More is Happening in Istanbul

Dear Friends,

So much has happened in Turkey since I wrote to you last.

As I type my heart is pounding and my fingers are rushing on the keyboard to tell you the news. I am in the midst of emotions. I follow the news on social media and from the personal accounts of my friends who are out there in Istanbul and Ankara diligently and persistently working to have their voices heard by the State and the mass media.

Something BIG is happening in Turkey. I feel joy, fear, hope… This is how a revolution must feel. I am so lucky to experience it in my lifetime.

From Occupy Gezi's Facebook Page
From Occupy Gezi’s Facebook Page

Although I am geographically far from the heart of the resistance, that is Taksim Square in Istanbul, my heart leapt with the crowds when I hear that the police once again entered the Gezi Park and are spraying people with tear gas and pressured water.

Our Prime Minister says that the people in Gezi Park and the protestors in other parts of Turkey who support the Gezi Park Movement are looters, a bunch of vandals and alcoholics. Obviously our PM didn’t go to the Park. Because the people who are resisting in the park are the most well educated, most creative, most open-minded and progressive people of Turkey. They have the wit and humor to turn the Prime Minister’s insults into a tool for identity politics. They are not unlawful citizens as the media broadcasts.

They have the ability to differentiate the common cause from their personal beliefs. The differences between religious, ideological, socio-economic status are put aside in the Park. The common cause has become the most important thing now. They demand recognition and respect as dignified citizens of the country.

Since this morning my heart has been pounding like crazy.

Pasifist Activists of Gezi Park
Pasifist Activists of Gezi Park

I got on the Internet and saw that police intervention has begun again in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.  A group of so-called “protestors” threw a Molotov cocktail at the police and the police responded by weakly pressurized water to the “protestors”. All the mainstream media was there with their live TV equipment ready to broadcast the act of “Gezi Park protestors attacking the police. It was planned by the government and the security forces to provoke the resistance movement. The Molotov cocktail bombs being thrown by plain clothed policemen at other security forces around Gezi Park were explosive and loud.

When the “provocation” started the Occupy Gezi protestors came out of their tents to see what all the noise was.

Then something unexpected happened. The people who make up the Occupy Gezi movement, instead joining the provocation against the police, they remained calm and joined their hands to make a large human circle around the provocateurs.  Police remained outside of the circle and the provocateurs were stopped by the real protestors.

Meanwhile the unrest has spread to the whole country. The Prime Minister Erdogan has been arrogantly misinforming the nation about what is actually going on. The State is acting indifferent and completely ignoring the people who are out there. Mass media continues to broadcast Prime Minister Erdogan’s speeches (four or five times a day) where he marginalizes and humiliates the people who are protesting and declares them to be looters, vandals, unethical people who have no respect for religion or the law.

If Turkey has one soft spot, it is religion. If you want to divide the country into two camps all you have to use is religion. Many politicians have been using religion successfully to create polarity and hatred in Turkey. So now, the Prime Minister is telling to the rest of the nation that these people drank beer inside the mosque even though soon after his speech, the Imam of that mosque came out and denied the statement. Then, PM Erdogan said that the ladies who wear headscarves were harassed by the people who protest. Again women in headscarves stood up and denied PM’s statement.

These are known tricks. People from all walks of life are streaming into Taksim Square to demonstrate that they are not buying the lies.

During last 5 days, when there was no police intervention, the park became the home for all kinds of groups in Turkey. People from different religious, ideological and economic backgrounds are camping together in the Park. They are curious about each other and have learned to listen. There were mass yoga classes being taught. There is a free library created. A medial clinic for anybody who needs care. All kinds of volunteers are there. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, writers, artists…

Some political parties and ideological organizations are there in the Park as well, trying to capitalize on and possibly hijack the Gezi Park movement. They hope to appropriate the momentum and energy of the people for their own agendas. Yet what I have seen up to this point is that people will not accept to be reduced and be used as a tool for any exiting ideology.

There is now one organization called Taksim Solidarity, which aims to represent all the people in Gezi Protest movement. They submitted the demands of people in the Gezi Park movement to the state. In their declaration they demanded freedom to use and defend the public spaces without being considered as a threat.  There has been no response from the government’s side so far.

As I write you this I am receiving messages, hundreds of messages written by my friends and family that police attacked the Park with pepper sprays, tear gas and water cannons again. So many people are injured and one is having an asthma crisis. Gezi people were going to give a speech to the press today but now they can’t even open their mouth to say a word. The Park is under such a gas cloud that people from Bosporus Bridge (5 km away) can see it. Meanwhile the attorneys at the main courthouse who wanted to defend the Gezi Park Movement and talk to the press have been attacked by the police and fifty of them been arrested and detained. During the arrest of the attorneys a lot of police brutality has been witnessed by everyone around the courthouse.
In front of the courthouse-today

The brutal attack to the lawyers and their arrest is viewed by the Gezi Park movement people as a clear message, that they have no legal protection and that they should stop resisting in no time. There is not a word from the Prime Minister about the future of the Gezi Park; neither an apology for the disproportionate violence police exercised over people for the last two weeks.

Yet something has changed and there is no going back. I can feel the pulse of the whole nation from here, across from the sea. Gezi People and their supporters all around Turkey need your help and support more than ever. Please keep spreading the word and telling the truth about what is actually going on in Turkey.

This is another struggle between people who believe in power and people who believe in dignity.

I believe dignity will win soon or later.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said: 

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Human Circle
Human Circle
human circle
human circle

What is Happenning in Istanbul?

To my friends who live outside of Turkey:

I am writing to let you know what is going on in Istanbul for the last five days. I personally have to write this because at the time of my writing most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Last week of May 2013 a group of people most of whom did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Among them there were many of my friends and yoga students. Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees. Early in the morning when the bulldozers started to pull the hundred-year-old trees out of the ground, they stood up against them to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than standing in front of the machines.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

But the police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray. They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening of May 31st the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park. Meanwhile local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people made their way up to the center of the city by walking.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and continued sitting in the park. The riot police set fire to the demonstrators’ tents and attacked them with pressurized water, pepper and tear gas during a night raid. Two young people were run over by the vehicles and were killed. Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd. After a three hour operation she is still in Intensive Care Unit and in very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.

These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there. It is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against Turkish people’s will.

On top of all that, the government control over its people’s personal lives has become unbearable as of late. The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.

People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State. They demand to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.

What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.

Yet they still march. Hundreds and thousands of citizens from all walks of life then joined them to support for the protestors. Couple of more thousand passed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim. They were met with more water cannons and more pepper spray, more hostility. Four people died, thousands of people were injured.

No newspaper or TV channel was there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.

Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs. Around the square they placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3g networks were blocked. Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.

People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul. Demonstations spread to other cities where citizens were faced more brutality and hostiliy from police. Hundred of thousands kept joining.

Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.


I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least. Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.

I do not belong to a political party. I don’t believe in politics. I don’t defend any ideology and I am not on the side of any regime. Like many others in Turkey I am tired and frustrated from the polarization between Kemalist seculars and the Islamists. I don’t belong to any of them. I believe in moving away from polarization and towards a new way of relating. I know many people who are out on the streets of Istanbul share the way I think and I know we are not the only ones. We just want to live our lives with human dignity.

As I was posting articles that explained what is happening in Istanbul on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:

«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»

This blog is my answer to her.

By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:

Freedom of expression and speech,

Respect for human rights,

Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,

The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.

But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!

Please spread the word and share this blog.

Thank you!

For futher info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help

Taken from Occupy Gezi Facebook page. Also used by Reuters