The unraveling of Turkey

TW: violence against protesters

In the past few days, the assorted efforts by the Turkish government to silence and even kill protesters in Istanbul and increasingly in other parts of the country have gained a certain degree of visibility internationally. With minimal coverage coming from within Turkey itself, however, the original protests and even the motivations behind the on-going protests has become somewhat obscured behind the idea of an autocratic and islamist-friendly government repressing its citizens because that’s just what happens in that part of the world. What few reports have spread out of the Turkish media blackout of the protests suggest that something far more complicated has happened. As Turkish writer and activist Defne Suman wrote:

Four days ago a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and students.  Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees.  Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray.  They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return. Two young people were run over by the tanks and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd.  After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in  very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.

There’s more details and information over at her post, but there’s a clear image of the evolution of this protest movement into a larger protest against the broader dynamics of the Turkish political system. In a very explicit since, this is the beginning of the transfer of earlier economic protests and concerns (over either broader economic questions or the best public use of Taksim Square) into a political protest over general democratic and social norms.

(Protesters and police in Turkey confronting each other on the streets of Istanbul, from here.)

I honestly don’t know where Turkey on the whole is heading, but that many of the inadequately addressed problems within the larger political system are coming to a header.

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3 thoughts on “The unraveling of Turkey

  1. […] Yesterday, I mentioned the importance of listening to Turkish descriptions of the events unfolding there, ironically shortly after the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told domestic and local press that “There is now a menace which is called twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” While I wasn’t precisely point to Turkish twitter users as the ideal news source on the still developing situation, I built my larger point around what one famous Turkish writer and activist had explained on her wordpress account. […]

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