“Enough is enough!” Three questions – 24 answers to the Gezi park protests from our friends in and outside of Turkey

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From our friends in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey we know that many of the ongoings of the protests were not broadcasted in mainstream Turkish media, due to governmental repression. Social Media have thus become vital for the Occupygezi protest movement: Pictures, videos, comments, locations of the protests were published and shared – some of them a hundred thousand times. Meanwhile articles and reports published in international media mostly documented and analyzed the incidents from an outside perspective. We have been following many of these different reports and wondered how our friends – who are currently either actively involved in the protests in Istanbul and Ankara, showing solidarity with the protests from outside or who are criticizing (parts of) the Occupygezi movement – interpret the recent development.

This is why we have asked them the following three questions:

1. How are you currently experiencing the situation in Istanbul?
2. What is your critique?
3. What do you expect and wish?

We received 24 answers from eight people. Below you can click through the statements of Melek, Çetin, Deniz, Fatma, Fatma, Serkan, Eyüp and Burak…

Melek* (30), çapulcu, PhD Student, Ankara:

Everyday I'm çapuling

“I want to live in a country where politicians see development as human development not economic development because as public we are all aware of the fact that how ‘just’ economic wealth is distributed according to nepotism and how new bourgeois Muslims are living. They used religion and mobilized the public in order to get the support of the majority of the public by showing themselves as a disadvantaged political group under the authoritarian policies of the state for years, which is controlled by a secular national Kemalist elite group. (…) We were all aware of the fact that AKP is a neoliberal party and they believe in and worship money so there would be no threat to secularism…”

“I can call myself an anti-capitalist Muslim, a very marginal group in Turkish politics…” to read Melek’s full statement click here


Çetin Çelik (36), male, Istanbul:

Gezi-streetart tree and fist

“The politics has to be designed in a new way that would give more chances to local organizations and citizens to make their voices heard on local issues. The ten percent election threshold should be minimized and intra-party democracy must be developed by new reforms. The centralized structure of making politics must be weakened. The ways for political participation must be opened. People should have the right to speak on issues that interest them; for example “Taksim Gezi” project. Success in elections every five years does not grant the government with the right of doing whatever it wants, to proclaim some ways of living as illegal and to advise people on how to pursue a proper life…” to read Çetin’s full statement click here


Deniz Den* (27), Dutch, has been living with her Turkish husband in Istanbul for a year:

Gezi-streetart bird with gasmask

“The act of police violence shocked me the most. It broke my heart really… I always thought that living in a democracy meant freedom, freedom to speak, protest, having an opinion, share this with others and having your own beliefs and lifestyle… Although I was already aware of some of the flaws in Erdoğan’s leadership, the events of last week shattered my dreams of being able to continue the life I used to live before I moved to Istanbul if this leadership continues. This is clearly not a democracy we are living in but nothing less than a cocktail of dictatorship mixed with abuse of religion, with a hint of corrupt behavior and topped with a cherry of violent police forces. I know something has to change, although I never protested in my life but now feel I have to!” to read Deniz Den’s full statement click here


Fatma, (29), student in Hamburg, German-Turk:

Gezi-streetart woman green tree

“I do have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the latest incidents in Turkey. Generally spoken, I perceive the developments of the last years positively. In contrast to the previous governments in the history of Turkey the AKP offers many reasons why my opinion about ‘life in Turkey’ has changed in a positive manner. Though, at home, discussing with my parents, I wouldn’t state it that way. My parents (and the rest of my family, including the wider kinship) consider Erdoğan as a hero. For them, particularly the fact that the AKP, as a religious-conservative party, managed to push aside the military from politics, plays an important role…” <to read Fatma’s full statement click here


Fatma Rebeggiani (32), PhD Student at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS) and editor for the Newsletter “Migration and Population” by the “Network Migration in Europe”. She is German-Turk and lives in Bonn (Germany) with her husband and child:

Gezi-streetart woman in red

“My cousin was with the protesters, so I knew that this was really happening. She and other protesters found shelter in the Hilton, hiding from the police chasing them with tear gas. Somehow these pictures were so familiar, protesters being beaten up and ‘washed away’ by the police. But these pictures seemed so out of place, in this hip and open city of Istanbul today…

The Turkish people are coming of age, and claiming their share. And this is good and I hope that this turns out to be a good development. It is important not just on the streets but also as consumers and with every choice and power there is, to use the freedom and take a stance. This is the people’s sovereignty, and I am happy that this self-confidence is growing more and more within the Turkish population…”  to read Fatma’s full statement click here


Serkan (34), Neukölln (Berlin), born in Istanbul, migrated to Germany with his parents in his early childhood:

