Turkey: Turkish government police forces used tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, the “we are TOO a free country” trifecta, to clear Istanbul’s Taksim Square of peaceful protesters on Tuesday, and astonishingly that was the high point of Turkey’s week. Protesters and police traded control of the square all week, culminating on Saturday with police firing tear gas into the Divan Hotel along the square, which protesters have been using as a base and a place to care for the injured. Using tear gas in a confined space is, by the by, incredibly risky; too much in an unventilated area can be lethal. Turkish PM Tayyip Erdoğan is now organizing counter-rallies of his supporters in Istanbul and Ankara, and the government is warning that anybody who violates a ban on protesting will be “considered a terrorist and treated accordingly,” which sounds very much like the kind of thing that a democratic government that claims to respect freedom of speech would say. Erdoğan still seems to have the support of most of the country, but a lot of that support seems to be of the “he’s too religious but at least the economy is good” variety and may not last if the violence continues or escalates.
Update: Just before this went live, I started seeing reports (warning for graphic images) that the Turkish police are adding chemical agents (likely some kind of pepper spray) to the water cannons they’re using on the crowds of protesters. Nothing confirmed yet, but I think we can all agree that blasting protesters with chemical agents is definitely something that all stable, elected governments of free societies do from time to time, can’t we?
Syria: Most of the actual violence in Syria right now centers on the crucial northern city of Aleppo. Aleppo has been in a kind of stalemate for a year or so, with rebels holding the north and east of the city and government forces holding the south and west, as well as the airport in the east. Aleppo became the government’s next target after taking Qusayr, and it is directing its forces and its Hizbullah allies against rebel positions there. The rebels, lovely folks who for their part massacred 60 Shi’a residents in the eastern town of Hatla this week, claim that they’ve checked government advances to the north of the city. The bigger news this week with respect to Syria was that the United States has decided to directly arm those rebels, because 150 people were killed in apparent chemical attacks by the Syrian government. The ~92,000 or so people who were killed because the government or the rebels shot them or blew them up didn’t really concern us. For those who have misgivings about this, fear not: our involvement is probably only going to “escalate gradually.” That’s a relief.
Brazil: Police celebrated today’s Italy vs. Mexico Confederation’s Cup match by using tear gas and rubber bullets on a crowd of about 3000-5000 in Rio de Janeiro. The crowd was attempting to enter the stadium to protest the Brazilian government’s decision to spend ridiculous sums of money to host some soccer games, arguing that said money might be better spent helping poor kids get an education and/or helping poor sick people get medical care. I know, hippies, right? Always with their priorities out of line.
Zambia: Government forces killed 2 “illegal settlers” who they were trying to remove from the Zambia National Service’s Airport Farms in Kampasa. Local residents apparently settled on government territory belonging to the ZNS, who thought that the best way to evict them was to shoot live ammo at them. The Zambian government “regrets” the deaths, so that’s nice.