The developments in Turkey over the past week have become a source of concern for the Turkish-Americans across California, including those in Orange County. A peaceful social action to save a green park in central Istanbul – Taksim Gezi Parkı – from being demolished has met with a disproportionate police response leaving one person dead and over thousand injured, among them members of Turkish Parliament, journalists, intellectuals and civil society activists. Consequently, the Istanbul protest morphed into a grassroots movement against the police brutality and for freedom of speech, bringing tens of thousands of people out on the streets across Turkey.
Use of the excessive police force against the protestors in Turkey have become a focus of international media and human rights groups. In a statement on June 3, 2013, Amnesty International called to “end abusive use of force and reveal the extent of injuries”. In contrast, the mainstream Turkish media remained largely silent about the nationwide protests. Similarly, the recent terrorist attack in Reyhanlı, a Turkish town on the Syrian border, which killed 40 people and wounded many more, becoming the deadliest attack in the modern Turkish history, did not receive a sufficient coverage in the national press. This indicates an increasing monopolization of the Turkish press, which further limits the freedom of expression in the country.
Public reaction to these developments also came from the Turkish Diaspora communities in Europe and North America. Joining them on June 2, 2013, the Turkish American community in Orange County staged a public action in Irvine, rallying against the police brutality and in support of free speech in Turkey. Reflecting on this voice of the community and its members, the Orange County Turkish American Association, a chapter of the American Turkish Association of Southern California (ATASC), appeals for increased public awareness of the events in Turkey and for support in defending Turkish democracy.