Gezi-streetart penguin with gasmask

“In case of a withdrawal of Erdoğan from power, I wish that the past is reclaimed. And herewith I also mean those times before the AKP came into power. One can recognize some kind of revenge the AKP is taking in their actions today, which goes back to the secularist pre-AKP-era. They accuse the former governments of being chased and oppressed due to their beliefs. Today, in power, they feel a need to pay back. These times need to be worked up as well and a new understanding of religions and diversity in the society needs to develop and be supported, in order to unify all people no matter what origin or belief. The first step is made by the people protesting on the streets. They proved that it is possible. Antagonized football club members stand side by side, transvestites side by side with housewives and Alevis side by side with Sunnis to make use of their human rights, fighting for a democratic society without being led by any member of the opposition…” to read Serkan’s full statement click here


Eyüp, Bremen, Male, born in Germany, amongst others relates himself to Northern Germany and West-Turkey:

Gezi-streetart yellow fist

“I wish religious people would stop imposing their views and lifestyles on those who choose to live a different life. The influence of Islam on day to day life is all too visible these days. The ignorance of Turks and Kurds regarding their common past and the negative attitude shown by AK supporters towards the protesters by reducing them to nothing but ‘alcoholics and extremists’ is shocking and frustrating. The good thing about it is that now, more than ever before, conservative people are showing their true colors. They have a very black-and-white way of looking at things. At least now we know who we are dealing with and we no longer should show more tolerance or understanding to them than they are willing to show towards others.” to read Eyüp’s full statement click here


Burak Korkmaz (28), born in Istanbul, has been in Germany for his studies for the last six years; Lives in Cologne, works as a freelancer in communication design and is pursuing his Master at the University of Applied Science in Düsseldorf:

Gezi-streetart man

“I criticize the fact that the conservative-islamist AKP has firstly ignored the capacity to negotiate the civil rights of us citizens – respectively us humans – for the last ten years and then recently removed them…

For the first time in the history of Turkey a civil society movement came up in solidarity, crossing borders of political affiliation. Maybe this resistance brings up a new political party, which corresponds with the needs of these people. Topics, such as environment protection, human rights, integration, emancipation, animal protection, education and queer rights, have been neglected for the last decade. It is time to bring them back to the agenda successively…” to read Burak’s full statement click here


Melek* (30), çapulcu, PhD Student, Ankara:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“First of all, first time in my life I witness such a big democratic reaction of Turkish people to oppressive policies of the government. Since the first days I have been involved actively to this mass protest either on the street with the crowds or in social media, and now I feel so overloaded with the information, observations and comments about what was going on. Not only physically but also emotionally I feel overloaded. Just a short example, yesterday I participated in the general strike and since 10 am in the morning I was marching with my colleagues and friends. We walked to the Kızılay, Guvenpark square (Ankara), and we were protesting without any police intervention. I left the group around 4 pm. After three hours, police attacked the group without any excuse by just saying: ‘you have to turn back to your normal life’. From what I heard from media and friends, the degree of police intervention was harsh. I got so angry! Though I was laughing yesterday about many jokes and humor spread amongst the protestors, I feel demoralized today. In brief, these days are so tiring for me and stressful and I totally ignore my PhD stress. I cannot really think about working and I do not regret about it.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“Firstly, my reason to protest is against police violence and brutality against the ordinary citizens of Turkey. The people who were sitting in Gezipark protecting trees were so innocent. They did not deserve to be treated immorally by the police. We all watched how police burned their tents and used tear gas in the middle of the night when everyone was sleeping. This cannot be accepted! Then our prime minister said that ‘whatever they do I do not care, I do not listen the demands of few çapulcu’!!! His arrogance and his attitude towards the protesters was the second pushing reason to make me angry. Then the protests started to spread as you know.>

For me these two initial events made me think: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I myself do not want to be ruled by a dictator. Unfortunately, our president looks down on our political demands and does not want to understand the civil and political rights of the people. Instead he labels us as çapulcu, marginal, terrorist, even fascist!!

Secondly, I want to live in a country where politicians see development as human development not economic development because as public we are all aware of the fact that how “just” economic wealth is distributed according to nepotism and how new bourgeois Muslims are living. They used religion and mobilized the public in order to get the support of the majority of the public by showing themselves as a disadvantaged political group under the authoritarian policies of the state for years, which is controlled by a secular national Kemalist elite group. I myself also supported this democratization movement, which restricts the role of military and Kemalist elite. However, this time when they got into power, they did not hesitate to use their power against opposing voices. In the initial years of AKP, Kemalist republican people were provoking people by claiming that AKP, as an Islamist party, will bring Sharia to Turkey! However, this opinion is only supported by a minority group of people who were trying to protect their advantageous positions in state since the beginning of Turkish state. We were all aware of the fact that AKP is a neoliberal party and they believe in and worship money so there would be no threat tosecularism.

During the AKP rule, many Islamic organizations got supported by the government and they became strong and influential in politics, economy, academia, and civil society. Thus, polarization between Islamists and Kemalists has become so clear. Unfortunately, people like me started to be excluded from political arena – because I am a Muslim believer but I do not support AKP or any other Islamic community. I do not wear headscarves and I do not work for any Islamic civil society organization.

