Ramadan started yesterday with an extraordinary scene on Istiklal street: as the sun set, an outdoor picnic organised by the Anti-Capitalist Muslim Group welcomed one and all to celebrate iftar (the breaking of the fast) in a long, snaking line of rugs down the pedestrianized street. The leftist Muslims were overseen by suspicious riot police and their trusty water canons as they broke their fast. Up on Taksim Square, the municipality hosted a more formal outdoor iftar with restaurant-style, white-clothed tables and uniformed waiters. The Istiklal iftar happened again tonight, and I hope it will continue for the whole month of Ramadan.
A fifth person, 19 year old Ali Ismali Korkmaz, has died as a result of the protests. He was attacked on 2nd June by men in civilian clothes who have not yet been found, and died as a result of his injuries.
The Turkish government sold 2.5 billion US dollars yesterday to try and retain the value of the Turkish lira after it plummeted post-protests.
At midnight last night, a bill was hastily passed in parliament to limit the power of the Chamber of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) after it spoke out in support of the Gezi protests.
I found this lucid explanation of events posted anonymously on Facebook:
“You are your country’s omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient prime minister and you are angry at a union of trade chambers for blocking your plans to redevelop a major public square and demolish a park at your own will. The project in question has triggered the largest anti-government demonstrations in your country’s modern history, to which you have responded with generous doses of brutality, animosity and denial. The union, which represents 23 chambers and over 400,000 engineers and architects, has dared to use its legal right to demand a judicial review of the project and managed to procure a court order to have it suspended. You’ve had your police repeatedly raid their offices and finally arrest their representatives, but they have not budged.
Here is how you use your parliamentary majority to put those ungrateful troublemakers in their place: You call for a last minute session at midnight. You present a draft law that increases ministerial supervision over all trade chambers, cuts their income and curtails their ability to review and approve relevant public projects. You throw the draft law in a package of 50+ unrelated revisions lumped together to fast-track legislative change. You read out, vote for and approve the whole thing in a matter of hours.
And then you call it a democracy. We simply call it Turkey.”
Finally, my favourite news of the day: Sırrı Sureyya Önder, the charismatic bulldozer-fighting MP, champion of Gezi park, gave a brilliant speech in parliament ridiculing the government’s development projects, pointing out that only about five companies ever win government tenders, and that their supposedly pedestrianized development project in Taksim Square would be missing anywhere for pedestrians to walk. It was a treat to watch, and the best bit was when he dramatically exposed his tummy to show the bruise he received when a tear gas canister hit him in Taksim Square. To the consternation of fellow ministers, he left the podium and went around showing them photos of his bruise in its riper days on his mobile phone. This man is wonderful.