‘Voltaire’s Priest’, who founded Shiraz Socialist back in 2006, is exceptionally well informed about Turkish politics and has a number of Turkish contacts. Sadly, he’s no longer involved with the blog, but we’re still friends. I contacted him yesterday for advice about sources of information on the fast-developing crisis in Turkey, and Erdogan’s brutal clampdown on protesters…
Above: riot police in Taksim Square yesterday
…he recommended the mainstream liberal- secular Hurriyet Daily News (English language version here), and a fascinating blog called Istanbul and Beyond:
Here’s a flavour:
I must be careful of words—the old cliches don’t work anymore. Freedom, democracy, liberty, tolerance—the wrong people have used them for the wrong things for so many years. Sometimes with good intentions, sometimes with bad. My ears hurt to hear them.
So let me paint a picture.
Gezi Park, Taksim Square—The heart of Istanbul. To the left of the stairs that lead to the park, the Kurds dance the Halay in an everwidening circle. The Kurdish flag flies and the radio blasts guerilla songs. A crowd moves past them—‘Turkey for the Turks’ Kemalists most likely with red star and crescent banners emblazened with Atatürk’s face. They chant ‘We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!’ Down the path a little bit, they will come across a group of gay men marching in the other direction chanting, ‘We are NOBODY’S soldiers.’ They are hamming it up big time. Between the two converging groups you find a tent for the Turkish Socialist Party—old school hardliners, and another tent of middle-aged Armenian churchladies distributing cookies. Down in the main square, some Black Sea people dance the wild horon.
A few weeks ago, things would have been very different. The Kurds and Kemalists would have been fighting in the streets; the gay men harassed or jeered, maybe by the Black Sea boys, the Armenians would have been trying to keep a low profile and everyone would have beeb watching what they said—as afraid of each other, even, as they are of the government. But in Gezi Park this weekend they are all here, speaking out, without fear or censure. They don’t necessarily like each other—make no mistake about that–but they tolerate each other, they leave each other alone.
The media calls it a carnival or a festival or a party. But it’s much more organized than that—a funhouse reflection of a state. And together our protesters have created a miniature city within a city that reflects the dream of Martin Luther King—however ephemeral, however tenuous, however fast the army of police and marauders approach, people feel ‘free at last’.
Together, these disparate groups have built a ‘Museum of the Revolution’ pasting pictures of the police attacks and subsequent resistance in the abandoned trailer of the construction crew’s foreman. They have transformed the overturned and looted cars of the civil police into day-glo platforms of free speech—everyone grabs a spray can and writes what they think. And, in a first for Turkey, they write it with no fear or hesitation.
They’ve created a ‘Market of the Uprising’ where they distribute drinks for free. They set up a ‘children’s studio’ where kids get messy with tempera paints and create whatever they hell picture they want on huge sheets of white paper, emerging from their efforts covered in color.
They have trash teams that do clean up of the grounds and somehow have managed to publish two newspapers ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘The Future’ which they distribute among the hundreds of thousands of people who come to visit every day. They’ve set up a television station (online of course), a radio station, several different websites in a multiplicity of languages. They’ve created a ‘Parliament’ where different people come and debate each other and a moderator turns off their microphone whenever they get aggressive or insulting.