On the other hand, I also do not support Republican Kemalist political party (CHP, Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi; English: Republican People’s Party) and I do not have any relationship with them either. I can call myself an anti-capitalist Muslim, a very marginal group in Turkish politics.

Since main opposition political parties (CHP, the Republican Kemalists, and MHP, the nationalist fascists) do not reflect people’s demands and also do not have capability to make strong opposition to AKP government, people do not have any political alternative to AKP. They feel helpless. I also criticize weakness of opposition parties. Furthermore, although I feel I am more close to leftist politics in Turkey, I do not find any right place to participate because I do not like their political jargon and their old and restricted minds. There are hundreds of leftist fractions and I believe they do not have any logical explanation why there is no strong leftist block in Turkey. While I was a bachelor student, I participated in several of them. Then I left because of their irresponsible behavior and weak agendas.

During these protests, I got so excited because I understood I am not alone. There are hundreds like me who could not find a place to make their voice heard. For instance, last Friday, when there was a first meeting in Ankara in Kugulu Park, a CHP bus came to the square with a classic song and some deputies of the party entered the field. Many people in the field protested against them and did not allow them to use this movement for the benefit of CHP. Similarly, some national Kemalist groups were saying: “We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal”, and people protested against them as we won’t be soldiers of anyone. I think this spirit of the movement, which covers and includes every group that is deprived by the government’s policies, made the protests strong. Some of my socialist friends discussed whether we should make a political frame for this movement. I opposed this idea because if someone makes any political frame for the movement, then it will exclude the other group. For instance, nationalist Kemalist people exclude Kurds and those who voted for the AKP before but oppose them now. Or let’s say if anti-capitalist Muslims make a political frame for the events, they will exclude the gays and lesbians, prostitutes and Kemalist people. I mean this movement is just a good example of new social movements and it is spontaneous, peaceful and not ideological!!! We are all excited about supporters of different soccer teams getting and marching together hand in hand and the solidarity between all different groups.

The demand is very clear and very simple: Mr. Erdoğan, president Erdoğan, please respect us, respect our lifestyles and protect our civil and political rights.

Thus, you have very young, very educated, very peaceful demonstrations on the one side, and police violence and ignorance of government with arrogance on the other side. Of course, I should not forget about the AKP supporters, who were afraid that the economy might get worse and foreign capital might withdraw. As you understand, these are rich financial or business groups who made their money with the support of AKP and government.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“I am very optimistic about the future of politics in Turkey now, because both, the ruling party and other opposition parties see that this is about how people act together to show their demands. I do also see with my own eyes, how smart and strong these young people are who will be the future. They destroyed the old cliché in politics with their singing, dances and messages without using violence, they showed the people: ‘We have a right to say our opinions and we can go on the streets if the government does not listen us.’

From now on we should be careful about the protests because extreme nationalist and conservative groups might be provoked by the protesters. We know that the AKP’s media already started to misinform their audience. I myself will also be more politically mobilized and will continue with my oppositional actions until they change their language and their attitudes toward the people. We will see the results with time.

This was awakening, consciousness raising.” >back to top

Gezi protest march vs. police and Toma

Çetin Çelik (36), male, Istanbul:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“What happens in Turkey currently is an extra-ordinary phenomenon; the Turkish people develop their own civil unrest in a legitimate way. In the history of the country, almost every sort of resistance, which demanded for more democratic rights, has been systematically outlawed by the governments. They were presented either as Kurdish terrorists, who, supported by sneaky western external powers, would divide the republic. Or they were portrayed as radical Muslims, who, supported by backward eastern external powers, would like to bring Sharia regime to the country. This time it is different because the protestors today come from almost every strata of the society and have quite different political engagements ranging from highly to none. Based on my own observation, the common grievance of protestors becomes concrete in the following way: ‘you cannot intervene into my life and you cannot do whatever you want just because you win the election’. From this perspective, this protest also signals the crisis of representative democracy today. People do not believe that their interests and views are well represented by politicians.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“My main critique is that this civil unrest shows that the path to participatory democracy is closed. Erdoğan grasps democracy as dominance of majority over minority and considers the ballot box as the only way for the citizens to express their views and demands. Thus, he closes all roads heading to more participatory democracy in his political arrangements. However, democracy exists to protect every citizen’s right to live and it is there to protect minorities’ rights against majorities’ possible repression. The ballot box is not the only instrument in democracy. The public sphere should be opened for the instant demands of other instruments of democracy such as NGO’s, universities, associations and organizations.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“I personally wish that – though the chance is pretty slim – the messages of this civil unrest are going to be perceived properly by the government. Accordingly, politics has to be designed in a new way that would give more chances to local organizations and citizens to make their voices heard on local issues. The ten percent election threshold should be minimized and intra-party democracy must be developed by new reforms. The centralized structure of making politics must be weakened. The ways for political participation must be opened. People should have the right to speak on issues that interest them; for example “Taksim Gezi” project. Success in elections every five years does not grant the government with the right of doing whatever it wants, to proclaim some ways of living as illegal and to advise people on how to pursue a proper life.

