Professor John Esser visits Istanbul during civil unrest

Professor John Esser visits Istanbul during civil unrest

Esser, JohnIn the wee hours of Monday morning, June 3, Wagner College sociology professor John Esser sent us this news brief to assure his friends and colleagues that he was safe after visiting Istanbul, Turkey during this weekend's civil unrest:

My sister Cary and I found ourselves in the middle of a domestic Turkish conflict.  We have been staying in a fifth floor apartment on a hill in Istanbul.  At the base of the hill is a tramline along the coast.  At the top of the hill, about four blocks away, is Taksim Square, where demonstrations have traditionally taken place and where there is a monument to the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

Friday, as we were walking up from the tram line to our apartment, we found many people coming down the street, many wearing scarves or dust masks.  Shortly thereafter, we experienced a diffuse cloud of tear gas wafting its way down the hill.

It turns out that the police tried to break up a peaceful demonstration over turning the public square into a shopping mall.

As the night progressed, the police were obviously using tear gas and water cannon to force the now-increasing number of demonstrators out of the square and down the hill by our apartment.  I never actually saw a policeman, but I did see a tear gas canister thrown by one down the hill. We had to sleep with our windows shut to avoid getting tear gas in the apartment.

In the middle of the night, a protestor began beating on a pot in the street, and people in surrounding apartments flashed their lights in support.

Saturday, we went walking in a direction that purposefully avoided Taksim Square. Nonetheless, we saw many protestors with scarves to breathe through should they encounter tear gas, and some with helmets.  Some shopkeepers had water, lemon, and power bars out in support of the protesters.  When we saw a group of protesters several blocks in front of us obviously being scared in our direction, we decided we better get out of the area.

Unfortunately, we found all public museums closed, even those in the main tourist area around the Hagia Sofia.  We returned to our apartment via the tramline down the hill.  Throughout the night there was a steady stream of protesters going up the hill (to Taksim Square) and down the hill (away from Taksim Square).

Sunday we took a taxi to the airport, and we are now in Cappadocia.

You can read more, including some of the politics behind it, on the website of the Independent, or by googling “Taksim Square.”