The Turkish people are rising up to say no more autocracy, no more fear. In case your media has blacked out what’s going on, Al Jazeera has a few good articles, this is an excellent summary and you can also check out these reports of the events earlier in the week and Christiane Amanpour’s 9 minute overview of the initial unrest. What started out as a peaceful sit-in to protect one of Istanbul’s last green spaces has turned into a nation-wide demand for human rights with at least hundreds of thousands of people in cities across Turkey taking part. Police have continuously used excessive force in the form of tear gas, water cannons, pepper spray and beatings to squelch Turks’ rights to protest, and expressly tried to conceal their own identities while doing so. There have also been reports of undercover police acting as agents provocateurs to incite violence between the people and the government. To understand what this direniş, what this kind of protest, demonstration and movement mean to Turks I think this translation will be really helpful.
And if you need to know why you should care, read this article, and this letter to the world. International Support is flowing to Turkey from Germany, the Netherlands, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Scotland, Portugal, France, Africa, all over the US and elsewhere. Signs from all over the world proclaim Her Yer Direniş! Her Yer Gezi! Resistance everywhere! Everywhere is Gezi! Amnesty International and many governments have condemned the AK Partı‘s use of force against protesters. If you’re a more visual learner you have to stop by the #OccupyGezi tumblr, and see these articles. For those who have never experienced the beauty that is Istanbul, this video might help give you a taste of the action.
These (mostly) nonviolent protests have spurred some amazing creativity with everything from political cartoons to witty graffiti. The sit-in in Taksim Gezi Parkı began with poetry readings and songs and the ensuing state-sponsored brutality has also spurred music. This video is what has moved me most since this all began. Others were moved to donate to Indiegogo’s fastest-ever campaign–to buy a full page ad in The New York Times explaining Diren Gezi Parkı.
Hashtags like #OccupyGezi #DirenGeziParki #OccupyIstanbul #OccupyTaksim and #HumanRightsforTurkey and calls of “Tayyip Istifa” (resign) and “AKP Istifa” filled the more than 2 million tweets (90% of which came from within Turkey) that caused AK Partı leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to denounce social media as “the worst menace to society.” The expressions “everyday I’m çapuling” (pronounced chap-pull-ing) and “çapulmatik” were in turn spurred by Prime Minister Erdoğan’s insults to the protesters which included terrorists, drunks, fringe radicals and çapulcular or looters. The government’s insistence that this is merely a few angry liberals upset over some trees fueled the international fire against them, with Anonymous making good on their promise to take down government websites. Many are claiming that the PM’s most recent speech is tantamount to calling for civil war, with right-wing supporters chanting “Ergdoğan we will die for you!”
For all the reports of deaths and all the police brutality and negativity that has come from this the one constant positive has been the Turkish people’s ability to band together, whether behind Guy Fawkes masks or gas masks, to defend the ideals of a Turkish nation based upon democracy and freedom. They have announced that the streets are for everyone, even as police crack down across the country. There are also some pretty cool pictures and a badass concert. And of course as in any good protest there are companies to boycott and strikes to pursue, and Türkiye also threw in a really creative display of support from Turkish Airlines, the national airline.
There have been great shows of support and camaraderie between çapulcular regardless of their gender, age, class or political bent. The majority of protesters have vowed to be peaceful, even in the face of gross brutality, and have denounced rock throwing, vandalism and actual looting. But there hasn’t been much need for looting since across the country Turks are supporting each other in ways big and small, with food, water, shelter, medical help, and knowledge.
Women of all ages have played a large part in this uprising. From Ceyda Sungur the now famous Woman in Red, to women in hijab to pregnant women, Türkiye’nin kadınları are showing that their fear of the government is just as real and important to the discussion of freedom as their male counterparts. With the recent restrictions on abortion, public displays of affection and even alcohol, the women of Turkey are fed up with having their morals dictated to them. And not all of them want three children.
Finally I want to leave you with this, a desperate plea from a student who is afraid of his government and who wants the world to understand that this is about freedom, even if it costs him his.
- OccupyGezi Call to Action! June 8th & 9th! (bayareaintifada.wordpress.com)
- 8-9 June – Call for International Solidarity with #OccupyGezi (whatishappeninginistanbul.com)
- #OccupyGezi: Memes as Collective Therapy for Protestors (animalnewyork.com)