As a citizen, I want to have a say on the project that affects my eco-system. I want to live in a society in which no one behaves and advises as dominant father figure. It is no one’s right to tell how many children people are going to have or how much alcohol they will take. Irrespectively of their political and sexual choices, citizens should be treated equally and have chances to make their voices heard.” back to top

Gezi protest victory sign

Deniz Den* (27), Dutch, has been living with her Turkish husband in Istanbul for a year:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“The protests started peacefully, as we all know they started with the fact that the Gezi Park at Taksim has to make place for yet another shopping mall and a mosque. A peaceful protest was started by a small group of protesters who were sitting in Gezi Park, they were protesting in peace, reading books and sharing their breakfasts with the police. This was Wednesday last week.

This protest caught attention but stayed peaceful and quiet and continued onto Thursday. Friday morning this peaceful protest was violently disturbed by the police when they, while the protesters were asleep in their tents, out of the blue started shooting pepper gas cans at them in order to remove them from the park and later on to set their tents on fire. Friday afternoon another peaceful attempt to protest was made by solely shouting out some protest slogans. Again it was answered with teargas and this time also the water trucks (TOMA) started spraying the protesters so they literally flushed from the streets. Even tourists, elder and children were caught in this and if not enough, a tear gas bomb was thrown into Taksim’s metro station; you can imagine they were not able to breathe…

After this everybody gathered up from work, school etc. and united to protest, again peacefully, solely shouting and were rewarded with gas bombs and outrageous police violence. This was Friday 31st of May… Although the protest started about the park, there are so many more reasons for the people to have enough of the autocratic leadership of the AK party and Prime Minister (PM) Erdoğan. To name some of them:

  • Not to allow people to show affection (not speaking about French kissing) to one another at a train station;
  • Making religious education an explicable part and an almost dominating part of the state school educational system;
  • Giving some needy students scholarships under conditions of wearing a headscarf;
  • Taking all the tables from the street in the most famous district in Taksim so people cannot enjoy their “raki-balik” dinners anymore before going out. By this, discouraging them to go out;
  • Selling Turkey’s natural goods for a short-term cash flow that seems to boost the economy;
  • Telling people after shutting down Atatürk Culture Centre (Atatürk kültür merkezi) at Taksim that there will be a new opera house being build, which now turns out to be a prestigious mosque, while cultural centers all over Turkey are being shut down. The Turkish national Opera and Ballet/Theatre is being privatized and cut off. According to Erdoğan ballet is kind of “pornography” anyways…;
  • >Without counseling the city planners or ignoring warnings from their side, construction frenzy all over from one day to another started;
  • Shutting down shops, replacing them with more profitable ones;
  • Selling the last ‘free’ strips of boulevard at the Bosphorus to build more hotels;
  • Restricting media from publishing the truth and if they do, journalists are put in prison. Sometimes like now… They even pressured Turkcell and several other providers to shut their communication systems down in order to oppress the word of the street.
  • Making the ‘change of street names and therefore not being registered’ a reason to not let people bring out their vote!!!! Besides, all the street names are being changed to religious leaders and famous names of old times;
  • Bribing people with coal and needed household goods for giving votes;
  • Putting several generals, lawyers, journalists into prison (Ergenekon), by claiming they will commit a coup. These generals are actually the protectors of the republic being founded by Atatürk;
  • Questionable official intervention in the news coverage on the bombings in Reyhanli on May 11. Officially it was said that 51 people died, while other reports speak of 177 killed! The journalist who numbered 177 fatal casualties was arrested and put into jail. Right after the bombings, Erdoğan ran off to the United States for his meeting with Obama without even paying a visit or giving support in Reyhanli;
  • Making a statement of the fact that excessive force WAS used and it WILL be investigated while actually excessive force IS being used and on top of that dangerous and maybe even forbidden and overdue chemicals ARE being sprayed at peaceful demonstrators (in return of course it didn’t stay that peaceful anymore for some);
  • Trying to threaten the people by saying ‘where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party’ (Erdoğan, June 1, 2013) which implies that by not stopping the protest he will be willing to start a civil war!;
  • Even though the ‘Turkish Spring’ has come – which according to Erdoğan is only because it is ‘spring’ –, he goes outside of the country and makes a trip through Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria;
  • Beautiful and powerful words were being spoken from time to time, but most of them are being contradicted by the same man, Erdoğan, at a different time;
  • Stating the economy boosted and now wealth is rapidly growing while most of the people are still staying poor and seeing nothing from this wealth besides a growth percentage that indicates the economic growth;
  • The slogan being ‘we don’t have problems with neighboring countries’ and now there are problems with pretty much all of them!;
  • A third bridge being built in the last green district of Istanbul-Bosphorus and with that the ‘promise’ is given – like all other times – that no shopping malls or buildings will be built in order to save the nature. Let’s see what happens…;
  • Provocation and generalizing the people by saying: ‘all people drinking alcohol are alcoholics, all people who are protesting are marginals, bums, fascists and terrorists, people who undergo abortions are murderers’ etc.;
  • Abortion is tried to be made forbidden;
  • (Trying to) forbid the yearly celebrations of the founding of the Turkish republic by Atatürk and honoring Atatürk at 29th of October because the celebrations would be violent….;
  • Not only this day but also of the 19th of May which is ‘Holiday of the youth and sports’ and 23rd of April which is “Children’s festival” (the day that the Turkish grand national assembly was being founded) the national feelings are tried to be brought down by giving the children a day off instead of having celebrations that were being organized at schools;
  • Turkish law prohibits Erdoğan from running for another term. In response, however, he appears to be leaning toward the model followed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan is currently seeking to increase the power of the Turkish presidency, preparing to take over the position himself in 2014. Not everyone in the AKP is supporting the plan and speculation of an internal power struggle is rife.

