A Turkish academic reflects on the ongoing protests in her country, sketching an ambiguous image of a curious coalition that may yet bring a new era.
Editor’s note: this update on the situation in Istanbul was kindly shared with us by an anonymous reader. We are in the process of confirming the identity of the author to make sure we are not unnecessarily endangering anyone, but we decided to already share the text here because it provides a crucial and timely insight into the dynamics of revolt on the ground in Turkey.
Things are pretty crazy here in Istanbul. We have been breathing tear gas for three days now, the police were pouring tons of gas and water with cannons or shooting gas pistols. People got hit in the leg, back, head. But crowds in Izmir, Ankara and several other cities are also clashing with the police. They turned off all the street lights in Taksim yesterday evening. Hundreds of people are being treated in hospitals. But ordinary people are opening up their houses, offices and restaurants to cure the injured, although the police are also chasing protesters into the buildings to gas and beat them. In Ankara, tweets and one very brave TV channel say they have been using plastic bullets. The injuries are severe. We need to keep on communication (mainly through social media) to know what is happening over there.
In Istanbul, we took over Taksim square today after a wild day of being sprayed. The police retreated, but there is a tense lull, since protesters are still being sprayed in other neighborhoods in Istanbul. The prime minister declared that he will not back down on his plans for the transformation of everything under the sun into malls and upper-class residences. There seems to be a tension between the president and the PM, since the former is from the Gulen sect (fethullah gulen is a religious group with a modern facade that controls part of the media and has schools everywhere, including in the US). The president has called for calm and criticized police violence, but prime minister Erdogan must be turning really psychotic, since he keeps saying we’re a bunch of “provocateurs”, using a nauseatingly demagogic discourse. The protestors, he says, are preparing the ground for a new coup d’étât against his very “civilian-democratic” government!
Indeed, the number of Turkish flags at Gezi park this evening was disgustingly high. This is a curious coalition. The Kemalist-nationalist freaks of yesterday are now occupying the same park as the Kurds, the Left, the anarchists and the LGBTT groups. I’m not too sure of this, but I think football fans were instrumental in the victory over Gezi park today. We have three Istanbul teams, the supporters of which were out fighting the police like lions. When they’re in their stadium, I call them hooligans, but I have to admit that they know how to fight and aren’t afraid. How all this will combine into a meaningful statement against the government is still uncertain.
So things are all very ambiguous and, in any case, the fighting hasn’t ceased elsewhere than in Taksim. This is not a protest to save trees — the government has gone too far. Gezi park was the last straw, but we had to bear several other things in the past few months: arrests of Kurds and activists on absurd charges; changes in school curricula imposing religion courses on kids; attempts to ban abortion; the bombing of Kurdish civilians crossing the Turco-Iraqi border (mistaking them for the guerilla); the tug-of-war with Syria; the mysterious bomb that killed fifty at Reyhanli on the Syrian border; attempts to limit the consumption of alcohol; giant projects to change the whole face of Istanbul; naming the third Bosphoros bridge after an Ottoman sultan who nearly annihilated the Alevite population (the non-Sunni branch of Islam in Turkey); and lastly the Gezi park project…
Meanwhile, the Kurds gathered 500 Turkish intellectuals, journalists and civil society leaders in Ankara last weekend to draw up an alternative peace plan. I attended this and was so impressed by how people began to take control of their lives, started avowing their crimes vis-à-vis one another (the Kurds participated in the Armenian genocide, for instance, and LGBTT groups are reviled by the Marxist left), and drew concrete demands to impose their will on the government’s reductionist view of peace.
In short: I feel that this is the beginning of the end of an era! We need to bring down this government, but what will come in its place is the most important question today. Please keep on supporting us and keep sharing the news!
Click here for a collection of photos of the ongoing protests.