Wednesday, September 22, 2010
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Seven people were detained for assault Wednesday after an attack targeting exhibition openings at art galleries in Istanbul’s Tophane neighborhood Tuesday night.
Istanbul Gov. Hüseyin Avni Mutlu did not give any detailed information about the aim of the attack or about whether the suspected assailants were from the neighborhood. One of the seven suspects was detained Tuesday after the incident.
The governor condemned the attack and pledged the perpetrators would be punished.
"We will not allow the repetition of such things. It is our duty to ensure that everyone can go about their business in peace," said Mutlu.
A group numbering dozens attacked the opening of several art galleries on Tuesday night, putting at least five people in the hospital with injuries from pepper spray, broken bottles, batons and knives. The hospitalized included one Polish and one German citizen. The attack was first believed to have been in response to art pieces on exhibit because Galeri Non had an exhibition by the collective Ekstramücadele (Ekstrastruggle) that featured content on the taboos of Islam and Atatürk both. However, witnesses at the scene who spoke right after the incident and the following morning confirmed that the scuffle broke out due to alcohol consumption in the streets.
After the incident, neighborhood residents claimed gala visitors had been harassing and disturbing other people in the street. One person also said the gallery owners had been told previously that their guests were disturbing neighborhood residents. More comments from locals in the media on Wednesday focused on them being disturbed by not only the art galleries but also the apart hotels and alcohol-serving restaurants that have multiplied in the neighborhood in recent years. As well, locals said they were disturbed by people drinking in the streets due to the smoking ban. However, the restaurants and hotels are also perceived to have a negative effect on morals, according to various comments offered to the media or stated on the Internet.
Ercan Babacan, who spoke to the Doğan news agency “in the name of the neighborhood youth,” said they do not have a problem with art galleries or drinking. “We have warned them numerous times about occupying the sidewalks. Yesterday, when a sister of ours was passing by and asked them to clear the path so she could pass, they told her to pass somewhere else. Other youth nearby who heard this gathered and reacted.”
Photographer Onur Aynagöz, who was at the scene during the attack, spoke to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and said the incident started with a verbal confrontation between gallery visitors and a few locals. Aynagöz said the few locals were suddenly joined by dozens and started to beat people up. Some people ran inside the gallery while others ran away. The attackers broke the windows of a gallery, pepper sprayed the people inside and moved on to attack other galleries. Aynagöz and other witnesses said police were “too tolerant” toward the attackers, a claim strengthened by the immediate detention of just one person. The remaining detentions came much later.
The art galleries held a press conference Wednesday and said the attack was not a random incident. Artist Nazım Dikbaş read a joint statement and said the galleries at Tophane have been receiving threats for some time.
“We know these actions are being organized on the Internet and some locations in the neighborhood. [However] all the residents of Tophane cannot be blamed for these organized attacks.” The galleries demanded a serious investigation by the authorities into the attack, which they noted does not befit a European capital of culture.