Resist, Gezi Park!

by Tarık Günersel    /  July 5, 2013  / 4 Comments

Police brutality, media censorship, misinformation, and political empowerment in Turkey’s Gezi Park.

Before being attacked by the police

Before being attacked by the police. Photo: Courtesy of T. Günersel

Before a brutal police attack, a nine-year-old girl made this comment to the joyful commune in Gezi Park: “My mom has been taking me to protests since I was three, and I’ve never seen anything like this! It’s wonderful!”

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
    Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
    Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
    Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  3. Tarik Günersel
  4. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia.

“My police”

… Erdoğan says proudly. His police have killed four protesters and wounded at least 8,000. Twelve people have been blinded in one eye. The police use brutal force: In just one of the many cruelties captured on video, 17 police officers beat three youngsters almost to death in a parking garage.

Brutal, yes; and some protesters have died in such scuffles.

Young Ethem Sarısülük was one of the young protesters who was murdered by the police. The police officer who killed him, Ahmet Şahbaz, is free upon the decision of the judge Mustafa Aydın. The witnesses (Ş.İ. and M.C.T.) who saw Sasmaz kill Ethem have now been arrested but the video of the shooting is available. So now there is a campaign: We are all witnesses!

Still, the Prime Minister claims the protests have been organized by “foreign powers that want to weaken our country.”

For his part, Erdoğan has been trying to establish a party state in order to get rid of secularism and mold society to his concept of Islam. But his increasingly oppressive regime is opposed by democrat Muslims such as the theologian Ihsan Eliacik, who takes an anti-capitalist stand: “To me, true religion is conscience and justice,” he says. “Instead of being in Heaven with a Muslim who used his power in a negative way, I would rather be in Hell with an atheist who was a good person in this world.”

CNN Türk Failed

CNN Türk, NTV, and Habertürk are among the TV channels that have censured the police attacks against the peaceful environmentalist and pro-democracy protests in Gezi Park and other cities across Turkey. On June 14 the BBC announced that it would stop cooperating with NTV, after BBC’s Dunya Gundemi (World Agenda) program was censured.

Pro-democracy Broadcasts Punished

Pro-democracy channels such as Ulusal Kanal, Hayat TV, Halk TV, IMC, and the wonderful amateur TV station capul.tv are the only sources of information people can trust. These channels have been heavily fined for that reason. The official claim is that they were disturbing to young viewers because they showed violence!

Honest imam under government pressure!

Somebody lied to PM Erdoğan when they said that protesters who took refuge in a mosque drank alcohol there! So the PM said that on TV etc. But when he did, the imam of the mosque, who had helped the wounded protesters, announced: “No alcohol was consumed in the mosque.” But Erdoğan insists on repeating the false accusation, provoking his supporters. Then the police interrogated imam Fuat Yıldırım for 6 hours in the terrorism division! Yildirim says: “I am a man of religion. I cannot lie. I saw no alcohol consumption that night.” EU Minister Egemen Bağış consequently repeated the false accusation.

Today’s Fascism…

…need not bother with outlawing opposition. In Turkey we’re witnessing a multi-party fascism under the dictatorship of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. After the referendum in 2010, he captured the judiciary.

At the time, not just some Westerners but also some Turkish liberals naively believed Erdoğan would set a fine example in leading the country to a point where “moderate Islam” would prevail, hand-in-hand with democratization. I have repeatedly criticized that approach.

These days, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insists on misinforming his supporters and provoking them into fighting against the environmentalist, pro-democracy Gezi Park demonstrations. “My police have written a heroic epic in Taksim Square,” he said, referring to the police who, upon his direct order, attacked the peaceful protesters with tear gas that may cause cancer and water that was unlawfully “enriched” with pepper spray concentrate.

Chemical in the water used by the police

Police attacked peaceful protesters with water that was unlawfully enriched with pepper spray concentrate. Photo: Courtesy of T. Günersel

Of course, the cause of the protests isn’t limited to the park in the heart of Istanbul. The AK Party government’s increasingly despotic moves have been building up: A prime minister who misinforms, provokes, threatens, and dictates. His police force. A party state.

Citizens have the right to demand the resignation of an elected government. Now Erdoğan considers millions of people terrorists. He has accused the actor Mehmet Ali Alabora of “provoking people to revolt” because of a tweet! His police have detained lawyers, doctors, students…The leaders of the heroic Çarşı Group, democrat fans of the sports club Beşiktaş, (my favorite team) have also been arrested.

