Nisan Su Aras – ANKARA
Spouses of some attachés as well as some female attachés from various embassies in Ankara displayed their support for the Gezi protests by wearing red dresses while attending the annual reception of the British Embassy.
The event was hosted by British Ambassador to Turkey David Reddaway to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and the United Kingdom Armed Forces Day, held on June 20, and was not attended by any officials from the government.
“We wanted to support the Turkish people in the Gezi Park events,” the ladies in red said while posing for the photographers, making a reference to a lady wearing a red dress who became a symbol of the protests after she was photographed being exposed to tear gas in the early days of the protests in Gezi Park, marking the disproportionate police force used to crush the protests.
“Outside these lovely gardens, these are challenging times.” Reddaway, meanwhile, said as he referred to Gezi protests in his welcoming speech.
“As you know, we and Turkey’s many other friends have been distressed by the violence and injuries we have seen in Turkey’s streets in recent weeks. We hope to see an outcome which shows the world that Turkey is a democracy in which people of diverse views and backgrounds can gather to express their views peacefully and with dignity within the framework of the law,” Reddaway said.
Remarkably, no officials from the government attended the reception, an exceptional case considering the history of the event, — particularly the last decade since the bilateral relations between the EU and now-full membership candidate Turkey have become institutionalized in the first half of 2000s.
“I would like to thank the Europe Minister for his kind greetings and his apology that he cannot be with us in person this evening because of unavoidable commitments in Istanbul,” Reddaway elaborated on this point, as EU Minister Egemen Bağış is known to have traditionally attended the event in the past years.
While the fate of the relationship between the EU and Turkey is being questioned since Germany and the Netherlands have been objecting to the opening of a new chapter as planned on June 26, Reddaway urged Turkey to pursue the membership route. “We urge our Turkish friends to persist with those reforms as a Turkish process for Turkey’s benefit. We stand ready to work with you,” he said.
Not official photo, British Embassy says
As of June 21, the British Embassy hastily released a statement to clarify that the photograph used in the related news reports was “not an official photograph” of the embassy.
“There is no United Kingdom diplomat in the photograph,” said the brief statement, adding that “the comments concerning Gezi Park used in the news report do not reflect the official opinions of the U.K. government.” The statement was referring to a report daily Hürriyet published June 21.