What you see is a mist of gas, what I feel is a burn on my skin. With the rush of adrenalin, we all would like to think we have a higher threshold for any mysterious substance sprayed on us, but in the end, we all start crying, coughing or vomiting. When someone gives you a hand, holds out half a lemon or washes your face with some home-made anti-acid solution, you cry all the more. For all the support, and compassion you receive from total strangers. (Photo credit #1: Anonymous)
AT THE MERCY OF TOTAL STRANGERS
During the heavy raids, the grocery baskets full of bread and cheese are lowered down the window. You sometimes see a lady of the neighborhood offering freshly brewed tea to the protestors taking a break on the pavement. Another one walks around with a bowl of fresh fruit or ice-cream in his hand. The window sills of ground floors serve as a counter where you could refill your water bottle, have a snack or get anti-acid solutions for various gases you are exposed to and charge your smart phone before hitting on the road again. On the nights of severe attacks, I have seen people living on the upper floors tossing gas masks to the people marching in the streets. The residents buzz in protestors seconds before “Open your doors, people of such and such neighborhood” notes hit FB or Twitter. (Illustration #2: Melih Ekici)
WHAT’S THE POINT OF EATING ORGANIC?
When you look at the photos of people covering half of their face with a shawl or wearing one of those ugly, and clumsy e.t. gas masks, do you feel terror? You think he/she is a provocateur? I feel the irritation on my throat, the tickle of the constant gas exposure. I am like “Are we gonna wear these outfits all throughout the summer? Is this the summer trend of 2013?” What is the point of eating organic, I ask to myself, if we are to breathe intense gas day and night in Taksim and neighboring districts? (Photo credit #3: Anonymous)
DOUBLE LIFE OF CLARK KENTS & SELINA KYLES
People lead double lives. Working like Clark Kent and Selina Kyles during the day, fighting like Superman and Catwoman at night. Learning how to recognize under cover police. Calling people just to check whether or not they are injured or arrested. Remembering the good old days when we used to call people only to socialize. Finding out which solution is good for which gas, which cream is good for burns from water cannons. Reclaiming your civil rights- freedom of speech and assembly- granted by the Turkish Constitution under the amendment #34 or reclaiming the protection of civilians in times of war under the Genova convention #56. Hearing and witnessing horrible things while keeping the faith that we could have better days some time in the near future.
DOWN TO A FEW MINUTES OF FOOTAGE ON INTERNATIONAL NEWS
It is one thing to watch clashes on TV, read them in the newspapers, it is another thing to watch your residential neighborhood -Beşiktaş, Sıraselviler and Nişantaşı– turning into a war zone. It hurts to see how everything is reduced to a few sentences in a few-minute footage on international channels. Sadly, not much on your sold local media. Words would fall short to express what you have gone through even if they spent far more time covering the anti-government protests sweeping my country. Here and there I read that the uprising is only confined to istanbul and a few big cities. Let’s not forget that 1/4 of the country resides in this city. Even if it were confined to Istanbul, which is not true, it still has a message to the ruling elite, which only knows the bullying rhetoric inherited from our monarchic past.
A LONG WALK TO DEMOCRACY
When you look at the pictures of burned buses with graffiti and barricades, do you see vandalism? What I see is the brutality of the police days on end. I am not surprised by how those barricades are so readily piled up either; the city has been a big construction site for so long. The iron bars and bricks galore. In the morning, you see young people apologizing for having ripped off the cobble stones of your neighborhood the previous night. “It was a tough night, sorry!” You know it already; you did not wink at all. Even the construction workers do not touch the barricades; they know we will need them tonight. Tomorrow night and the day after tomorrow. You know it is gonna be a long walk from where we are today to a more democratic, inclusive Turkey.
My people have been chased like rats, beaten up, tear-gassed, shot with rubber and real lead bullets, abused verbally and physically both in the streets and under custody- sometimes in collaboration with some pro-government supporters. Many women are said to have been sexually abused when they have been detained. 11 people lost their eye sights. One case of intentionally eye-gauging. 10 people still missing. More than 8000 people wounded. More than 8000 people have been arrested. Some are released. Some are still under custody. And hundreds of bloody photos and cries for help on the social media and thousands of personal stories. Do you think they will be allowed to sue? or will they be threatened not to sue? Will those in charge of this violence get away with their misdeeds as they usually do? (Photo credit #7: Anonymous)
STORIES OF BOTH EVIL AND HOPE
Coming to terms with violence and injustice at such an extent will not be an easy one in the long run, for sure. We are all traumatized in one way or the other. To be frank, we have never had a flawless democracy. Always feeling this dark side of the force. The law as a tool to legitimize anything illegitimate. The police here always notorious for abusing its authority; nothing is “that” outrageous as we have always taken it for granted. So we all know deep down that the script of Midnight Express was not completely conceived in Oliver Stone’s imagination. The sad thing is that there are still some who do justify the excessive use of power on the grounds that people do not obey the state, which is to be respected at all costs like an omnipotent father. I admit I will never accept our obsession with authority and one-man leadership. (Photo credit #8: Ayla Jackel/Reuters)
I have been to the rallies all around the world, both in the West and in the East. What are your chances of being beaten to death, taken to custody, being physically and sexually abused under custody while using your democratic right to assemble, to freedom of speech, to have a say in the decision making process concerning public issues? It is quite likely here. Support us in our struggle against the police state we are living in. Spread the word. (Photo credit#9: Ronny Rozenberg)
EVACUATION OF THE PARK
The Gezi Park was ruthlessly evacuated on a sunny saturday, on June 15th when it was teeming with children and elderly. Mind you, the mayor had already announced that there wouldn’t be a police intervention. That explains the presence of children but it does not explain the brutality, does it? Did he want to give a tough lesson to the families who defy the authority of the state? After the evacuation, the police went into the site for an investigation; we all knew what they were looking for and what they would find. Without any permit to the media to be on the site; they “found” weapons and condoms. Condoms! My funny valentine! Making love is outrageous while sexual abuse is totally commonplace. (Photo credit #10: Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
One of the hotels which opened its doors to protestors running away from the riot police squat clearing the park and allowed an infirmary to be set up for the wounded was heavily attacked. Who would you call if your hotel was under attack? The police? Oops, no, the police is busy with attacking the hotel. Who would you call if someone throws a a tear gas in to your house? The police? Oops, no, the police is busy with firing tear gasses into the private homes of people and going into apartments without a warrant while chasing protestors. Who would you call if some people attack you with machetes? The police? Oops no. The police is actually working in collaboration with some of those thugs. The end of living with a sense of security in a place called home. -At least for some of us.
