Cablegate: Ankara Media Reaction Report
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SUBJECT: ANKARA MEDIA REACTION REPORT
FRIDAY, MAY 2, 2008
In Today's Papers
May Day Marked by Police Brutality
All news outlets report police used excessive force to prevent
Turkey's major labor unions and other civic organizations from
commemorating May Day in Istanbul's Taksim Square yesterday. Police
blocked access to Taksim Square by dispersing demonstrators with
tear gas and water cannons. The headquarters of the Confederation
of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DISK) was besieged by police, who
fired teargas into the building where union members were meeting in
preparation for the May Day events. Police fired teargas into a
children's hospital near Taksim, which injured doctors and patients
inside. As tensions escalated, DISK cancelled their march to
Taksim. DISK's May Day march was intended to commemorate the 36
people killed in May Day in 1977. Papers report DISK chairman
Suleyman Celebi said they decided not to march to Taksim in order to
minimize damage, and Celebi demanded the resignation of Istanbul
Governor Muammer Guler. Celebi said the police brutality on May Day
revealed the hypocrisy of the AKP, and it also showed that "the
government wants freedom only for the headscarf." The ruling AKP
government imposed a ban on May Day celebrations in Taksim Square,
claiming illegal groups were planning to use the rally to cause
civil unrest. At least 25,000 policemen were on duty and 2,000
gendarmes were stationed in Taksim Square at 4:30 in the morning
yesterday. Papers report 530 demonstrators were detained, and 6
policemen and 32 civilians injured.
Mainstream Milliyet's banner headline reads, "Why?" and argues, "The
Government Stirs Up Tensions While the Police Beat Men and Women
With Batons and Kicks," as "Even a Hospital Is Attacked With
Teargas." Mainstream Hurriyet writes in "May Day Police State,"
that, "Workers in cardigans were dispersed by police using water
cannons, teargas, and truncheons." Hurriyet also notes, "Police did
not hesitate to use teargas in a children's hospital," where "both
doctors and patients were hurt." Liberal Radikal carries photos of
police beating May Day protestors with the banner headline, "This Is
As Far As AKP Democracy Goes;" the article points out, "Police
started their security measures with early morning beatings."
Radikal columnist Murat Yetkin calls the police crackdown, "a
violation of international conventions," and notes, "the AKP
government upholds EU values in its defense against closure, but
acts like a Middle East autocracy when the rights of workers are at
stake." Leftist-nationalist Cumhuriyet writes, "May Day Marred By
AKP Terror," as "The government's mask of democracy is removed," and
"the police take orders from the government to turn Istanbul into a
battle field," as, "a reporter for Cumhuriyet suffers a broken arm
after being beaten by police." Cumhuriyet also writes, "May Day was
celebrated in 160 countries but footage of police at May Day rallies
in Turkey must have looked like some kind of police festival."
Cumhuriyet correspondent Orhan Bursali called yesterday's turmoil,
"a rehearsal for the establishment of an Islamic dictatorship."
Mainstream Vatan columnist Rusen Cakir writes, "When the government
banned the May Day demonstrations, they missed a chance to improve
dialogue with voters who did not support them in the last
elections." Economic daily Referans refers to Istabul Police Chief
Celalettin Cerrah's statement that "the police fulfilled their
duties," by saying, "Cerrah must have been blinded by the teargas
used by the police yesterday." Columnist Mehmet Altan of mainstream
Star wrote, "Yesterday's clashes looked like the four horsemen of
the Apocalypse in Turkey."
Mainstream Sabah strikes an ironic tone, saying "Police and soldiers
have bravely defended Taksim from the workers."
Meanwhile, Islamist-oriented and far right papers report otherwise.
Islamist-oriented Zaman writes, "Taksim Tensions Averted When Labor
Unions Step Back," but that "tensions were triggered by marginal
groups clashing with police." Conservative, nationalist-oriented
Bugun writes, "May Day Horror: All of Turkey Pays for DISK's
Insistence on Marching to Taksim." Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak
writes, "The Result of DISK's Insistence on Marches in Taksim:
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Police Use Teargas and Water Cannons Against the Demonstrators."
Conservative-nationalist Turkiye writes, "Provocation!
Demonstrators Trigger Turmoil With Their Insistence on Marching to
Taksim, Despite the Restrictions." Ali Bayramoglu of
Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak blames the overall mentality of
intolerance on both sides, noting Turkish politics are "haunted by
oriental despotism." However, columnist Oktay Eksi of mainstream
Hurriyet joined the criticism against the labor unions when he
wrote, "The unions pretended they were too strong to listen to the
President Abdullah Gul expressed regret that the workers could not
celebrate May 1 by exercising basic rights and freedoms. The CHP
deputy group chairmen released a statement saying the AKP handled
May Day with a "fascist mentality." Far right MHP deputy group
chairmen held a joint press conference and denounced the attitude of
the security forces that were acting on the orders of the
Editorial Commentary on Yesterday's May Day Debacle
"Was This About May Day or the Government's Hara-kiri Suicide?"
Cengiz Candar wrote in business daily Referans (5/2): "The police's
show of force against demonstrators and the government's fights with
labor unions are enormously symbolic events. After yesterday's
debacle, these symbols may signal the final stage of the AKP
government. Yesterday's May Day crackdown was typical of a despotic
government with no sense of freedom. If this is the way AKP wants to
behave, Turkey has no need for it. While the measures taken to
prevent labor unions from entering Taksim Square were legal, these
measures were not taken in the interest of freedom."
