Friday, June 21, 2013

Democracy in the Parks

                The ‘waves’ of arrests have started. Yesterday, it was announced, that 2 out of 20 ‘supsects’ will be charged in the Çarşı wave (Çarşı is the Beşiktaş football fan club who lead the way against the police in many of the protests). The day before that, the news reported that 33 of 97 would be charged in the previous days wave of arrests. And that’s in Istanbul alone—there are more ‘waves’ in other cities.

The anchormen and women state these figures blandly, not questioning the logic behind the arrests at all. It’s the ‘Terror Intervention’ division of the police. They are conducting house raids early in the morning. They are stopping Terror.

It is all so familiar—three entries ago I talked about how this would go down. I remember how it felt back in 2011, when every day on the news you heard about how many were charged in that day’s ‘dalga’ (wave) of arrests of Kurds. The unquestioning, docile news teams spouting out the Turkish Government’s version of events and everyone unquestioningly swallowing every word because they had been trained from preschool to regard Kurds as terrorist and every kind of political activity as splittism provoked by secret forces bent on destroying Turkey.

So will all the unrest and horror of the last three weeks just get swept under the rug or sent to prison?

                The standing man protests continue—people stand in silence along the wharf and at the Bull in Kadıköy. People stand at the meeting for press freedom in Brussels. And crowds still fill Taksim Square. But now the Gezi Park movement, with Gezi itself lost, has spread to all the parks of Istanbul this week. At 9:00 the town meetings start. We went down last night to Yoğurtçu Park to see what was happening.
               They’d set up a stage in the park where anyone could sign up to speak. The audience showed their approval by waving their hands in the air, a tactic they probably coopted from Occupy Wall Street, but with the very logical reason of not wanting to disturb the neighbors who surround the park with clapping. A girl spoke about the corruption in the last election—the buying of votes, the casting of ballots by the dead. One foreign resident stood and suggested that Turkey call for foreign election monitors to ensure that there is no tampering with results. A lawyer stood and, after greeting all the undercover cops in the crowd, to mass laughter, urged cooperation and persistence. Many stood and spoke about the need to organize.

                Some of the character of Gezi Park has been brought to each of these mini-Gezi’s. Last night there was a ‘Revolution Market’ where cookies and drinks were distributed for free. A wide range of people were present--most of whom would never have been caught dead together a month ago. One man spoke on behalf of the LGBT community whom, he said, had been at the protests from the start, had born the brunt of a lot of police violence, and who remained one of the most oppressed groups in the country. Everyone cheered their support. Another man stood and spoke about the injustice in the investigation into the massacre by Turkish warplanes of 34 Kurdish villagers--most Turks regarded this issue as irrelavent, believing, as their news told them, that these 34 boys were all smugglers anyway, and probably terrorists. But everyone cheered their support. Whatever else comes of these townhall style meetings, these people are, perhaps for the first time, getting together and listening to each other’s views and building tolerance. I can’t stress enough for American friends what a radical change that is for Turkey. Your political views can get you arrested or attacked here. People defend their positions with hysterical screaming and protests. It is against the law to insult Atatürk and Turkishness. Anyone against you is a terrorist. For all of these people with different opinions to sit around quietly and listen is a revolution of its own.

                Sadly, there was some bad news. A park in another district, Yeniköy was attacked by amob with clubs and knives. The mob, about 30 people in all, was apparently organized by the District Mayor (Muhtar), Engin Cevahiroğlu. If there were any justice in the current rulers of this country, he would be immediately relieved of his position and prosecuted, but we save that sort of justice for protesters standing silently in the squares. Those against us get the Gas, those for us get pardoned.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I can’t stress enough for American friends what a radical change that is for Turkey... For all of these people with different opinions to sit around quietly and listen is a revolution of its own."