Wednesday, June 5

I am not a hoodlum, not an extremist, not a marginal, I am an individual, with rights

Before I found myself in the middle of Taksim Square on May 31st, I was just an expat living in Istanbul. I enjoyed living here though my concerns of what to become of Turkey as a result of seriously conservative policies placed by the ruling AKP increasingly grew over me. 

Turkey was a different place when I first came here, which was in 2001. I was here as a student, studying International Relations and I remember clearly the elections in 2002. I remember the festive atmosphere. People greeting AK Pary's buses in Kizilar. Flowers and promises for a greater future were everywhere. 

I left Ankara in 2005 and came back in 2007, around the time when YouTube was banned. I was shocked. How can YouTube be banned here?! For me Turkey always was a beacon of hope especially for someone who comes from Azerbaijan, where the authoritarian rule of one family been suffocating the country and its people for almost two decades now. Of course there were ways to go around banned YouTube. This was the first time I learned about bypass proxies. 

Then I left again 2009 and returned in 2010 this time with an intention to stay for much longer. But ever since I have been back (and in pretty much all cases) nothing good happened in Turkey. When I first moved back to Istanbul in 2007, I was one of privileged expats, with a generous salary, enjoying the colorful and rich life of Istanbul. But this wasn't the case for everybody, despite the increasing salaries and booming economy. 

AKP policies kept coming in, and while people protested nothing changed. Decisions were made, amendments passed and people got on with their lives. Mass arrests of army generals in the fear of "deep state plotting"; arrests of prominent individual and journalists, recent ban on alcohol and on public kissing, were really the final drops before this nation of some 70 million realized that the cup is full and there is no more room for any "kneeling". #occupygezi came at a right moment. The road expansion plan, cutting of trees, and the brutal police [mis]treatment of people who were at the park opened the Pandora box. People were angry and it wasn't just about trees anymore. 

And so, as events unraveled I too joined hundreds of thousands Istanbulites in protest, demanding that my voice, as an individual, is heard and that my rights are respected. It was disappointing to see government's initial reaction. It was quick to dismiss the essence of the protests and calling all of us- hooligans, alcoholics, hoodlums, extremist and marginals while we are students, doctors, lawyers, teachers, pensioners, housewives, engineers, and people from all sorts of interesting backgrounds. 

Today is the 9th day of protests in Istanbul. Today is also the day when demands of "Diren Taksim" [Resist Taksim] are heard by Deputy Prime Minister. The demands are simple (this is a rough translation, original text is available here): 
1. Gezi Park must stay as a park and that the authorities must announce a unanimous decision that nothing will be built there and it will remain a park from now on;
2. Ataturk Cultural Center (a building right next to Gezi Park) will remain untouched as well;
3. Governors, heads of security forces of Ankara, Istanbul and Hatay and those implementing their immediate orders must be dismissed from their duties immediately;
4. Ban on use of gas cannons and similar materials;
5. All those detained must be released immediately; 
6. No more bans on public gatherings in squares like Taksim and Kizilay (in Ankara) and other public squares; no more bans on the right to protest; and removal of all kinds of conditions limiting freedom of expression. 

The only person who apologized for the violence has been Deputy Prime Minister (and that was on the 8th day of protests and wasn't an apology from everyone mind you). The Prime Minister himself is away on a state visit trip. He left the country in a turmoil, once again dismissing everything that's been happening as an act of hooliganism, fueled by outside powers, jealous of Turkey's economy and the country's growing power significance. Well, dear Mr. Prime Minister, as one CHP Parliament Member said yesterday, "you have been poisoned by power". And that is the problem. People had expectations when PM Erdogan first came to power. Many voted for him and his party and voted again for him and the party but if more than 60 towns been on a revolt and the ruling party is still talking about trees and calling us names, this shows that something is wrong. One cannot call your citizens hoodlums and certainly one cannot say that Twitter is a menace to Turkish society. It is thanks to Twitter that we have been getting and sharing news about what is happening because Turkish media wouldn't (As someone wrote on a wall near Taksim "Revolution will not be televised, it will be tweeted"). It was only after Prime Minister left the country that CNN Turk began showing more footage of police brutality. But even today, on the 9th day of protest there is still no live coverage outside of hourly news segments.

What is going to happen next we are yet to see. I have certainly had enough of tear gas. Though on the nights when I don't get even the swift of it, it feels strange, like something is missing from my life. Will the current government resign after days of calls? I am not sure either. But things have to change, and that is I am sure of. I will be back in Taksim square today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow if need be. I will come and join the peaceful protesters and continue tweeting and taking photos. I know I am not alone.

I am happy to be part of this resistance and see what Turkish people are capable of. Thanks to them, (and thanks to the Prime Minister because if it wasn't for him this probably would have never happened), I saw the unity and solidarity that could form among people united by one cause. The resistance continues! #direngeziparki #direnturkiye!

photographs are by me

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read just sentences from your blog and i have seen immeadetely one mistake,
youtube banned from same ideology who are protesting now, the reason was some bad videos about ataturk which made by Greeks or etc., and same ideology is who banned headscarfs in universites, and everywhere which they can make it possible...
they banned to pray in schools...even in germany the most of the universites has a mescid for moslem students, ... even they are small group of Turkiye they want everything should be as they wish,and if its not so they start to vandalise, burn, break and destroy everything, i say just one thing "Erdogan live long"