gezi Park. Click to read more.

SYRIA

  • In Syrian news today, the French government has allegedly confirmed the use of sarin gas "by the regime and its accomplices" using blood and urine samples smuggled out of Damascus by the French newspaper Le Monde. This has understandably ratcheted up the hawkishness in French government circles, but the US is pushing for more evidence -- rightly so, given this follows close on the heels of the joint Anglo-French decision to pressure the EU into lifting an embargo on arms transfers to Syrian rebels.
  • In equally depressing news, the Syrian town of Qusayr, for a long time held by rebel forces, has been captured by the Syrian army. Qusayr is an important target for Assad's government, the Daily Star points out, as it connects the capital of Damascus with the remaining pro-regime Alawite strongholds.

BAHRAIN

  • Your Middle East has a great piece from Lisa Barrington about continuing protests by women against the government of Bahrain. Worth checking out, and comparing to the relatively simple life of the Istanbul protester.

CANADA

  • In depressing Canadian news, my long-held pessimistic suspicion that the Rob Ford crack video scandal would somehow blow over and nothing at all would change has apparently proven correct. Gawker has lost the video purportedly showing Ford smoking crack and is now furiously blaming everyone but themselves, who were the first to break the story.

Taksim protest photos on Classless Magazine

I've posted photos from Taksim's Gezi Park yesterday in an article on Classless Magazine. The full article and photos can be found here. Now that it's around 2 o'clock here, the protests will be picking up again as people meet in Taksim and Besiktas. It doesn't look like they've closed the metro yet, but it's possible that if they choose to gas protesters in Besiktas this afternoon, and not wait until night, the wind may carry it into the metro system, and they'll need to shut it down.

In other news, I'm on the lookout for football ultras attending the protests. Istanbul's three big clubs, whose ultras are known for their violence against each other, have united in support of the protests. Football fan clubs, like the Ultras in Egypt and Turkey, are among the first to big protests in the Middle East, using their considerable organizational skills and their extensive experience in clashing with police to help escalate protests and make an unfair fight against police a little more even.

Even though their arrival coincided with the police decision to withdraw, they've been blamed for some of the more extensive damage in Taksim, Besiktas, and Istiklal. Sometimes they get a little out of hand, as when they stole a construction vehicle to drive at police anti-riot tanks.

If you're interested in Ultras and their effect on Middle Eastern politics, Your Middle East has a special feature on football in the Middle East.

In other news:

  • Taksim Solidarity, a group (dubiously) claiming to speak on behalf of the larger protest movement, has released a list of outlandish demands, including the resignation of public officials, the release of detained protesters, and the banning of tear gas. Importantly, they still demand that nothing be built in Gezi Park, cultural centre, mosque, or mall.
  • The deputy PM, Bülent Arınç, seems to be departing with PM Erdogan's official line of stubborn resistance to protest demands following his meeting with President Abdullah Gül, who also indirectly criticized Erdogan's stance and police brutality. Arınç offered an apology to protesters injured by police and even called the initial protest "legitimate and patriotic", though he did add that the government did not feel like they "owed anything to those who cause harm."
  • In case you forgot the Kurdish issue, there have been reports of fire on Turkish military positions on the Turkey-Iraq border, where PKK militants are withdrawing. This could possibly jeopardize the ceasefire, though with all the drama over the protests, I imagine the Kurdish withdrawal is at the back of the government's mind, if not the army's.