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We are the 99 percent

Istanbul Is Burning

Posted 10 years ago on June 3, 2013, 11:04 a.m. EST by OccupyWallSt
Tags: revolution, police brutality, repression, Turkey, direct action, #occupygezi

What is happening in Turkey with the #occupygezi protests? Why should we care? We should care because, above all else, our grievances are connected through the violence brought when people stand up to say no to the initiatives of big business, planned behind closed doors and without our consent. The story that follows is a first hand account of the current struggle on the street in Turkey.

"Well, we are just filling light bulbs with paint," said my friend, a cafe owner in Cihangir, the SoHo of Istanbul. Speaking to me on the phone, she sounded as relaxed as if she was baking an apple pie. "You know," she continued, "the only way to stop a TOMA is to throw paint on its window so that the vehicle loses orientation."

My friend, who was completely uninterested in politics until six days ago, had never been in conflict with the police before. Now, like hundreds of thousands of others in Turkey, she has become a warrior with goggles around her neck, an oxygen mask on her face and an anti-acid solution bottle in her hand. As we have all learned, this the essential kit to fight the effects of tear gas. As for TOMA, that is the vehicle-mounted water cannon. To paralyze it, you either have to put a wet towel in its exhaust pipe or burn something under its engine or you and a dozen others can push it over. This kind of battle-info is circulating all over Turkey at the moment. It is like a civil war between the police and the people. Yet nobody expected this when, six days ago, a group of protesters organized a sit-in at Istanbul's Gezi Park to protect trees that were to be cut down for the government's urban redevelopment project.

Ten years of arrogance

The protests that have now engulfed the country may have begun in Gezi Park in Taksim, the heart of Istanbul. It was never just about trees, but the accumulation of many incidents. With the world's highest number of imprisoned journalists, thousands of political prisoners (trade unionists, politicians, activists, students, lawyers) Turkey has been turned into an open-air prison already. Institutional checks and balances have been removed by the current AKP government's political maneuvers and their actions go uncontrolled. On top of this growing authoritarianism, the most important reason for people to hit the streets in support of the Gezi resistance was the arrogant tone of the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Even on Sunday, when millions of people were joining the demonstrations, he called the protesters "looters". Throughout his tenure, his rhetoric has been no different. He has repeatedly called his political opponents "alcoholics, marginals, sniffers, bandits, infidels". His mocking sarcasm has become his "thing" over time, and even some of his closest colleagues accept that "he no longer listens to anyone."

Then, there is the fear. This kind of thing is hard to report in a prominent newspaper. That is perhaps why the international media have not reported that the fear of government and the Prime Minister has been growing even among non-political people. You can easily hear your grocery shop man saying "I think my phone is tapped." The mainstream media has not covered it, but we have read reports on social media about people being arrested for making jokes about the government. That is perhaps why for the past two days every wall in Taksim Square is full of curses against the Prime Minister. The public is enjoying the death of the "cruel father figure" with the most sexist curses I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some. But there is a more important component to the protests.

Killing the fear

As a writer and a journalist I followed the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings. As I wrote at the time, Arab people killed their fear and I saw how it transformed them from silent crowds to peoples who believe in themselves. This is what has been happening in the last six days in Turkey. Teenage girls standing in front of TOMAs, kids throwing tear gas capsules back to the police, rich lawyers throwing stones at the cops, football fans rescuing rival fans from police, the ultra-nationalists struggling arm in arm with Kurdish activists... these were all scenes I witnessed. Those who wanted to kill each other last week became - no exaggeration - comrades on the streets. People not only overcame their fear of authority but they also killed the fear of the "other". One more important point: the generation that has taken to the streets was born after the 1980 military coup that fiercely depoliticized the public. The general who led the 1980 coup once said: "We will create a generation without ideology." So this generation was - until last week.

Dangerous questions

"So this is the media that we've been hearing the news from over the last twenty years?" That was the question asked by one young man on Twitter, as he watched a television journalist keep silent while the Prime Minister branded protesters "a bunch of looters". The young man has been on the streets peacefully protesting for the last six days, so now he has many suspicions about what's been happening in his country all this time. Maybe the Kurdish people are not "terrorists". Perhaps the journalists thrown in prison were not plotting a "coup" against the government. All those jailed trade unionists may not be members of a "terrorist organization" after all. All those university students in prison, were they innocent like he is? Questions multiply.

