Turkish uprising and its consequences
Will ‘occupy Gezi Park movement’ be a milestone for Turkish democracy?
It all has started as a peaceful sit-in to save one of the last public parks in a city of almost with the population of 17 million. The government has been tough about demolishing the park to rebuild the old Ottoman military barracks and then turn it into a mall. It was a decision that was made too fast and without proper public and media debate. Many people, who would choose a public park over a shopping mall, felt their voices were not heard by the politicians. Of these, some have ended camping in Gezi Park as an occupancy movement which is a new protest trend. At the same time, the hashtag on twitter and facebook #occupygezi was launched, calling out for support and solidarity. Including me, a master student who live far away from my home country, we tried to get an attention of the foreign media and humanitarian organizations. People from all over the world stood against especially for the ‘’brutal police force’’ used on to peaceful protestors. This was a prominent topic in the YEU Brussels office as well, since we were all following the news, with our concerns especially towards heavy handed police actions.
The heavy handedness of the police treatment against those who occupied Gezi Park changed everything. The protesters tents were raided and set on fire. Images of armed police officers using pressurized water, pepper spray and tear gas against unarmed youngsters sparked a widespread reaction, creating an unheard kickback against the government. Within few days, protests have spread up in 60 cities, including the capital, Ankara. Suddenly, Taksim demonstrations snowballed into something beyond Istanbul and bigger than the protection of a public park.
Additionally, the mainstream media has been astonishingly unwilling to cover the protests. NTV, one of the most respected TV channels, was condemned by the general public after failing to cover the events. Ironically, NTV aired live broadcasts from recent ‘’Egypt’s Morsi overthrown by the military coup’’ news, directly from Tahrir Square.
In the lack of good and trustworthy coverage, social media came to help. At least 2 million tweets with hashtags related to the Turkish protests were sent in just eight hours on May 31 when protests gathered steam, a study by New York University revealed around 90% of them were from Turkey. In comparison, Egypt's main protest hashtag was tweeted less than 1 million times throughout the country's entire revolutionary period.
I think is not the right to call the recent events as "Turkish spring" or "Turkish summer", as some people were quick to do. It is true that Turkey has lots of things in common with many countries in the Middle East, but it is also very different. With its long tradition of modernity, pluralism, secularism and democracy started back in 1920’s, Turkey has the domestic mechanisms to balance its own excesses of power. The same concern has been raised by the country's president, Abdullah Gül, who gave a constructive statement saying the people had given the politicians a clear message, and the politicians should take these well-intentioned messages into account. But they didn’t.
Ultimately, it may be too soon to tell what kind of affects the protests will have on Turkey, its government and those who flooded the streets of Istanbul, Ankara and other cities. But one thing is certain; those who have been intensively tweeting, posting, blogging and documenting will not be inclined to stop any time soon as my Facebook newsfeed is still overflows with Gezi Park related posts.
As a last word, for the first time in a long time, I think Turkey has much reason for taking pride. Our voices have been heard by political level and as a latest development, the Turkish court of law decided to suspend all the ‘’mall’’ construction plans. This movement showed, politicians should respect the citizen’s opinions, as well as the notion to ‘’respect the green’’.