The protests are still ongoing and it doesn’t seem like they will be ended soon. Every day it starts peacefully and every night seems to start off more promising until one act of violence leads to another… The way the police treats the people is unheard of, randomly people (even old people and children!) are being beaten, bombed, shot at, sprayed with water tanks and taken into custody. Is there violence against police? Yes there is, usually as an answer given on their radical and cruel behavior stones are being thrown. These protesters however are being warned and tried to be calmed down by other protesters.

The overall atmosphere is amazing in Istanbul, the people who are protesting or only supporting, are united. Amongst them students, doctors, lawyers, professors, artists – all sharing each other’s knowledge and helping each other. Every evening at 9pm people start to bang their pots and pans, blowing their car horns, their whistles, play the national anthem and flicker their lights as a sign of support and protest, all over Istanbul and probably beyond. Since I live in Istanbul I can only give an eye-witness report from the events here but I can state that in at least 69 cities of Turkey protests are going on. Amazing pictures of thousands and thousands of people gathering up are able everywhere to be seen at social media (and now TV channels).”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“The way the media was controlled by the government and didn’t broadcast a single event for three days except for some provoking speeches from the PM was repulsive and I seriously condemn this. The only media channel broadcasting live events was Halk Haber TV. The social media found itself a new purpose and was the people’s savior.

The way the PM spoke at the channels was absolutely provocative and disrespectful against “his” people, not to speak about the many, many lies he spread and threats about how a protester cannot be a Muslim at the same time… That’s unheard of! I have seen many good Muslims supporting the protesters and helping out! A complete abuse of power it is and sadly it affects some of the people who don’t actually know what’s going on, inside and outside the country.

The act of police violence shocked me the most. It broke my heart really… I always thought that living in a democracy meant freedom, freedom to speak, protest, having an opinion, share this with others and having your own beliefs and lifestyle… Although I was already aware of some of the flaws in Erdoğan’s leadership, the events of last week shattered my dreams of being able to continue the life I used to live before I moved to Istanbul if this leadership continues. This is clearly not a democracy we are living in but nothing less than a cocktail of dictatorship mixed with abuse of religion, with a hint of corrupt behavior and topped with a cherry of violent police forces. I know something has to change, although I never protested in my life but now feel I have to!

Apologies and acknowledgements are being stated about excessive force being used by police forces since day 3, saying it will be investigated. Well why is nobody stopping it then? Forces being used are proven to be illegal on all grounds and are continued to be used every single day all over Turkey. People being murdered and severely wounded, officially registered 4177 wounded, 2 lives lost, 43 severely wounded, 10 people lost their eyes and 15 people have a severe head trauma. We all know what “officially registered” means by now….”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“I don’t have too many expectations, but hopes. I hope the protest will be heard by the world so this autocracy can be stopped. I hope with the next election everybody will vote. May the votes go to a new fresh formed party who has been formed out of this protest mix and is directed by a charismatic, educated, cultural, respectful and visionary PM. I hope some decisions being made by the current PM can be undone; the PM will resign and drop out of politics (I don’t expect this though). I do expect these events are not going to be forgotten and people know how to rise again. I also expect these protests to at least have sent the message that people are not asleep; they awoke and are ready to defend their rights. In winter people forget the heat of the summer, in summer the coldness of the winter, in the spring we forget the melancholy of the fall and in the fall the freshness and blooming spring. I hope when the voting season comes, next year, none of us have forgotten the feeling of this year’s `Turkish spring` and will act according to this….” back to top

Gezi protest streetart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Fatma, (29), student in Hamburg, German-Turk:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“I do have a rather ambivalent attitude towards the latest incidents in Turkey. Generally spoken, I perceive the developments of the last years positively. In contrast to the previous governments in the history of Turkey the AKP offers many reasons why my opinion about ‘life in Turkey’ has changed in a positive manner. Though, at home, discussing with my parents, I wouldn’t state it that way. My parents (and the rest of my family, including the wider kinship) consider Erdoğan as a hero. For them, particularly the fact that the AKP, as a religious-conservative party, managed to push aside the military from politics, plays an important role.