As I write, Istanbul, Ankara - Turkey's capital - Izmir and Adana are burning. Massive police violence is taking place. And in my middle class Istanbul neighbourhood, like many others, people are banging on their frying pans to protest. People are exchanging information about safe places to take shelter from police, the telephone numbers of doctors and lawyers. In Taksim Square, on the building of Atatürk Cultural Center, some people are hanging a huge banner. There are only two words on it: "Don't surrender!"

Ece Temelkuran is a Turkish journalist and author. Follow her on Twitter @ETemelkuran



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[-] 6 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 10 years ago

Thank You Shawn for the valuable insights as to what is going on in Istanbul

My heart goes out to you and your brave countrymen

I put this post (below link) up after returning from the Solidarity rally at Zuccotti Park Saturday, and much of what you are saying is what I heard there

Please critique it and let me know if you think it is accurate


Solidarity from America


[-] 3 points by aaronparr (597) 10 years ago

I wish the Turkish people success in their struggle against their oppressors. Your courage is encouraging. Thank you for your article.

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 10 years ago

From Zuccotti to Taksim - squaring the circle - http://www.nationofchange.org/notes-nyc-occupier-taksim-square-1370354951 Solidarity to the 99% Never Give Up! Occupy! Go Occupy! Dayanisma.

[-] 1 points by greg123 (1) 10 years ago

What a big shame United States / Turkey Ankara ambassador give an explanation about the deaths in OccupyWallStreet as saying '' No US deaths resulted from police actions in OWS movement.Reports related to the US Occupy Wall Street movement are inaccurate so is this the democracy that you understand?Dont try to teach democracy to us we know way way better than you while you even dont know your own history.And just looking through one window cannot bring you the truth if you wanna write or say smth true you need to look from all aspects.And who is Ece Temelkuran without knowing her well dont show her as if she is the right person to learn the truth.We have way better freedom of speech than in US I know lots of newspapers that they write or say what ever they wanna.

[-] 1 points by Leventny (1) 10 years ago

Chomsky , Tarik Ali, David Harvey, Zizek,Roger Water, Leyla Halid announced their support for the Gezi Park.


[-] 1 points by antifaizlobisi (2) 10 years ago

Ece Temelkuran is a unreliable journalist. It's normal you have added her opinions here you don't know well her. But she is acting like lawyer of financial oligarchy.

Did you know that the campaign has been started by an actor who is advertorial face of biggest bank of Turkey?

Today a bank's CEO (which is got highest revenue in 2012) declared that he is supporting occupy gezi with his coworkers. The CEO said that he and his co workers goes to the park everyday after work hours. "Occupy Gezi" protests using similar name with your "Occupy Wall Street" indeed they are using your name because of your global popularity. Their movement totally against "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

Occupy Gezi has started after a government project declared. Government was planning to place a interest rate limit to banks. After that banks financed the anti-government movement.

Today Occupy Gezi's leaders made a list of what they want from government. One of the anti capitalist columnist from Turkey replied to OccupyGezi: "Add this:-Government should add interest rate limit- to your list we will join your OccupyGezi movement. But you can't add this because you are working for banks by knowing or unknowing."

If you need more details or some evidence for my words write to me. I can provide more.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

why isn't this on the news ?

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 10 years ago

Now I see some good reasons why France had such objections to Turkey's EU accession bid. Freedom of speech and of the press are foundational values for the Western world. If Turkey's regime abuses its power, it should be ostracized.

Turkey is a pivotal member of NATO on the forefront of the Middle East. Its humanitarian role in safe-harboring the refugees from festering Syria is laudable but frankly its veering towards autocracy and theocracy is extremely disturbing. There is so much good that Turkey can do in that part of the world by exerting its positive influence.

I just hope that Turkey is not additionally turning into a plutocracy or fascist state through its mall-building effort. We have had so much problem with that already in the U.S. Please do not go there. To all of the brave people in Turkey yearning to breathe free, Solidarity from New York!

[-] 1 points by antifaizlobisi (2) 10 years ago

Turkey is easiest country that you can be a journalist. In OECD Turkey has highest number of journalist (who carrying journalist card). With journalist card you can enter many places for free such as football matches. I don't have to be a journalist i can buy a journalist card from a newspaper by giving some bribery.

From your country you can see many journalist in the prisons in Turkey. But as a ordinary person from Turkey i can watch 24 hour anti-government TV shows and buy tons of anti-government newspaper. Actually anti-government media has higher percent in Turkey. Some of them openly supporting terror and they have some columnist who is calling to act with fire. When they got arrested they start to complaining to EU.

