Turkey: «You are beautiful when you are angry»

The protests in Turkey are fundamentally about freedom.

Tur­key is facing the fier­cest anti-govern­ment move­ment of its his­tory. It is descri­bed as a his­to­ri­cal union of peop­le, as it uni­tes secu­lar natio­na­lists, Kema­lists, revo­lu­tio­na­ry socia­lists, Kurds, labour unions, stu­dents, rival foot­ball team sup­por­ters, housewi­ves, young and old peop­le. A week has passed sin­ce the pro­tests begun. Today, one of Turkey’s big tra­de unions decla­red a two-day strike, to demon­st­rate their sup­port of the grass­roots move­ment in Tur­key and to pro­test against the vio­lent police inter­ven­tion against unar­med citizens.

"Turkey: You are beautiful when you are angry": Cover of the weekly humor magazine Penguen.

«Tur­key: You are beaut­i­ful when you are ang­ry»: Cover of the weekly humor magazi­ne Pen­gu­en.

The Gezi Park protests in Taksim spreading nationwide

Gezi Park, known as the last green spot of Istan­bul, was occu­pied by hund­reds of peop­le oppos­ing the urban redevel­op­ment plan inclu­ding the demo­lish­ing of the park and con­struc­tion of a shop­ping mall inste­ad. Occupy-style pro­tests began on 27 May. Pro­testors were play­ing gui­tars, read­ing books, and basi­cal­ly «han­ging out» in the park. The reac­tion of the police was exces­si­ve, ear­ly in the mor­ning when peop­le were slee­ping, set­ting their tents on fire, show­e­ring peop­le with pep­per spray and tear­gas.

Soon after, the park was occu­pied again. This time more crow­ded with the back­ing of some cele­bri­ties, aut­hors, and musi­ci­ans. As the police dis­per­sed the peop­le with heavy-han­ded met­hods, pro­tests just escalated. This time, thou­sands of peop­le with diver­se back­grounds gat­he­red in the famous squa­re of Taksim. Simul­tane­ous gat­he­rings occur­red nation­wi­de, main­ly in the capi­tal Anka­ra, Izmir, Eski­se­hir, and Anta­lya.

 Supporters of the Nationalist Movement Party and Socialist Party next to each other. These two groups of people have known to be rivals (photo: Yunus Emre sel, DHA)

Sup­por­ters of the Natio­na­list Move­ment Par­ty and Socia­list Par­ty next to each other. These two groups of peop­le have known to be rivals (photo: Yunus Emre Sel, DHA)

Viva Social Media

Many com­plai­ned about the media igno­ring the growing pro­tests. CNN Turk was espec­ial­ly cri­ti­cized as the chann­el was broad­cas­ting a docu­men­ta­ry on pen­guins the night that the stre­ets of many cities were tur­ned into a battle­field betwe­en pro­testors and the police.

Poli­ti­cal pres­sure on the media has been heavy the last coup­le of years in Tur­key. The coun­try is known to be one of the lar­gest pri­sons for media.

So it was no sur­pri­se that soci­al media beca­me the source of infor­ma­tion and know­led­ge. Peop­le have been twe­eting from the stre­ets, pub­lish­ing pho­tos, exchan­ging volunte­er doc­tor and lawyer con­tacts for the pro­testors, and poking the offi­ci­al Twit­ter accounts of the main­stre­am TV chann­els for their igno­ran­ce.

NTV, Turkish news channel buses have been the target of protestors for neglecting to cover the demonstrations. (Photo from Diren Gezi Park (Occupy Gezi Park) Facebook page.)

Buses from Tur­kish news chann­el NTV have been the tar­get of pro­testors for neg­lecting to cover the demon­stra­tions. (Photo from Diren Gezi Park (Occupy Gezi Park) Face­bo­ok page.)

Con­cer­ning the issues, Turkey’s pri­me minis­ter Recep Tayy­ip Erdo­gan bla­med the oppo­sitio­nal par­ty for pro­vo­king the mas­ses, and lashed out at the role of soci­al media in hel­ping orga­nize and co-ordi­na­te ral­lies. «And now we have this menace cal­led Twit­ter,» said Erdo­gan in an inter­view with Haber­turk Sun­day evening. In the after­math of Erdogan’s speech, 25 peop­le were detai­ned in Izmir becau­se of their twe­ets, on the grounds of spre­ad­ing «mis­le­ad­ing and libel­ous infor­ma­tion», Ana­to­lia news agency reported.

A graffiti from Istanbul.

A graf­fi­ti from Istan­bul.

Alt­hough the pri­me minis­ter, who is on a poli­ti­cal trip to Morocco, has not taken a step beck, deputy pri­me minis­ter Bulent Arinc apo­lo­gized on Tues­day «for the police aggres­sion against our citizens who were involved in the ini­ti­al pro­tests and acted with environ­men­tal con­cern,» as Ana­do­lu news agency reported. He said security for­ces had been orde­red to only use gas in self-defen­se. Yet, the mas­ses have not cal­med down. It is obvious that the demands are no lon­ger mere­ly about the Gezi Park or the urban redevel­op­ment plan of Istan­bul. Pro­testors keep say­ing it lou­der that it is more about democracy and the free­dom of speech, free­dom of lifes­tyle.