The problem is, that the ruling AKP does not have any equal political opponent, which bestowed vanity upon Erdoğan and his party (and even his supporters). Besides the ‘weakness’, that AKPs’ accomplishments are not acknowledged by other parties, constructive criticism does not exist which would make a productive debate possible. This is one of the main weaknesses of Turkish democracy.

Concerning the current situation in Turkey: The protests might be the long-awaited possibility to bring up criticism, which is not put forth by any political ‘opponent’.  I don’t believe though, that the protection of nature, the protection of a few trees, is the main reason here.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“I criticize the action taken by the police in any manner. It could and should have been more peaceful. I criticize the way Erdoğan answered the question of a journalist before leaving the country, by stating he could send the majority of the people on the streets if he wanted. This statement implied the function, to increase the „anger“ of the protestors and opponents of Erdoğan. In this situation, the reactions by the current president Gül and Erdoğan’s deputy, Bülent Arinc, were important and appropriate. Directly or indirectly they criticized Erdoğan’s disadvantageous statements. They even expressed their sympathies with the protestors and agreed to conduct talks with them, which I consider as an important step and a positive sign for the political and democratic image.

However, I did not get why at such demonstrations important political milestones of Erdoğan and the AKP are forgotten so easily and why they call for the withdrawal of Erdoğan from politics. Furthermore: it is taken to the next level by declaring him as to be a dictator – a prime minister who received 50 percent of votes in the elections.

And I do not understand either, why media, especially the newscast, did not report about the topic ‘Gezi-parki’. But besides Erdoğan’s words also the false news and information circulated in social media escalated the tensions and fueled the atmosphere. It is needless and harmful for democracy to limit freedom of speech. Another serious critique concerns the society itself, which does not manage to control its concerns and emotionally guided actions. In future, if one remembers the political demonstrations and actions, it is more than sad, that one will remember deaths…”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“I wish to see more political participation. That people are having a say in future plans of the city’s redevelopment and also in further areas. When Erdoğan was on state visit, one could recognize AKP’s ability for self-criticism and I hope that Erdoğan and all other politicians will develop that ability, too. In many different reports it is said that these last days have been an important test for Turkish democracy. In what my point of view matches with the one of my parents, is, that one recognizes that the majority of the masses does not cry for military intervention, which is positive.”  back to top


Fatma Rebeggiani (32), PhD Student at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS) and editor for the Newsletter “Migration and Population” by the “Network Migration in Europe”. She is German-Turk and lives in Bonn (Germany) with her husband and child:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“To be frank, I was quite shocked when I got the news on Friday night. I couldn’t believe the news and pictures I got to see on Facebook. My cousin was with the protesters, so I knew that this was really happening. She and other protesters found shelter in the Hilton, hiding from the police chasing them with tear gas. Somehow these pictures were so familiar, protesters being beaten up and ‘washed away’ by the police. But these pictures seemed so out of place, in this hip and open city of Istanbul today. As if the last couple of years with all the economic and political opening up and development didn’t really change that much. But even today, almost a week after the protests started, I still don’t know enough to actually make a qualified statement. Plus it’s still going on.

I am quite worried, but at the same time strangely calm, because what’s happening in Turkey is a process of democratic maturation, both with the protesters and with the police. And that’s right and just.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“I am criticizing the violence that the police has used against its own people. I am criticizing the Prime Minister for trying to get away with some “enemy-bashing”. I am criticizing the President who still has not made an official announcement to his people. I am criticizing everyone who tries to hijack this situation for their own political interests, be it Kemalists, Anarchists, from the right or from the left, whoever it is. I am criticizing everyone who produces or spreads false reports and rumors, thus contributing to the escalation of the situation. The case is serious enough,  and keeping to the actual state of things is enough and more helpful for the case, is what I think.

And again: I condemn all use of violence, be it against people or property.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“Most of all, I hope that the number of those injured or even killed does not rise too much anymore and that the protesters don’t provoke nor let themselves be provoked but that both sides remain cool-headed.

I expect the government to react properly. I expect Erdogan to finally understand that taking the supposed enemy seriously is not an expression of losing. This man is deep down in his heart still a football man and he behaves like one of the famous infamous Turkish football supporters. This is about more than winning a game about Gezi Park, this is about the treatment of the people by its government. Gül has understood this very well, as he is a wise man. Erdogan is a hothead and quite authoritarian, also within his own party and government. It is important to show him that this is not the way forward. He has to see this, otherwise he won’t be PM for long. For in the case of massive and violent demonstrations, even in a Turkey with a now weakened military, there would be many who’d prefer to see the military rule rather than the Islamists. But above all, Turkey is a demographically incredibly young country, compared to the EU. And the young people want participation and being taken seriously. The Turkish people are coming of age, and claiming their share. And this is good and I hope that this turns out to be a good development. It is important not just on the streets but also as consumers and with every choice and power there is, to use the freedom and take a stance. This is the people’s sovereignty,  and I am happy that this self-confidence is growing more and more within the Turkish population.