In Turkey %60 of media owned by biggest bank owners and banks hates actual government because of government blocking banks. Economical crisis didn't came to Turkey because government blocking banks to prevent their act which is risky for economics. Ordinary EU citizen believes that Turkish people can't speak freely. If you want to see proof of freedom of speech i can give you some newspaper links you can translate them with google translate. Actually i am very much bored to hear too much anti-government talking on media...

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 10 years ago

It is great to know that Turkey has a vibrant counterweight to the authorities. We need that here in the U.S. because we have a zombie counterweight to the authorities:

Revelation of NSA metadata collection with Congressional countenance

It is not good that you can buy a journalist card from a newspaper by giving some bribes because bribes may indicate a weakness of justice.

Most citizens of the world believe that they are free but that is usually because of how little they know about the other countries (myself included) due to the mainstream media's propaganda. Freedom IS defined in many different ways so that may explain part of the discrepancy. Everyone seems to tense up whenever others opine that their country is not free. Perhaps the opining should best be done by the people of that particular country as long as uninterrupted and non-intercepted communication with other countries worldwide is allowed.

[-] 1 points by itsmyblood (10) 10 years ago

it seem occupy is heating back up world wide. good.


[-] 0 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

The woman filling light bulbs with paint and others using similar tactics are playing into the hands of Erdogan and the Turkish government. They will be crushed by the overwhelming power of the state.

Better to cut the states lifeblood by not paying federal taxes, and by not buying corporate products, whose leadership supports Erdogan.

Tyranny usually wins the battle of violence, but is powerless against non cooperation.

[-] 4 points by Shule (2638) 10 years ago

I'm not so sure about that. What any government fears most is an unruly citizenship.

We will see what events unfold in Turkey.

[-] 1 points by TruthRightsFreedom (259) 10 years ago

I agree, & Europe is different The people are not so indoctrinated. They know much more about their history than we know of them or ours. Often they know more about America than Americans do. The article basically describes the people overcoming differences to unify and oppose oppressive gov.

If they do not prevail, they escalate to full violent revolution, a civil war, and neighboring nations will have widespread sympathetic grass roots supporting factions that has similar values and principles.

Corrupt leadership know this, and often cuts their losses by leaving early. Comfortable Americans often assume that uprisings are squashed, because that is what happens in America, where media manipulated people cannot agree and unite to oppose a common foe.

[-] 2 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 10 years ago

Turkey is in a very different phase than what we are in their revolution over tryranny


[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

Yes, they're quite far ahead. With less than a quarter of our population, they have 100,000+ people protesting. We would need half a million in our streets to equal their level of protest. But even that large number is less than a quarter of one percent of the people.

I just hate to see the protesters use violence against violence when their real strength is non cooperation. Erdogan will crush them easily and increase his grip on the country.

[-] 3 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 10 years ago

No one wants to see the scenes coming out of Turkey, but when the repression has advanced to such a level that is has, it is inevitable


[-] 1 points by itsmyblood (10) 10 years ago

turkey doesn't need their tax money they already have ours. what you are suggesting makes no sense since we fund their military. just like all of our other non european "friends".

[-] 0 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

Turkey has a $775 billion economy of which they spend $18 billion dollars on defense. How much is our contribution?

[-] 2 points by itsmyblood (10) 10 years ago

turkey received 21 billion in us aid in 2011.

[-] 2 points by antifaizlobisi (2) 10 years ago

It's not aid to Turkey. This aid goes to military base of US in Adana so this "aid" goes to US to US :) . It's for protect US expediences in middle-east. They transferring money under name of "AID" to hide how much they spend on defense of US from their own citizens.

[-] 0 points by quantumystic (1710) from Memphis, TN 10 years ago

i don't think you can construe the 14 billion in economic aid as not going to turkey and the 7 billion in military aid that went to their military. we have our own military budget to blow up dummy remember?

[-] 0 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

What's the source of your info?

[-] 1 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

Can you be more specific?

[-] 1 points by itsmyblood (10) 10 years ago

no factbook covers all aid.

[-] 0 points by jrhirsch (4714) from Sun City, CA 10 years ago

If your info can't be confirmed why post it?

[-] 1 points by itsmyblood (10) 10 years ago

my post can be confirmed it is in fact book stop being lazy that is the turkey fact book page of course unless you don't trust the cia figures here is the page http://www.factbook.org/factbook/tu.shtml