Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Following mass anti-government protests in Turkey, Ankara is now taking revenge on its critics. Activists and demonstrators are being investigated and intimidated, while journalists are getting fired and insubordinate civil servants transferred far afield

    Wednesday, July 24, 2013   No comments

Tayfun Kahraman met the prime minister five weeks ago, but now he is sitting in a hotel in Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, feeling distraught. The city is 1,150 kilometers (715 miles) from Istanbul, but less than 100 kilometers from the Syrian border. Kahraman is an urban planner and an official with the historic preservation division of the Turkish Ministry of Culture. Until recently, the 32-year-old was in Istanbul, where he led the protests against a development project in Gezi Park, which grew into mass demonstrations against the government in early June. Now he has been transferred to this provincial city as a punishment, he says. The official explanation is that there is a personnel shortage in the southeast.

"In Istanbul, my friends are being arrested and chased through the narrow streets with tear gas," says Kahraman. "And I'm stuck here." But he risks losing his job if he objects to the transfer. He is also receiving death threats, probably from supporters of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He scrolls through the emails on his Blackberry, which include hate-filled Twitter messages. One person wrote: "We want to see you hanging on Taksim Square." In Istanbul, he didn't go home for weeks. He changed hotels four times, or slept in offices and friends' apartments -- when he could sleep at all.
Until recently, Kahraman headed the conferences of a group called Taksim Solidarity, wrote press releases and was part of a group of protest leaders invited to speak with Prime Minister Erdogan in June. He also did the preparatory work for an expert report on which an Istanbul court based its decision to declare the construction project in Gezi Park illegal three weeks ago.

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