"The September 12 Coup Is Still Alive"
Koray Duzgoren wrote in Islamist Yeni Safak (5/2): "While watching
yesterday's scenes from Taksim, foreigners must wonder if Turkey is
experiencing another military coup. Police forces harshly attacked
demonstrators and, in some cases, even innocent bystanders.
Turkey's September 12th military coup happened 27 years ago, but
today the same mentality of intolerance continues. One can exercise
his or her freedoms only up to a certain extent. In fact, the
government's justification for the crackdown is even the same as it
was during the military coup - full scale freedom can be abused.
There is only one difference between military despotism and today.
The military used to declare curfews on May Day. While there are no
official curfews today, it is a de facto thing."
"Reporting From Besieged Taksim"
Ferai Tinc wrote in mainstream Hurriyet (5/2): "Interestingly
enough, the closure case against the AKP was opened based on
existing laws. When the closure case was initiated, AKP leaders
extensively challenged the validity of the law. But when it comes
to labor unions and May Day demonstrations, the ruling AKP presents
a stiff approach to binding laws. This is nothing but hypocrisy and
self-serving democracy. While party closure is not right, banning
peaceful demonstrations is equally wrong. The values of democracy
should be embraced as a whole. Unions planned to criticize the
government's approach to labor rights and the AKP prevented their
voices from being heard from Taksim. Yet this does not help the
ruling AKP at all. Instead, the entire world now understands the
true meaning of democracy according to the AKP."
[Background: May Day was a national holiday until the 1980 military
coup. Prior to the 1980 coup, labor unions traditionally organized
large gatherings in Istanbul's Taksim Square. In 1977, May Day
Celebrations ended in bloodshed when 36 died after someone opened
fire on the crowd of 500,000. Later, papers reported the so-called
"Deep State" was involved in the violence and thus it was an act of
provocation. The military coup of 1980 ordered a full ban on May
Day celebrations and annulled the May Day holiday.]
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Turkish Delegation Holds Official Talks in Iraq
All papers report on Thursday, a Turkish delegation led by Prime
Minister Erdogan's chief advisor Professor Ahmet Davutoglu and
Special Iraq envoy Ambassador Murat Ozcelik met with Iraqi President
Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and the Kurdish
regional administration Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani. During
the meeting with the Iraqi President, Talabani said it was
"important for Turkey to strengthen ties with not only the central
Iraqi government but also the Kurdish administration." A statement
issued by the Iraqi Presidency said the delegations stressed the
need to resolve matters between Turkey and the Kurdish
administration, and hold talks on politics, economics, and security
In the meeting with the Turks, Prime Minister Maliki said Iraqi
government was eager to boost relations with Turkey and improve
cooperation in all areas. While Maliki said this year would be a
year of reconstruction in Iraq, he added he would like to see Turkey
join the reconstruction projects. Davutoglu reaffirmed Turkey's
support to Iraq's fight against terrorism and projects to
reconstruct the country. Davutoglu also told Maliki that Prime
Minister Erdogan was willing to visit Iraq, say papers.
In Ankara, Prime Minister Erdogan met Thursday the Iraqi Vice
President Tariq al-Hashimi. Erdogan and Hashimi to discuss regional
stability and cooperation in the fight against terrorism and.
Earlier yesterday, Hashimi was received by President Abdullah Gul at
Cankaya Presidential Palace. Gul said energy was an important
dimension of Turkey's ties with Iraq. Gul also told Hashimi Turkey
wants to be included in the new list of countries that would explore
oil in Iraq, papers report. Mainstream Sabah reports, "Turkish
officials asked Kurdish officials to guarantee they will take action
against the PKK," and "the political isolation of northern Iraq will
continue if the Kurdish regional administration fails to take steps
against the PKK."
MHP Seeks CHP Support for Annulling Changes in Article 301
Hurriyet and Sabah report that MHP deputy chairmen Oktay Vural and
Mehmet Sandir met with CHP group deputy chairmen Kemal Anadol, Kemal
Kilicdaroglu and Hakki Suha Okay in an effort to get CHP's support
to take the amendment of article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code to
the Constitutional Court. Sabah reports that CHP stressed that it
was not possible to appeal to the Constitutional Court for the
annulment of changes in article 301.
Six Children on Trial for Singing Kurdish Marches
Mainstream Sabah and Islamist-oriented Yeni Safak report the
Diyarbakir Juvenile Court is trying six children between the ages of
14 and 15 on charges of making PKK propaganda at a music festival in
the U.S. The lawyers of the child defendants claim the song the
children sang and the flags that were hanging at the concert hall
all belong to the regional Kurdish administration of northern Iraq.
In order to gather more evidence, the court board postponed the
- Turkish fighter jets have bombed the PKK positions in the Kurtek
and Kalatukan regions in Mount Kandil in northern Iraq.
- Investigations into a recent lynching attempt against Kurds in
Adapazari continue, but ten suspects detained in connection to the
crime were released. A group of Kurds in Sakarya condemned the
racist attacks in the city.
- Turkish Parliament's Justice Committee approved Thursday a draft
allowing foreigners to acquire property in Turkey. On March 12, the
Constitutional Court annulled a law on sales of real estate to
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foreign companies and joint ventures.
- Greek Cypriot leader Christofias said new initiatives in Cyprus
would not lead to peace if Turkish Cypriots base their positions on
the views of the Turkish National Security Council (MGK).
- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sent a delegation to tell Iran
to stop backing the Shiite militias in Iraq.
- The man believed to be the head of al-Qaeda in Somalia was killed
in a U.S. air strike.