PMB man: I’ve seen the brutality

2013-06-07 00:00

RIVAL fans of soccer clubs and members of different religions and cultures have come together to protest the brutality of the Turkish police.

This was the view of Istanbul-based Maritzburger Duane de Coning.

The protests, which have spread all over Turkey, have claimed two lives and left more than 3 000 people injured.

De Coning, who has been living and working in Turkey for over a year, told The Witness that violence erupted when police fired water cannons at sleeping activists protesting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plan to build a shopping mall at the historic Taksim Gezi Park.

“I’ve seen Gezi Park. It’s the last green park in the city centre. On Thursday May 28, a couple of thousand people had gathered and were camping out. All they were doing was chanting,” said De Coning.

“While they were asleep, police arrived and ambushed them with canisters and water cannons. The prime minister has said it was some drunks gathered there, but it wasn’t,” he said.

De Coning said the campaigners had come from all walks of life, and everyone across the country had been angered by the actions of the police, and at Erdogan for turning a blind eye.

“They’re angry that the police are getting away with brutality, and the prime minister is dismissing it as a protest by drunks. There are professionals there. There are doctors and lawyers out there.”

The South African, who lives 25 km from the city centre and is married to a Turkish woman, said he felt bad that he wasn’t out there along with his friends as he feared arrest.

“I’m trying to get my Turkish citizenship, and I fear that if they arrest me, they’ll just deport me, and that will set me back financially,” he said.

However, he said he did witness first-hand the brutality of the police about two kilometres from Gezi Park where they shot gas canisters and sprayed water at tourists.

“I was showing a South African friend of mine around and arrived at a street that is a tourist attraction. The place was virtually deserted and we could hear protesters in the distance.

“We walked into a shop, and the owner told us to get out because he was locking up. We then saw a tank driving down the street spraying people with water cannons. People were being flung all over the place and they were just hitting the ground.

“We could smell gas and we had to run for our lives. We didn’t understand why they had to spray at tourists.”

De Coning said the feeling amongst Turks was that Erdogan was going against what the country’s founder, the beloved Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, had stood for.

“The main thing is he is not listening to the people and holding the police accountable. He also wants the building of a shopping mall at the park to carry on.”

The mall is mooted to be constructed in Geza Park where army barracks that were destroyed by Atatürk’s soldiers in 1940 were situated, angering locals.

“My aim is to get this message out throughout the world because the Turkish media have been heavily censored.”

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