For the youth of Turkey, it was almost their duty to pick a road in politics, until the 80’s. There were 3 main groups in the Turkish politics, right, left and nationalism though there were many sub groups as well. People who were raised in modern big cities who came from educated families or suppressed poor families, followed socialism. During the mid 80’s came the fall of USSR which was a model, not the most successful for all socialists and communists. It was a big disappointment for the Turkish as much as for the other supporters around the world. We, the supporters, did not even have enough time to fight for THE ideals. Very soon Turkey was already introduced to capitalism and the boons of the modern life with the luxury of technology, daily pleasures of life and laziness. Turkey, the adopted child of USA, became more dependent on luxury, money, and in the end, capitalism. It was possible to see how the youth of the 80’s and 90’s were affected by the capitalism trends. As a result of the American effect on the Turkish government the borders of the Turkish market opened itself to big foreign industry associations, brands and cartels. The retail madness was inclined to high peaks; citizens were introduced for the very first time to credit cards. Fashion, trends, technology and shopping became the only aim for youngsters. So for me and the older generations, we had no hope for ideals from the youth, not even mentioning any kind of support on social movements/events. For us the new generation was lazy, spoilt, ignorant and timewasters.
Everything however changed with the “Gezi Park” protests. Many of you may know the story from what you watched on the Tv and read in the newspapers. Though I’m sure nobody knows that it still continues as it’s probably NOT found worth airing on the news or writing about, since there’s no blood, no violence or destruction. The Gezi Park protest started with a peaceful protest against the so-called-democratic, fascist government, to prevent the destruction of an urban park one of the last existing parks in Istanbul City center which they planned to demolish and replace with yet another unnecessary shopping mall. The brutal government, and its police, burned tents, used pressured water and tear gas; they beat protestors, mostly socialist students, teenagers, supporting artists and performers. This was the last drop…It sparked more hatred and mutiny among all the citizens from different layers of society. It caused general protests and strikes, against the government, its executions and the way they tried to change the country. The protest united all the citizens, from different cities, different religions & beliefs, traditions, backgrounds, ages and professions.
The suppressed press did not share the events on TV or newspapers. This however did not stop the people; they voiced their opinions on Facebook and twitter, which became the communication portals for the Turks. Even when the government lied and tried to smut the protesters, to prevent them from getting more support from the rest of the public, the protestors kept peaceful. Citizens used their humor, their pots and spatulas, their car horns, flowers, water fights and concerts to protest the government but not any kind destructive weapon. There was even a silent protestor; where he stood in the middle of the city center for hours, which created a rippling effect, thousands of people followed across different countries even in Amsterdam some weeks ago- to protest the Turkish government.
The reasons of the protests are many from environmental concerns: “the government introducing another bridge, which will cause the only forest of Istanbul to be exterminated and nuclear power project supported by big cartels” , to political issues like: “a standoff from secularism and, bring Turkey closer to Islamism”.
Since it has not come to an end yet, we are only still watching the events. The court decided the park belongs to the public. In total 5 people were killed and thousands of people were wounded due to the brutal attacks of the police and conservative supporters of the government. During Ramadan in Turkey believers fast and are kind and nice to each other and strangers, the government is still attacking the protestors. But millions were protesting them on the streets, eating with each other and at the same time sharing their dinner on the street tables where everyone is invited.
The point is what we have learned from the youth. For the first time in world history, people from different views, religions and social layers came together to protest the restrictions on their freedom, decisions made on their future and environment. They showed us that it is possible to protest in peace using technology, which we always thought was ruining our/their social lives. They used humor and art to mock the system. They embraced people from different layers, even the government’s police. They were not run by any party, organization or idea. They were not supported economically. They were just couple of million looters*, as the prime minister called them, asking for their rights. They surely had a social ideal that; people are equal when it comes to rights! My generation was never more wrong, but never more proud…
* looter is capulcu in Turkish and “chapulling” got into the literature, given the meaning of “fighting for your rights”
by A. Meelis