Thursday, 13 June 2013

Government Decides to Hold a Referendum

After deputy prime Minister Bülent Arınç stated on monday that PM Erdoğan wants to meet a committee representing the Gezi demonstrations, it was being expected that the Taksim Solidarity Committee was going to be invited to a meeting with the PM. However, peculiarly, Erdoğan and his team created a new committee that has no direct links to the protest in Gezi Park. It consists of two academics, two architects, one artist, two directors, one media expert, one AKP member and two students one of which is the daughter of the CEO of Kamer Construction, a company that became the preferred bidder for the 'renovation' of the historical Emek Cinema on Istiklal Avenue - a highly profitable district (of course, renovation should be read as demolition and reconstruction within a mall - unsurprisingly). 

TEMA (the Turkish Foundation for Combating Soil Erosion, for Reforestation and the Protection of Natural Habitats), Greenpeace, and some individuals who were also invited to the meeting rejected to participate and declared that there already is one representative committee (Taksim Solidarity) of the movement and it should be contacted for the meeting.

After the government yesterday and today handsomely propagated how democratic their approach is, PM Erdogan met today the fake committee. Deputy chairman of the AKP, Hüseyin Çelik shared his opinions with the media after the meeting:

"They have come to our headquarters upon our invitation. Among them, there are professors, architects, and students. These 11 people have submitted their observations to our committee and our prime minister. They stated that the protesters at Gezi Park consist of people, who are environmentally sensitive and act with very non-politicized motives in this protest. They claim that they are not affiliated with any of the “illegal” groups at Gezi Park, neither do they approve of how they have acted throughout the protests. Throughout the meeting they have laid out their demands to the prime minister.
The prime minister commented on these demands: “if we want what the people are requesting from the government, then we ought to use the option of a referendum to the appertaining committees."
The concrete conclusion of today’s meeting is this, as summarized by Çelik: "We are willing to hold a referendum in order for the people of Istanbul to voice their demands. Not for the entire population of Turkey, but only people of Istanbul. Do you want to have this project done, or not? In democracies the decision of the people is what is cherished the most. I call to my young people who have been at Gezi Park, protesting, sleeping, and living there. With a referendum, we shall see the results. We think that after this gesture of goodwill Gezi Park should be emptied and life there should be brought back to normal. The shopkeepers have been damaged massively, also the hotels… What has been projected to the international media is certainly damaging our image as a country. If we are all patriots, hear my call."
However, following Çelik’s statement, the group that met with Erdoğan said that they had not been consulted regarding the possibility of organizing a referendum. Academic İpek Akpınar said on behalf of the group: "We are present here, as individuals, as responsible citizens. We are aware of the demands that have been put forth so far. And we believe that whoever is responsible for the consequences should be investigated. We hope that participation in our protest will continue as the violent attacks stop. We also hope that Gezi Park will be an example for peaceful demonstrations. We believe that our responsibility as citizens has ended. In this case, we have called for the authorized people to have common sense and good judgment about the situation. We have said that we do not have any authority to implement the government’s decisions. They have not asked our opinion about the referendum. We will state our stance on this matter tomorrow." 

This meeting - with random people that are by no means legitimized by the people in Gezi Park and on the streets - ist just another piece in the ongoing strategy of the AKP to 1) separate the good and the bad protesters and 2) reduce everything to Gezi Park. It is true, the movement started because of Gezi Park, but has quickly become much more and widened to a protest against the repressive policies of the AKP and against Erdogans bonapartist rule. 

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