Protest at Emek Theatre: Amnesty calls for Investigation

Protesting the destruction of Emek Theatre.  Photo credits: Nizam Serhat Firat.  Used by Permission

Protesting the destruction of Emek Theatre. Photo credits: Nizam Serhat Firat. Used by Permission

 The proposed destruction of the historic Emek Theatre has been a long-running controversy in Turkey, where it is seen as another example of the ways in which rapid business expansion is uprooting Istanbul’s cultural heritage.

Yesterday, on April 7, 2013, thousands met in peaceful protest, among them, luminaries of both international and Turkish cinema,  including celebrated director, Costa-Gavras.   When protesters were refused permission to march to the site of the theatre, however, clashes broke out.  The day ended with water cannon, tear gas, and allegations of police brutality.

Water cannons used on protesters.  Photo credit Nazim Serhat Firat.  Used by permission.

Water cannons used on protesters. Photo credit Nazim Serhat Firat. Used by permission.

As required by law, protesters had notified police that the protest would take place, but were prevented by police from marching to the location of the cinema.  As an Amnesty statement today notes, “[it] is unclear what legitimate ground could have been used to justify the police’s actions in preventing protesters from marching on the street where the cinema is located.”  Attempts by protesters to enter the street were met by tear gas and water cannon.  In the clashes which followed, some protesters threw stones at police.

Clashes between protesters and police at the Emek Theatre.  Photo credits: Nazim Serhat Firat.  Used by permission.

Clashes between protesters and police at the Emek Theatre. Photo credits: Nazim Serhat Firat. Used by permission.

The statement highlights Amnesty’s concern “at reports of police repeatedly beating and kicking protestors” and “calls on the authorities to launch a prompt, independent and impartial investigation both into why the demonstrators were denied permission to proceed with their march and the excessive use of force by police officers.”

Police used water cannon and tear gas on the protesters.  Photo credit: Nazim Serhat Firat.  Used by permission

Police used water cannon and tear gas on the protesters. Photo credit: Nazim Serhat Firat. Used by permission

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