Friday, June 7, 2013

Update on the Turkish Protests

So where are we this week? So much has happened, is happening. Where do you start? I'm sorry but I have no pictures this week--maybe later. But I felt the need to get down what was happening NOW. I have included come Youtube video links that tell part of the story.

Tencere ve Tava Proteso (The Pots and Pans Protest)

On Sunday night, June 2nd, we were sitting in the living room, watching TV with Grandfather, Delal’s aunt, and a friend visiting from Silivri. Suddenly, a noise rose up from the street, growing louder and louder. We all went out onto the balcony to find our whole neighborhood hanging out the window banging pots and pans. The clamor came from every direction—from Çamlica in the west and Ataşehir in the East. I swear to God the very air seemed to be alive and vibrating. We ran in and got our own pots and pans. ‘I feel like I’m getting something big off my chest!’ our aunt said as she pounded away on a frying pan.

And so weren’t we all, the entire city.

Last year, during the height of the Kurdish hunger strikes, we joined a civil action campaign to turn off the lights and put candles in the window for all the prisoners. I remember how miserable and alone I felt—our window the only dark one as far as they eye could see. You felt targeted, marginalized. Now everyone was on the same side. We felt safe, empowered. Cars poured out into the street honking horns. The gigantic apartment high rises in Ataşehir blinked on and off like Empire State Christmas trees. Behind them a storm was pouring in over the mountains, tall black thunderheads—lightning darted behind the hills. It seemed even God himself had joined in. And this was in a neighborhood known for being staunch supporters of Erdoğan’s party, the AKP.

Every night at 9:00 since then, the same thing has happened. Last night in Kadıköy the workers at the Opera House from actor to concession stand worker poured out into the side streets armed with giant pots. Taxis honked at them as they went by.

But I will add one thing—Grandfather would not come out with us. At first he protested, ‘No, don’t go out. It’s rude! You’ll wake people up.’ We laughed, we insisted, we pointed out everyone was doing it and finally he emerged with the biggest pan of all, but then almost unconciously, immediately crouched behind our balcony walls, instinctively afraid. In his 83 years he has seen enough of Turkish state oppression—he perhaps had the sense to be scared.

Here’s some videos of similar pots and pans protests around the country.


Ulus (Istanbul)


A song by the popular group ‘Kardeş Türküler’ about the pots and pans protest

A week of tense calm

The KCK show trials continued this week—all of our time has been occupied with that and so we did not have time to go down to the protests this week. But lots of things have been happening. On Wednesday, in Izmir, police arrested38 people for messages on their Twitter accounts—this AFTER Bulent Arınç, the Deputy Prime Minister, made a somewhat conciliatory announcement that made it seem as if the government might back off a little. Newspapers (official ones) started spreading rumors that foreign agents were provoking protests and then arrested foreigners in Istanbul and Ankara, claiming some of them had diplomatic passports. The suggestion was—we’ve caught them! This turned out to be false. They were all hapless Erasmus students.

In Hatay and Eskişehir two students have been beaten to death—most likely by undercover cops. Our friends protesting in Beşiktaş report gangs of what look like undercover cops harassing protesters, cutting lights, and at times luring people into alleys and beating them. Rumor? Wild guessing? Maybe, but this is a country where hundreds were disappeared by similar people in the 90s and I have seen the undercover cops at Kurdish protests myself, so, it’s certainly possible.

Protests in Beşiktaş (Çarşı)

On Tuesday, Erdoğan told the protesters that ‘he could barely restrain 51% of the country (from attacking them)’ and then went on a North African tour. When he arrived back last night hundreds of his supporters met him at the airport. They ecstatically chanted his name and told reporters that they wanted to go down to Taksim and drive the protesters out.

A friend of ours at school was riding in a taxi last night when the driver told her a story—he was shaking, nervous, she said.

‘I was at the Marmara Hotel, waiting on a customer when I overheard this conversation between some officers and their chief. ‘What’s going on in the square?’ asked the chief. ‘Nothing much,’ an officer answered. ‘People are just wandering around basically.’ ‘Send them some gas,’ the chief said. The officer refused, ‘Didn’t you hear me? I said they were just wandering around.’ The chief got angry, ‘I said send them some gas!’ The officer turned to his fellow policemen, cussing under his breath and said, ‘You heard the order! Toss them some gas!’

I don’t know how much you can trust a taxi driver’s story. There’s a rumor that many are undercover cops. They have been known to say provocative things to lure people into talking and ‘revealing their true colors’.

That’s where things stand. Meanwhile the park seems a happy and hopeful place. People put up memorials to Hrant Dink and the Robowski Massacre. The plant trees. Restaurants are bringing food to protesters. Volunteers come by with medical supplies, tampons, vitamins, rain coats, whatever is needed.

A friend shared another inspiring story—she was on the metrobus when a gang of Çarşı (Beşiktaş football hoodlums) got on wearing bandanas over their mouths. An old woman approached them and without a word pulled each of their faces to her and kissed them on the forehead. She knew they were going into battle with the police (Çarşı youths famously stole one of the police vehicles and used one of their own water cannons against them) and was sending them on their way.

People are hopeful. Tremendously hopeful.

No comments: