Turkish protests and reactions in the wake of Israel's response
By Can Burgaz
Following Israel's response to the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, Turkey witnessed a surge of protests and emotional reactions from various political and social groups. These demonstrations, ranging from joint rallies organized by opposition parties to sporadic attacks on businesses, underscore the strong pro-Palestinian sentiment and anti-Israeli stance prevalent across the nation. These events also shed light on the gravity of the situation in the region, sparking a wave of activism throughout Turkey.
After Hamas attacked Israel with the Al-Aqsa Flood operation, Israel's harsh response also had significant repercussions in Turkish public opinion. A robust anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian movement has emerged in Turkey, attracting support from Islamist, leftist, and nationalist movements with varying political positions. The escalating violence in the region prompted a multitude of protests.
In response to Israel's increasing level of violence, streets and squares in Turkey became filled with protesters. These protests, at times escalating in violence and manifesting as attacks on specific brands and buildings, provide insight into how people emotionally approach the Palestinian issue.
A wave of protests across the country
As Israel responded to Hamas, diverse groups with differing political views initiated protests. Notably, the Felicity Party and the Future Party, which oppose the government, organized a joint rally with the Kurdish nationalist and Islamist HUDAPAR, which supports the government.
The "Free Palestine Rally," organized by these three parties in Istanbul on October 15, occurred at the Maltepe Rally Area. Thousands of people attended the rally, commencing with the reading of the Quran. Felicity Party Chairman Temel Karamollaoglu, HUDAPAR Chairman Zekeriya Yapicioglu, Future Party Chairman Ahmet Davutoglu, Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara Faed Mustafa, and Gaza Government Secretary General Kemal Aboun were also present. Slogans in favor of Palestine and Hamas were frequently chanted during the rally, and a song praising the Al-Aqsa Flood operation was performed.
The attack on Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on October 17, which claimed hundreds of lives, led to protests in many Turkish cities. Demonstrators gathered in front of the Israeli Consulate General in Istanbul to protest the attack. The police intervened and used pepper gas on those attempting to enter the street where the Israeli Consulate General is located. Tragically, the father of the Islamist Felicity Party Istanbul Provincial Vice President, Nuri Tufekci, passed away due to a heart attack in front of the Israeli Consulate.
The protests also impacted companies suspected of having ties with Israel. On October 20, an armed attack targeted Starbucks and Burger King in Adana, within the Adana City Hospital campus.
On October 27, Erdogan’s party AKP’s Youth Branch initiated a "lockdown" by occupying tables in Starbucks branches to "protest" Israel's actions in Palestine.
On October 29, an individual named Hakan G. entered a Burger King branch in Adana and shouted, "There is baby blood in your food," while stabbing restaurant employee Egemen S. in the stomach, who attempted to intervene.
On October 31, 2023, the group known as the Human Civilization Movement protested Israel in front of the CarrefourSA branch in Konya by singing an Islamist anthem.
Erdogan takes the stage
On October 28, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan participated in the Great Palestine Rally in Istanbul. Erdogan condemned the Western world for failing to address the violence against Gaza's children, women, and innocent civilians, stating that Israel had been openly committing war crimes for 22 days. He declared that efforts were underway to label Israel as a 'war criminal' on a global scale and criticized Western leaders for their lack of response.
On the same day, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) united under the banner of the Ankara Palestine Solidarity Platform to protest Israel's actions in Gaza. The group gathered in front of the US Embassy in Ankara, brandishing Turkish and Palestinian flags and chanting slogans against Israel and the USA.
Protests against Israel's actions in blockaded Gaza were also seen in many other cities, including Edirne, Kırklareli, Tekirdag, Diyarbakır, Bingol, Batman, Siirt, Mardin, Elazig, Van, Mus, Bitlis, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman, Malatya, Corum, Samsun, Sakarya, Trabzon, Ardahan, Agri, Kars, and Burdur.
Tolerance of protests
For a long time in Turkey, protests have been subject to the approval of public authorities, and many opposition demonstrations were previously prohibited. Despite recent economic and political crises in the country, the streets have remained relatively quiet due to these restrictions. However, the current protests related to Israel's actions have brought forth a unique response from the authorities.
For example, after the demonstration in front of the Israeli Consulate General, in which one person lost his life, the Istanbul Governorship announced in its press release that there was an attack on the police during the demonstrations. However, the Governorship showed empathy that it had never demonstrated to any protester before and used the following statements:
"Being forced to take this intervention at a time when our hearts are bleeding has wounded us heartily. "We strongly request our citizens who want to react to Israel's bombardments against civilians - which resemble terrorist attacks - to avoid irreparable actions while reacting."