Personally I’d wish that for this process, it wasn’t necessary to still refer to good old Atatürk but that the people’s will in Turkey today, in itself, was important enough to get out to the streets for it.”  back to top

Gezi protest man with mask and flag

Serkan (34), Neukölln (Berlin, Germany), born in Istanbul, migrated to Germany with his parents in his early childhood:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“The situation in Turkey really surprises me a lot, as I did not believe in the society to revolt against the current government. The reason for my pessimistic attitude is most probably rooted in the far-reaching transformations and developments in Turkey since AKP took power. Personally, I’m troubled by the racist politics of the government, which drove a deep wedge into the society. I love Turkish culture. My parents tried to pass a lot of this rich culture and its traditions to me and my sister, and they succeeded. I believe that the Turkish culture, with its literature, music, rituals and all the different lifestyles, beliefs and values, is capable in uniting the people.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“To mention only a few: there are countless documentaries on the fact that Erdoğan – expressed rakishly – is a liar, a politician, who opportunistically adjusts his opinion and political route to his needs and the needs of his party. Such as in the dispute with Israeli Prime Minister in Davos, whom he publically accused as murderer, but later blamed the moderator, that he had incited him. Many other examples of contradictory statements and talks by Erdoğan are circulated on the Internet. Again and again I’m surprised, that the Turkish society did not or did not want to recognize this. In other countries these incidents would have been proper scandals and might have led to a withdrawal of the politicians. People would have rushed to the streets to protest, such as recently seen in the North African states. But in Turkey Erdoğan got away with this, as he felt safe enough and therewith developed the idea of being allowed to do whatever he wanted. The people would tolerate it anyway, and if not, he would brutally take police action against those opposing, which he has upgraded over the last years. But as one may observe and I’m happy about the fact, that change seems possible and people seem to be tired of his lies. Enough is enough.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“In case of a withdrawal of Erdoğan from power, I wish that the past is reclaimed. And herewith I also mean those times before the AKP came into power. One can recognize some kind of revenge the AKP is taking in their actions today, which goes back to the secularist pre-AKP-era. They accuse the former governments of being chased and oppressed due to their beliefs. Today, in power, they feel a need to pay back. These times need to be worked up as well and a new understanding of religions and diversity in the society needs to develop and be supported, in order to unify all people no matter what origin or belief. The first step is made by the people protesting on the streets. They proved that it is possible. Antagonized football club members stand stand side by side, transvestites side by side with housewives and Alevis side by side with Sunnis to make use of their human rights, fighting for a democratic society without being led by any member of the opposition. I wish that the people succeed in continuing and implementing this. I want it for them and for the future.” back to top


Eyüp, Bremen, Male, born in Germany, amongst others relates himself to Northern Germany and West-Turkey:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“I follow the current situation pretty intensely and to tell the truth, I am not surprised. It is positive, that people find a way to express their frustration. But I wished neither people nor stores, cars or innocent animals get hurt.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“I criticize, that Erdoğan announces something and later on the opposite becomes true; that despite his affirmation, not to Islamize Turkey, this is happening ultimately; that he has no sense for freedom of speech, art and critique; that often he behaves embarrassingly while believing to speak in the name of all Turks worldwide. He is not the cleverest guy and instead of working on this weakness, he bears in mind to know everything better. His son killed someone in a car accident and gets away scot-free, his nephew sells drugs, the historically and culturally unique Roma-neighborhoods Sulukule and Tarlabasi are leveled for the sake of high profits, the Roma are displaced to ugly new buildings. Caricaturists are reported, threatened and taken to court, world-renowned artists are suspended of sentence on probation for ten months without just cause because of supposed blasphemy, innocent people are beaten half dead or to death (I myself know people concerned, even believing Muslims), and Erdoğan travels to the USA begging for support to attack neighboring countries in order to fulfill his projects with his Saudi favorer and sponsors (and gets rejected by the way). He represents an ultra religious agenda and forces it onto his people without permission, harmless couples who are in love with each other are attacked brutally, rapists are either not sentenced at all or only receive lenient sentences. Important job positions in education, energy business and military are replaced by his incompetent henchmen. Secularism is further disestablished. This man (Erdoğan) is not only embarrassing but dangerous.