Here is an inter­view with a pro­te­stor, the well known actor Meh­met Ali Ala­bora on CNN Inter­na­tio­nal.

Invasion of the Private Sphere, Bodies, Thoughts, Tweets

Erdogan’s Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) is popu­lar with con­ser­va­ti­ve Isla­mic poli­ti­ci­ans and voters in Tur­key. It has won three succes­si­ve par­lia­men­ta­ry elections, gai­ning almost 50% of the vote in 2011. Poli­ti­cal sta­bi­li­ty has been accom­pa­nied by eco­no­mic growth. Accor­ding to govern­men­tal sta­ti­s­tics, “Tur­key is expec­ted to be the fas­test growing eco­no­my of the OECD mem­bers during 2012–2017, with an annu­al average growth rate of 5.2 per­cent.” In other words, Tur­key does not have a serious finan­ci­al bag­ga­ge like its Euro­pean neigh­bors. Of cour­se, one should check how this growth affects the eve­ryday life of citizens. Rese­ar­chers draw atten­tion to regio­nal and gen­der dispa­ri­ties con­cer­ning the dis­tri­bu­tion of the wealth.

Protests in Eskisehir, Turkey (photo: showdiscontent.com)

Pro­tests in Eski­se­hir, Tur­key (photo: showdiscontent.com)

Yet, do the con­fi­den­ce of the par­lia­men­ta­ry majority of the ruling AKP and the eco­no­mic growth mean that the govern­ment can play the three mon­keys (not hea­ring, speak­ing, see­ing) when faced with society’s demands? Last year, Erdo­gan pro­vo­ked out­ra­ge when he like­ned abortion to mur­der. Only a mon­th ago, a Tur­kish court con­victed pia­nist and com­po­ser Fazil Say of blasphe­my and inci­ting hatred over a series of com­ments he made on Twit­ter last year. More recent­ly, Turkey’s par­lia­ment passed legis­la­tion cur­bing alco­hol sales and adver­ti­sing.

What we see today on the stre­ets of Tur­key is a group that is heavi­ly con­cerned about their per­so­nal space whe­re they think and act free­ly. They are ang­ry at the way that the aut­hori­ties try to label them as mar­gi­nal or a mem­ber of an orga­nized unit. I guess one of the best insi­der com­ments is from a bisexu­al blog­ger:

We ran and sto­od, aided or got aid, side by side with peop­le who would get dis­gus­ted by my sexu­al pre­fe­ren­ces, who would condemn me for my reli­gious view or cri­ti­cize me for my poli­ti­cal opi­nions, becau­se we have one com­mon qua­li­ty, we are still HUMAN.

Despi­te the sof­t­e­ning reac­tion of govern­ment mem­bers (except the pri­me minis­ter him­self, who seems to be the direct tar­get of the pro­tests), resi­stan­ce is still on. Peop­le are wai­ting for an offi­ci­al gua­rantee of the abo­lish­ment of the redevel­op­ment plan of Gezi Park, legal action on the exces­si­ve and abu­si­ve police inter­ven­tion and furt­her actions to ensure the free­dom of speech.

It is impor­tant to remem­ber that it all star­ted with pro­tec­ting the tre­es. It was a bunch of young peop­le occupy­ing their last green spot in the city of Istan­bul. It is too ear­ly to com­pa­re the hap­pe­nings to the Arab Spring. It is more like an awa­kening and swee­ping away of the fear to rai­se a voi­ce against the unjust. What Tur­key is wit­nessing today is, apart from cer­tain groups that have a cle­ar poli­ti­cal agen­da, a uni­ty of peop­le who are basi­cal­ly offen­ded by not being heard, get­ting bea­ten by the police for­ce, and being psycho­lo­gical­ly suppressed. What is hap­pe­ning in Tur­key indi­ca­tes people’s con­cern about free­dom. It should not be mere­ly cap­tu­red wit­hin the pola­riza­tion of the secu­la­rists and the Isla­mism. As the well-known jour­na­list and lawyer Özgür Mumcu wro­te in his column on Radi­kal on June 3, the­re is no need to seek con­spi­racy the­ories behind the most spon­tane­ous upri­sing of Tur­key. The rea­son is the arro­gant stan­ce of the peop­le in power who do not want to lis­ten to the demands of the citizens. Peop­le are fed up being suppressed each time they want to pub­li­cal­ly cri­ti­cize the govern­ment or dis­play dis­con­tent of cer­tain poli­cies. It’s as simp­le as this.

Remem­ber­ing the famous line from the poet Nazim Hik­met:

To live! Like a tree alo­ne and free
Like a forest in brot­her­hood

TEMA

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