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Police ignore disabled in metrobus station protest

ISTANBUL – Radikal | 12/20/2009 12:00:00 AM |

A group of citizens with disabilities gathered Saturday at a metrobus station in Istanbul’s Mecidiyeköy neighborhood to protest a lack of accessibility.

A group of citizens with disabilities gathered Saturday at a metrobus station in Istanbul’s Mecidiyeköy neighborhood to protest accessibility, with police ignoring one protester’s call for help after being caught in the commuter crush.

Fifty protesters, including 10 in wheelchairs, gathered before the turnstiles at the metrobus station to call for greater accessibility to public transport for people with disabilities.

The protest was led by the Association for Disability, a nonprofit organization supporting the human rights of citizens with disabilities and came after the Social Rights and Research Association, or TOHAD, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, filed a lawsuit against the Istanbul municipality because bus and metrobus stations are not suitable for usage by citizens with disabilities.

The demonstrators aimed to draw attention to the difficulties that citizens with disabilities, particularly wheelchair-bound citizens, face while using public transportation.

Participants carried banners saying, “Can you please look at me for a minute?” and “We apologize because we went outside.” TOHAD Chairwoman Seyhan Sandıkyapan said their activities would gradually increase until the needs of citizens with disabilities would be met by local authorities.

“Nearly 8 million citizens with disabilities are living in this country. We want these people to travel freely and adapt to social life easily,” she said in an address to the protest.

A quarrel erupted with passersby because the five-minute-long protest blocked passage for travelers leaving the station. While some passengers supported the protest, others verbally reacted against the protest, shouting “What are you doing here?” “Why don’t you stay at your home?” and “Go protest somewhere else.”

Police warned the protesters to disperse peacefully. A protester with a disability narrowly escaped being crushed by the crowd of travelers leaving the station. When the demonstrator asked a nearby police officer for assistance, he said, “Why should I help you? You started the protest.”

The protest dispersed peacefully with the assistance of TOHAD officials.

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