For sure, he and his supporter have achieved many valuable things, but this went to their heads and by that sabotaged their achievements. Many of the targeted and partly achieved goals set by the AKP have already been spoiled again (besides the economic boom, but at what cost? A glance to Spain, recently the economic prime example of the EU, shows, that such an economic uplift can easily be undone). Erdoğan was well on the way to becoming a great reformer and modernizer as well as solving many problems, but he and his people are too egocentric, too greedy and self-righteous. Particularly in the last days they destabilized the country and brought great harm upon it, which will be hard to resolve. The police violence and the super authoritarian and repressive way of ruling by the Turkish government and its’ executive force need to change urgently.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“A decade ago, some of Erdoğan´s main aims were uniting the nation (Alevis, Sunnis, Kurds and Turks and the Christian minorities such as the remaining Armenians and Assyrians) and he wanted to decrease the tension between Turkey and her neighbors (Syria, Armenia, Russia, Greece, Bulgaria etc., the so called “Zero problems policy” of foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu) and at the same time improve democracy in Turkey. He also wanted to improve the living conditions of poor people. He also wanted to reconnect his citizens with their Ottoman past and heritage, something which had been consciously neglected by former administrations ever since the founding of the Turkish Republic. At the same time he wanted to modernize Turkey and her infrastructure. And at first he really seemed to reach these aims step by step, but lately it seems that all these reached aims are crumbling and falling apart (for example Turkish-Armenian relations, Turkish-Israeli relations, Syria etc.) while the reversion to the Ottoman past is seemingly nothing but a sentimental trip down nostalgia lane at its best and a massive regression at its worst as far as human rights, equality and human rights are concerned. The result is the glorification of an era that was disastrous for all its Ottoman subjects, including the Turks. I wish the people living in and around Turkey would reconcile with their past and that the people of Turkey reconnect with their history without regressing or living in the past and without reimplementing the lifestyles and values of times long gone by.

Another thing I´d want to change is that Anatolian people and Arabs seem to be prone to conspiracy theories. This and the sugarcoating of some of the worst aspects of their shared history have to change. I wish religious people would stop imposing their views and lifestyles on those who choose to live a different life. The influence of Islam on day to day life is all too visible these days. The ignorance of Turks and Kurds regarding their common past and the negative attitude shown by AKP supporters towards the protesters by reducing them to nothing but ‘alcoholics and extremists’ is shocking and frustrating. But the good thing about it is that now, more than ever before, conservative people are showing their true colors. They have a very black-and-white way of looking at things. At least now we know who we are dealing with and we no longer should show more tolerance or understanding to them than they are willing to show towards others.

I wish that the people of Turkey would focus on more important things than the love, lives or morals of their fellow citizens. And of course I want Turkey to stay on the path of progress despite all the tension at the moment. Surely some of the problems Turkey is facing can be seen in many other countries as well (such as censorship, cronyism, religious influence, police brutality etc.) but that should not serve as an excuse.”back to top

Gezi protest remebrence of Abdullah Cömert

Burak Korkmaz (28), born in Istanbul, has been in Germany for his studies for the last six years; Lives in Cologne, works as a freelancer in communication design and is pursuing his Master at the University of Applied Science in Düsseldorf:

HOW ARE YOU CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING THE SITUATION IN TURKEY?

“The first days I followed the protests by calling friends or via Facebook/Twitter. Until last week there was no news, no reports etc. on Occupygezi in the mainstream news. When the demonstration was violated by tear gas and excessive police force on last Friday, I could follow the scenery life via streaming platforms on the Internet. After a while international [for interesting articles see here and here; ed.] as well as local broadcasting started to pick up the news, so that one could also follow the incidents via traditional channels. To cut a long story short: although I am not physically on site, it feels like as if I actually was there.”

WHAT IS YOUR CRITIQUE?

“I criticize the fact that the conservative-islamist AKP has firstly ignored the capacity to negotiate the civil rights of us citizens – respectively us humans – for the last ten years and then recently removed them. Instead of establishing a social state and a harmonic society they have purposefully assembled an intolerant and highly capitalistic system.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AND WISH?

“First and foremost, I am very optimistic. For the first time in the history of Turkey a civil society movement came up in solidarity, crossing borders of political affiliation. Maybe this resistance brings up a new political party, which corresponds with the needs of these people. Topics, such as environment protection, human rights, integration, emancipation, animal protection, education and queer rights, have been neglected for the last decade. It is time to bring them back to the agenda successively.”  back to top


* These names are pseudonyms, as these friends wished to stay anonymous.
** All pictures have been taken from the following three blogs: http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/ ; http://resistaksim.tumblr.com/ ; http://showdiscontent.com/
*** All links set within the answers were set by the authors of this blog.

4 Comments on ““Enough is enough!” Three questions – 24 answers to the Gezi park protests from our friends in and outside of Turkey”

  1. Pingback: “Genug ist genug!” Drei Fragen – 24 Antworten auf die Gezi-Park-Proteste von unseren Freunden in und außerhalb der Türkei | elalem

  2. Pingback: “Genug ist genug!” Drei Fragen – 24 Antworten auf die Gezi-Park-Proteste von unseren Freunden in und außerhalb der Türkei | elalem

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