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Over the past few days, the number of tweets and pictures of burn victims from being blasted by the ‘TOMA’ water cannon tanks have been attracting attention. There are also pictures of policemen pouring a barrel of ‘Jenix’ into the TOMA to give further credibility to these statements.

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The government decided it would be appropriate to adress the big fat elephant in the room. Istanbul Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu made a statement on June 16th saying that the TOMAs contained “drugs, not chemicals”… Yes, turns out that the stuff is a form of pepper spray. Anyway, you can get to the details of the stuff online. Jetix claim that it doesn’t harm people’s health or the environment and has no side effects. The Turkish Medical Association on the other hand state that it can cause “serious damage to eyes, asthma, lung edema, hart attacks and brain hemorrhages.”

Whether the water of TOMAs contain drugs or chemicals is a rather ridiculous debate when so many people are exposed to shitloads of Tear Gas in the first place. What is being referred to as  tear gas (OC -Oleoresincapsicum and CS- Chlorobenzylidenemalononitrile) causes agitation and burns on the skin which can be as bad as first degree burns.

TOMA showing determination

TOMA showing determination

The Mayor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu:  He stands out tall amongst the least popular individuals over the protests and for good reason. Only 1 month before the Gezi Protests, the 1 May Celbrations in Istanbul was also oppressed by the police. Only difference was that the international press wasn’t around and the resistance wasn’t as strong. A 17 year old named Dilan Alp was critically wounded and spent 5 days in intensive care. All the Mayor had to say in his press statement then was that the media were guilty for “making up, speculative, agitation seeking stories” and that he was there “to tell the truth as the job of the Mayor”: “Dilan is 19 yo. She is a member of an organisation (the term ‘örgüt’ implies illegality in Turkish)” at which point he clarifies, “she is a marginal and we have files on her, she is a radical”. His tone throughout the statement is cold, cornered and aggressive: the main signal is no remorse. During the protests, on the 11th of June when the police made it past the barricades up to taksim, Mayor Mutlu stated that the police would refrain from using violence. In the evening, the police used excessive force as always on a large crowd and also threw tear gas into Gezi Park. He also made a publicity stunt by writing on twitter that he would meet Gezi protesters at 24.00 on the 14th June at Dolmabahçe (Near Beşiktaş – another smaller centre of the protests)