There's now a tank that seems to be parked almost daily on the gay pedestrian street Istiklal Caddesi. The shoppers and gawkers and tourists and residents on their way somewhere or back walk along the line of shops morphed from Ma and Pop Kebab restaurants and local brands to MacDonalds, Burger King, Benetton, and Mango. And the protesters who used to daily peacefully march, holding their placards and signs, waving flags and chanting, exercising their democratic rights, now face a new danger: tear gas and water hoses.
For the last ten years that I've here, it was only a once-a-year phenomenon - every 1 May, two tanks stationed at either end of Istiklal threatened any potential dissident. The aftermath of a seventies 1 May that left over thirty people dead.
Today it's become the face of force. A daily reminder to the people of Turkey that the government is ready to use whatever force necessary to squelch any and all dissent.
Last summer, the tables and chairs that lined all the side streets of Beyoglu were ordered "removed." Those who dare defy the law and placed a table and a few chairs outside for patrons who wanted to smoke and drink outside, suffered the consequences of the "Outdoor Chair and Table Squad" - trucks that roamed the side streets waiting to pounce upon any table or chair placed outside and remove them.
Friday, a new alcohol law was passed. No alcohol can be sold by stores after 10pm. I'm not a drinker. It doesn't affect me. But there's a trend. A trend that's highly unsettling. Tanks parked on the busiest street of Istanbul. Prohibition of any outdoor show of drinking alcohol. No alcohol permitted to be bought or sold after 10pm. And more journalists imprisoned every day.
What's next? What's becoming of Ataturk's democracy?
Stay tuned for the next installment of "As the world turns Conservative."