As somebody who has been on the streets of central Istanbul for the past 10 days, I am unable to talk about the many political fragments gathered in Taksim gradually. This is not because they are too complicated but it is because in all my life I have not been personally affiliated to a single political party or a single political movement organized outside mainstream politics in Turkey. Neither have I ever in my life voted for a major political party, or even cared for the elections in Turkey. There have always been political figures that I respected, but they were always either independent figures or marginal members of their parties. This is paralleled by my general lack of interest in mainstream politics in Turkey which seems to me to be polluted by incessant and futile bickering. And neither have I been interested in football, which perhaps makes me marginal in Turkey.
A protest sparked by brutality
What I can say about the movement that has crystallized around Taksim Gezi Park in the beginning of June 2013 is that it is beyond these configurations. The people that were defending the Gezi park trees were a mere 50 people and they had been fighting for their park, without significant popular support, for several months prior to the culmination of events. The only thing that turned this small protest into a massive and country-wide resistence is police brutality. The only thing that connects the people on the streets is an unremittable desire not to live under a police state anymore.
Unlike the other countries of the Middle East where movements of freedom recently took place, Turkey is a country whose ruling party has come to power by democratic elections and people have respected that fact despite serious antidemocratic attacks against this party by different political powers in Turkey. The movement on the streets is completely spontaneous and without any international triggering, it includes people from all ages and all social classes.
It is hard to imagine a people in resistence to be so politely and gently attached to each other and the fact that they have remained peaceful and not showed any interest in violence and aggression despite this much provocation by police and other provocators is one of the main characteristics of this movement. This is not a movement of professional resisters, this is a movement of people who want to connect to each other who clean their mess after a day of long and arduous protests and who care for the animals affected by the gasses.
I also remind myself that the police force also consists of human beings, and that these people are being forced to work around the clock without sleep or rest and are being forced to react in a certain way to the protestors.
To see Taksim square devoid of all the symbols of oppression: the republican regime, capitalism and neoliberalism makes me overwhelmed with joy. To see the AKM building covered with the ’68 student revolutionary Deniz Gezmiş’ photos and the monument of victory covered with pictures of people killed during the 1977 Taksim events, makes me sigh in awe. To see the Garanti bank covered with graffitis makes me proud- the TV station and press media owned by the same holding group had a pro-Erdogan near black-out on our struggle.
In sympathy with anti-neoliberal muslims
I must admit that the main group of people in this crowd that I feel politically close to are the young anonymous artists who open their hearts and create with incredible wit and humour all these graffiti. Humour is something that Erdogan lacks, and it is something that he cannot gain even if he wins all the elections in the world. I have to admit that the other political group that gains my sympathy in this crowd is anti-capitalist Muslims. Lets not forget that this crowd is also gathering against the oppression of neoliberalim that has been ruling Turkey for the past few decades. To me, if anyone says that they are Muslim, they must be Muslim and there is no arguing, but from a political point of view Erdogan is far far away from the Muslim archetype, so much so that if he is Muslim, Prophet Muhammed must be Buddhist.
Islam was one of the most powerful political movements in history that evolved as an anti-capitalist revolution. It is a social religion gathered around the idea of sadaqa and defines itself with the fight against the Quraysh clan which were the neoliberal investment bankers of the time. Being an anti-utopic religion it should not be identified with the emevite or the abbasid rules that came after the death of the prophet but rather with the community of Medina which was a community characterised not only by revolutionary and resistance men but strong and politically powerful women. AK party has never been an anti-women party but has been alienating everybody by its rigid and demeaning regard of women’s rights to choose for themselves what is right for them.
A suppression of identity
Last of all about the trees: Erdogan has not shown any respect for the history or the urban memory of Istanbul. He has been relentlessly selling historic buildings to hotels and shopping centers with a political vision that identifies progress with building shopping malls, bridges and dams. Therefore when he says he will build the replica of a historical building in Taksim, nobody believes his sincerity. It is universally known that the only reason he wants to build it is as a symbol of his power against the republic of Turkey, and as a tribute to the religious revolt that took place at those barracks, which was suppressed by a young Mustafa Kemal (later taking the last name Atatürk).
I have respect for Mustafa Kemal, the soldier whose anti-emperialist fight was passionate and ingenious. All the poeple that died for freedom deserve respect. But once the war was over Atatürk became much like Erdogan and had no respect for anybody who didn’t look or think like him. Turkey’s homogenisation was part of a global movement but was implemented with severity and brutality; the revolutions of garments and the alphabet brought about cultural losses that are unretainable. Atatürk suppressed all opposition, religious or political, and erased all memory of culture and multi-ethnicity and severed the ties of Turkish people with its past for good. This is exactly what Erdogan is trying to do right now and this is what the young people in the streets will not tolerate for a second time.
I am 42 and happy and rejuvanated to see a such an event unfold in front of my eyes. I only wish there were no deaths.
This article originally appeared in Yesil Gazette.