Additionally, it has been reported that Facebook is cooperating with the Turkish government to share users’ personal information so that the police can arrest protesters! Twitter refused to cooperate with Erdoğan’s government. (Note: Since this information was announced, Facebook has denied having any involvement with the Turkish government.)

PEN Solidarity

Recently, PEN International President John Ralston Saul and I have been in contact. From him, I have learned of PEN’s recent activities in light of the protests in Turkey: The English PEN Centre has sent a letter to Erdoğan. The PEN Balkan Network has also sent a message of solidarity. Norwegian PEN has been one of the most concerned sister centers. PEN International Board Member Sylvestre Clancier, Chairperson of PEN Women Writers Committee Ekbal Baraka, and so many other PEN Centers and members across the planet have been showing their support. I thank them all, and thank you all for your concern for human life, the environment, and freedom of expression.

No Police Brutality

Amid rampant police brutality, protesters call for an end. Photo: akli denge via Flickr.

The Turkish PEN Center Invites You…

…to show solidarity with the Gezi Park resistance no matter where you may be. We invite all the democrats and municipalities in the world to declare Gezi Park a “Sister Park.”

How about posters with slogans like these:

Diren, Gezi Parkı! Kardeş Park!
Resist, Gezi Park in Istanbul! Sister Park!

Yaşasın parkların kardeşliği!
Long live the fraternity of Parks!

(Just add the names of your park and city below.)

But Beware:

Erdoğan may claim that you are terrorists supporting terrorists.

And if you visit Gezi Park please remember the protesters’ joyful fraternity, shortly before they are brutally attacked by Erdoğan’s police. If you wish, you can stand in Taksim Square, facing the opera building—Atatürk Kültür Merkezi—the Atatürk Cultural Centre.

Standing Man in Istanbul as a protest (2)

Started on June 17, Erdem Gunduz's 'Standing Man' protest in Istanbul has since become popular across the country. Photo: Courtesy of T. Günersel

These joyful and humorous protests are going on so that we can get rid of our chains. Liberation has begun, which may be the initial step of a democratic revolution in Turkey.

The wonderful communal experience in Gezi Park. Forums in parks. Park assemblies. Elements of a direct democracy that brings dynamism.

Erdoğan and his government have been trying to discredit the resistance by all sorts of means.

Parks of the World, Unite!

People in Turkey gather in parks and organize forums, where they share concerns and try to come to solutions. Parks have become pleasant areas of democracy.

A global democracy may be possible partly thanks to such initiatives.

July 3rd

The court has insisted on the decision that Gezi Park must remain a park!

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

View all articles by Tarık Günersel

4 Comments on "Resist, Gezi Park!"

  1. Necmiye Alpay July 6, 2013 at 1:48 am ·

    Thank you for this substantial article in english, dear Tarik. You are as clear as ever.

  2. Ahmet September 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm ·

    The GEZİ park supporters which are so called democracy followers could not achieve what they did in these park meetings apart from harming the economy, now they are trying to attack the scarfed muslimg girls in universities, Now ODTÜ, the cradle of so called democracy fighters, GEZİ followers, are attacking all the Muslim groups in the universities, the ones that wear scarf, the innocent ones that were prohibited by left governments from entering the universities many times before…what a democratic movements are they…. they call it police state, actually it was soldier state in their hands, actually it was an upward movement to democracy!!!!

  3. Baran Yıldız December 6, 2013 at 8:07 pm ·

    First of all Thank you for the article.. and Ahmet,

    Stop laying on table with shallow dialectics of Erdoğan opposing allways CHP. This politics just need an enemy like all the old fascists ideas had in history. CHP and their past soldier state of fascist mentality is the best and easiest to declare war with.

    But we’re not related with any political movement.. not a thing that you declared a war before neither you can in future. So give up your cliches.. There were are non-organised union of consciences all around the country.. Now you all scared, cause you don’t know how to deal with it. And your dreams about an Islamic rebuplic is in danger anymore.

    With the new edited educating system, raising a generation, brainwashing with islam will turn back on you very crucially. Like the way how AKP surfs on the hatred wave of repressed conservative generations votes right now..

    Humanities future is beneath of liberation from all lies.. and the biggest lie religion! They will be giving their last breath within this century.

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