June 23, 2013 by brasiersarah
It starts as an irritation, a slight pinch in the nose then slowly works it way through your sinuses and into your head. It radiates through to your eyes unleashing a waterfall of tears, a fiery heat engulfs your face crippling your vision. This is the a few minutes of tear gas. Here are some steps to remedy tear gas.
1.Don’t rub your eyes or face (I rubbed my eyes and face).
2. Close you eyes and squeeze lemon juice on your face (I didn’t close my eyes) it removes the poison.
3. Spray a milk and water mixture over your face and leave it (I didn’t have this milk mixture).
4. Come prepared (I didn’t come prepared!)
One of the many road blocks engineered from anything in the vicinity. You would walk on a dirt path up to the main square in Turkeys biggest city because the protesters had ripped up the pavement in order to keep the cops out. This was our first glimpse into the riots, our friend we met in Istanbul the first time round was a supported and took us on a journey I will never forget. It was like nothing I have ever seen, well thats a lie I have seen it many times. I have seen it in the game Fallout, set in a post apocalyptic world. I have seen it in Grand Theft Auto a blaze of burnt out cars and chaos, something you never imagine to experience first hand and here I was in the midst of it all. Wether you’re working, playing or just out right protesting, food is essential. Entrepreneurial spirit was in the air and the street vendors came out of no where to sell you everything you needed to rebel against the dictator of a prime minister. By day Taksim Mall ran business as usual, people shopped as normal without fear of the protesters because there was nothing to fear. A few days ago these rebellious citizens were labeled terrorists by the very man that set fire in the hearts of thousands, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A safe shopping mall by day, and a place to voice your opinion by night would suggest otherwise. This is Taksim Square next to that is where this all started, Gezi Park. A quick search in Wikipedia will tell you that there are at least 88 malls in Istanbul and 41 projected to go up. A plan was set to level the park to make yet another shopping mall. For those of you who haven’t been to Istanbul, think of a plan to level Kings Park Perth, Princes Park Melbourne or Hyde Park Sydney just for another shopping mall. What would you do? People came as a peaceful protest having barbecues, playing instruments and voicing their opinion that there are enough shopping malls in Istanbul and there is no need to demolish a popular park to put up another. The Istanbul Police came with unrelenting force pushing out the people and smothering their voices. They burnt tents, fired of gas canisters and bulldozed with riot shields. This irrational behaviour set in course a backlash they did not predict. Thousands of of people from all over the country set to the streets to meet the police head on. There were many things simmering under the surface before the park set light to the flame and the tension boiled over. New laws being passed down are a ban on alcohol sales from 10pm-6am, the ban of alcohol, the shade of lipstick on airline stewardess, matters regarding abortions and even cesarean birth. Given that this is an Islamic country it is also a very progressive country with open minded views. I would never condemn a government for upholding its religious beliefs but there are other ways of doing it other than the force of the law. We met a man from an expat from England in the park during the protest that left his hotel to come and see what was happening. He told us that morning he had left Dubai for Turkey and that news of the protests were plastered on every television screen around the world. When he got on his Turkish Airlines flight he was handed the paper and what was worldwide press was a small column on page five of the Turkish newspaper. Alarm bells ring when the government censors the local media. Censoring any kind of information is a self inflicted loss of ground on the moral front. If you truly believe your right and that your doing the right thing for your country, then where is the need to silence the documentation and distribution of the happenings of your country. One of glass front shops in the Taksim mall. This is the damage left behind by two gas canisters fired by the police. Gas is not made as a weapon but a deterrent and is meant to be volleyed into the crowds to disperse them. But there have been reports of the canisters being fired directly into the crowd. The day after everything settled down more entrepreneurs flocked to the street with everything you need. On our first day back in Istanbul this building you see straight ahead had a couple of banners by the end of our visit as you can see it is now awash with them. You can also see that the top of the building is crowded with people. It was translated to us that this revolutionary was telling passers by that the bus was going to Emine Erdoğan (the prime ministers wife). These were some of the best road blocks. I cant quite remember if these where set by the protesters, the police or just left like that. There where portable mobile comms vans everywhere to help assist with the massive influx of mobile phone usage in the area. Funny thing was that the government was again putting pressure on the mobile companies to block cell phone usage in the area to halt communication between the citizens. To the naked eye it is pure chaos in Taksim. People camping wherever they wanted, flares being let off and beer being drunk in the street as tear gas overcasts the sky. But if you peel back the layers it is a well organised movement that are not happy with the current government. After the police have left people would go around collecting rubbish and taking it to the other side of the road blocks so it could be picked up by the council. Like I said the place looked like a festival there was always music being played and chants for the prime minister to resign. A Peaceful place that was masked as anger. The only time where anger was apparent was when the feelings of Erdoğan (Prime Minister) were expressed or the police entered the area. Endless supply of milk was sold acting as relief from the tear gas. I wondered to myself were I stood in this whole mess. I had heard what was going on from the locals and I agreed with them the way they were being treated was unacceptable. But what was my position? I wanted to chant “Tayyip istifa!” (PM is Tayyip and istifa is resign) but could I cant along in Turkish or was this not my place and why wasn’t it my place? I am a person just like them and I believe that their rights as people are being violated. But I am a mere passer through, is this their fight to fight alone? Or should I stand up as a visitor and voice my beliefs to help enforce theirs. To say that even as a foreigner I can see that something wrong is going on. I am still stuck and don’t know what to think. I preach that as a person I should stand up for human rights no matter where or who it is. But is there a boundary that exists? Where does the boundary of letting a country work out its own problems and intervening as a outsider lie? During this crazy time Tayyip declared that for every 100,000 protesters he had 1 million supporters. Some people interpreted that as a nudge towards civil war. A pretty far out assumption, that in my opinion, is unlikely to happen but seemed an immature statement from someone with so much power. These road blocks no longer exist and Taksim square has been cleared of rubble and people. I have talked to my good friend now and he seems to think that the worst has passed. Tayyip is too stubborn to resign but he may have to succumb to at least some of the wishes of the protesters. There is no clear way for me to know or tell you what will happen but Turkey is a progressive country in my eyes and I hope it progresses for the better. Pure violence is not the answer but it is usually the byproduct in situations like these. I believe you have to stand up for what you believe in, sometimes more, sometimes less. When it comes to the future of the country and your children I don’t believe that these people over reacted they simply responded to the situation that was forced upon them. This occupation of Taksim square was never going to last and was never meant to. These people expressed their views around the whole world and everyone knows that they are not happy with what’s going on and they are not going to put up with it. That was what this was all for and they did it! These people fought with what ever they could find on the streets against a well structured police force with shields, rubber bullets and what seemed like and endless supply of tear gas. And they won.