Repression and ResistancePosted: July 14, 2013
Istanbul, July 14.
For the past week, both the repression and the resistance are gaining steam again. On Monday, eight members of Taksim Solidarity were arrested on trumped up charges including the founding of an illegal organization with the ‘intent to commit crimes’. Other members were charged with the possession of suspicious materials, such as gas masks. Police raids were performed throughout Istanbul. Our own primary cove got raided twice in the aftermath of the Gezi occupation.
On Wednesday, fifty Occupy Gezi detainees started a hunger strike to protest against the witch hunt. Amnesty International and human rights organization IHD called for the immediate release of all peaceful protesters and for the government to protect the freedom of expression and demonstration. Pending trial, the Taksim Solidarity members were released on Thursday.
Four members of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) were arrested on Monday as well. The Union played a vital role in spearheading the occupation of Gezi Park by starting the lawsuit which finally canceled the redevelopment project of Taksim. The Union is important in Turkish daily life because it can grant final approval to certain urban planning projects. On Wednesday, the government launched an offensive against them by rushing through a midnight bill, which cancels the Union’s privileges and takes away an important part of its income.
Yesterday, the architects and engineers demonstrated in Istanbul and Ankara, together with thousands of sympathizers. Police attacked the crowd, leading to renewed clashes that lasted throughout the evening. Tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets were used.
For the last week there has been another worrisome development as small cells of AKP supporters have intimidated and attacked protesters with sticks. Yesterday they tried to do so as well in Istanbul, but they were quickly and effectively beaten back by the crowd. Gun shots were reported as the AKP supporters retreated.
Over a month ago, armed AKP goons attacked and severely brutalised 19-year old protester Ali Ismail Korkmaz in Eskişehir. After a month in coma, Korkmaz died last Wednesday, bringing the official death toll of the uprising to six (five plus one). Immediately after the news was published, demonstrations broke out all over the country, particularly in Eskişehir, Ankara, Antakya (Antioch) and in several districts of Istanbul.
A meeting of the Popular Forum of Kocamustafaşa in Istanbul’s Fatih district was attacked by armed AKP supporters on the same day as people were commemorating the murder of Ali Korkmaz. The attackers intimidated people to stop organizing forums. The day after, there were at least twenty times as many participants, and the AKP supporters didn’t dare to show up again.
In Antioch, on the coast near the Syrian border, the protests over Ali’s death were particularly fierce after police attacked people in order to prevent them from marching. The city has a rich history, not only as capital of the Seleucid Empire and as one of the original metropoles of early Christianity, but also as a place of popular resistance. “You can conquer Antioch,” they say, “but you can’t hold it.” Every night, there have been demonstrations and clashes, centered around the neighbourhood of Armutlu.
Friday night, the people of Armutlu actively resisted police aggression as toma’s moved in to try and pacify the neighbourhood. The toma is the backbone of police repression. Without it, they don’t dare to move. So in order to successfully resist, it’s vital for insurgents to neutralize them. There are various ways to do this, all of which have been experimented since the uprising started, and subsequently shared on the Internet up to the point that they made it to Wikipedia (though the ‘countermeasure’ reference has recently been removed).
The toma has a couple of weak spots, which include the engine, the tires and the turret. As I mentioned in an earlier post, paint bombs are used to temporarily disorient either the driver or the gunner by throwing them against the windshield or the camera next to the water cannon.
To immobilize it permanently, people use a remedy that works against any combustion engine and which consists simply in putting a wet towel over the exhaust. This can be difficult, because the exhaust is pretty well protected, and it means the crowd will have to be able to surround the toma. Be aware that a toma doesn’t only spray water through the cannon, it can also spray water vapour through a number of dispensers all around the vehicle. The water is treated with a chemical substance that burns the skin like pepper-spray.
If people do succeed in trapping the vehicle, they may also decide to overturn it by force. This may require leverage. But as Archimedes teaches us, even the world itself can be lifted out of place if you have a proper foothold.
Usually, it will not be possible to surround the toma, which leaves people with the option to try and neutralize them from a distance. The most effective measure that has been experimented for this is the Molotov cocktail.
Molotovs have been used with success against vehicles, including tanks, ever since they were first used by fascist militia in the Spanish Civil War. They got their name from Finnish soldiers who used them against the Soviets in the Winter War of 1939-40, as a present for Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who tried to make the world believe that the bombs dropped on Finland were actually emergency aid packages.
In regard to toma’s, the Molotov is generally deployed to overheat the engine by creating a fire underneath, or to melt the tires. The device consists of a bottle filled with an inflammable substance and a rag. Usually, people stuff a soaked rag down the bottleneck, they light it and they throw it. This can be very dangerous if the resister in question doesn’t know what he or she is doing. When the mouth of the bottle is not properly sealed with ducktape it can cause a premature explosion. People with a certain experience use a safer and more effective way. They cork the bottle and ducktape the soaked rag to the other side. This allows the thrower to use the bottleneck as a handle, expanding both the reach and the precision. As for the inflammable substance, professional clashers prefer a mixture of gasoline and oil, which makes the fire burn longer and more difficult to extinguish, even with water.
This leaves the most vulnerable part of the toma, the turret. Those people determined to neutralize it are forced to attack it from above. This requires access to buildings and a friendly neighbourhood, a neighbourhood like Armutlu.
On Friday, police lost a toma in Armutlu when people dropped an entire 10.000 liter water container on it from the roofs, Neapolitan style. Other devices recommended by insurgents as effective countermeasures against toma’s include washing machines, dish washers and refrigerators. In the midst of the resistance in Armutlu some people even threw their furniture out of the window, not to damage the toma’s, but to help the defenders build their barricades.
After their humiliating defeat, police didn’t dare to enter Armutlu again yesterday evening. The neighbourhood has been liberated. The people are in control. In the evening it was not necessary to use refrigerators and dishwashers in combat. Instead, some very determined insurgents used them to further reinforce the barricades. They also covered access roads with oil, to prevent the easy passage of any type of vehicle.
These are just a few of last week’s highlights in Turkey. In Istanbul there has also been a demonstration by journalists and sympathizers on Friday, to protest against censorship and the ongoing smear campaign of government-friendly media. Police took a day off. Maybe they understood that it wouldn’t be smart to attack them, from a public relations point of view.
For the same reason they hesitated to attack the banquet of Anti-Capitalist Muslims that had been organized in Istiklal Street at sundown on Tuesday to celebrate the first day of Ramadan. For hundreds of meters, the faithful sat down to eat and share, together with the people of Gezi Park. Police was present, they lined up a toma and ordered people to disperse.
We were waiting for it. ‘Do it, Tayyip! Do it! Spray those Muslims in the midst of their ritual, and your government won’t last for another week!’
He didn’t do it. Police backed down. The government has no intention to de-escalate the situation, but they’re not stupid, not at all. Apparently, Tayyip hopes that people will give in under mounting pressure from subservient police, provocateurs, courts and press. From their side, protesters continue to defy him, all over the country, every day. One of their slogans which you will find on banners and t-shirts is, in fact, ‘Boyun eğme’.
Don’t bow your head.
P.S. A warm salute to all our comrades in France on this July 14. Remember the Bastille! Don’t wait for the situation to get desperate in order to rise up. The best time for revolution is now…