When i woke up the next day, I was expecting the hotel to be burned down in ashes. Fortunately, it was not. A hotel with hundreds of people inside under attack resonates with our collective memory. It almost coincided with the 20th anniversary of the massacre of 35 Alewite intellectuals by a mob of fundamentals in a hotel in Sivas on July 2, 1993. As we expected the murderers got away with it. It is okay to burn people trapped in a hotel to death whereas it is still illegal to cremate. Something chokes me. Could it be injustice? (Photo credit # 12: Anonymous)
After the evacuation, it is declared that anyone who dares to set a foot on the square will be treated as terrorists. So we are upgraded to the ranks of terrorists within 3 weeks. Is it so easy for a government to label its citizens as terrorists? I cannot help wondering whether this was how peoples in the south east were turned into terrorists in 30 years? If you are labeled as such, it means you may go missing. And no institution, except for the International Criminal Court in the Hague, cares much about what has happened to you. All that the court does is to fine your government. This is a country, where cafes and restaurants regularly pay the fine for breaching the smoking ban so that their patrons can smoke indoors. So the fine is totally fine. (Photo credit #13: Anonymous)
UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE EXAM
It breaks my heart to see that the park was evacuated the day before the university exam. You cannot help thinking it was a cruel decision made intentionally. Most of the young people in Istanbul were out till the morning that night. As someone who took the exam, let me tell you the picture in a class of 16, where I took the exam. 4 people absent. God knows whether they were at hospital or under custody. A boy and a girl sleeping on the desks. Me constantly yawning as I stood up till 5 am in the morning. I saw young boys with reddish or purple eyes, obvious that they were beaten by the cops. Their future depends on a 3-hour exam, for which they study for years. Nothing is fair in this game but this was so so unfair. (Photo credit# 14: Sedat Suna)
(Photo credit# 15: Hüsnü Şentürk)
16th July is celebrated as Father’s day in Turkey. A few days ago, the protestors were calling in the fathers -after calling in the mothers- to reclaim the protest right next to their children. After the exam, I had to walk home. approximately 45 min. Why? All the public transportation was suspended as there was a mass meeting called “Respect for the national will” for the pm. The public transport was put in to use to take people to the meeting arena. Hmm, does everything that belongs to the state belong to the government? It seems so. When I got to my neighborhood, I could not believe my eyes. I was down the main road looking at thousands of people gathered. All trying to find a way to get to the Taksim square. The roads were blocked again.
Then, I saw a son and a dad. Obviously my neighbors. Under normal circumstances, they would be having a brunch in a posh cafe by the Bosphorus to celebrate the father’s day. Today, they were in the middle of the road staring at the big crowd.
The son: “I will join the crowd.” (in a determined tone)
The father: “you have no idea what they are up to. Things are more complicated than it seems. But you don’t think I will leave you on your own, do you?” (far from an attempt to discourage his son)
The son: “Okay, then I suppose you are coming with me.” and they start walking to join the crowd. It was one of those memorable moments.
We were all politicized over a night. In a region like the Middle East, you cannot afford to be apolitical. The slippery grounds of this area leaves you no room to breathe if you are not to stand up for your rights and unfortunately, most of the time you cannot. I felt I have aged over the last few weeks, and many young people, including some of my students, have become grown-ups. The civil uprising/unity seems to be the most significant one in the history of the Republic so far; the most significant event I have ever witnessed in my life.
I have always wanted to live through the 60s in San Fransisco; here I am in Istanbul in 2013. It does not sound so bad right now:)
LINKS AND FURTHER READING
Can we still call Turkey civilized? by Claire Berlinski
Trouble in Paradise by Slovaj Zizeck on protests in Turkey and Greece
Tarik Ali giving support to Gezi Resistance
Alain Badiou on The uprising in Turkey and beyond
Turkish liberals turn their back on Erdogan by Tim Arango on the New York Times
Erdogan’s fall from grace is pure Shakespearean tragedy on the Guardian. Having studied Shakespeare and his contemporaries, I could easily say one needs to have grace, honor and some other epic qualities in the first place before turning into tragic Shakespearean character.
I can never trust the Turkish police or the government again by Can Oz on the Guardian
Postcard from Turkey by Thomas Friedman on the New York Times
Erdogan’s masculanity and the language of the Gezi Resistance by Zeynep Kurtuluş Korkman and Salih Can Açıksöz
Turkey’s false nostalgia by Edhem Eldem on the New York Times
A digital collection of Gezi Park articles part 1: Readlist
Leave a Reply