After murmurs of revival jerks, the anti-government demonstrations originating in Istanbul’s Gezi Park are coming back to life. Yesterday, an innocent 15 year-old became the latest casualty of the government’s controversial use of police force. The boy, Berkin Elvan, was struck in the side of the head by a tear gas canister launched by the Turkish Polis while he was out getting bread. From this extreme contrast of innocence and violence, the young teenager’s image has come to be a symbol for the resistance movement.
The protests commenced after the boy’s parents announced their beloved son’s death on social media. A vigil was conducted outside the hospital he remained in a coma for the past 269 days. Crowds flocked to the scene to pay their respects, but the police immediately resorted to their controversial tactics involving tear gas- even in such close proximately to the hospital’s entrance.
Yesterday’s protests marked as the biggest protests since Gezi Park. Thousands flocked to the streets in several districts all over Istanbul as well as over dozens of cities in Turkey and even around the world.
Do to the role as an organisational tool, social media outlets are seen as threatening to the government. Merely weeks ago, PM Erdoğan passed a controversial censorship law in which he can over-ride and shut down any site at any time- without a just cause. With the protests formulating predominately through Twitter, that site was completely shutdown yesterday evening in an attempt to stop others from taking to the streets. Other main media outlets, such as Facebook and YouTube, are next on the block list.
The protests of yesterday reflect a raw, emotionally charged sentiment and both the protestors and the reaction of the police exemplify this.
The demonstrators consisted of an array of people- transcending age as well as gender lines. Demonstrators marched with pictures of Berkin Elvan as well as carried signs condemning his killers and the assumed man responsible for the operation, PM Erdoğan. As the night progressed, the numbers decreased but protestors that remained became more aggressive by embracing tactics of vandalism, throwing debris, burning trash and public property, banging on buildings, screaming, anything to get the attention of the police and provoke them.
Turkish Police reacted in a way that has strangely become routine. Crowd control with men on the crowd firing tear rubber bullets and tear gas, men manning the TOMA water cannons, and hundreds waiting in armored police buses on-call. Even with the emotional tension being so pungent one could almost smell it in Istanbul’s air, the insecure government’s right hand could not play a passive role and was forced to play a mildly aggressive one to be a more equally matched and have a chance against the protestors.
Mass protests are expected to increase as the week progresses with foreshadowed images of correlating violence.
Today marks a new day- Berkin Elvan’s funeral service is this afternoon which will be followed by expected violence from the same force that took the youngster’s life. Already, the voice of sirens echo round the city and over power the call to prayer. As the work week wanes, it can be anticipated that protests will get progressively worse.
The protest commenced today (12 March 2014) at 12:00 as it surrounded Elvan’s funeral service at Okmeydani Cemevi. The funeral procession will proceed from Şişli Square to Feriköy cemetery at 15:00 followed by protests increasing in size as the day progresses.
(Şişli/Feriköy, İstanbul, Türkiye)
Latest Gezi Park casualty, 15 year-old Berkin Elvan, sparks the latest protests in Turkey (11 Mart 2014)
Today, Istanbul is somber. This grey, dreary day marks the death of the latest casualty of the Gezi Park protests. 15-year-old Berkin Elvan sustained a head injury on the 16th of after being struck by a tear gas canister by Turkish police while he was out buying bread in the Okmeydanı neighbourhood of Istanbul. After 269 days in a coma, the boy lost the fight and died at 07:00 at a hospital in Yenibosna, a district of Istanbul outside the center of the city on the European side.
His heartbroken parents tweeted the following this morning:
“To our people: We lost our son Berkin Elvan at 7 a.m. in the morning. Condolences to us all.”
Since his brutal attack, Elvan’s image has become one of the symbols violence faced by protesters throughout the nationwide protests. This young boy’s death marks as the eighth death in the political protests of Turkey’s Gezi Park demonstrations and has caused another roll of thunderous out-roar for citizens across Turkey, especially in Istanbul.
Hundreds of people gathered in front of the hospital where Elvan laid idle for the past nine months, organised by social media outlets.
Even within the morning hours, tension immediately escalated between the demonstrators and the police. The time of day accompanied by the location of the protest (the hospital’s entryway) showed to be useless factors against the opposition for the resortment of the usage of tear gas was immediately used in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Medla Onur, a lawmaker and key member of the CHP (Republican people’s party of Turkey), was quoted as stating the following as he participated in the boy’s vigil:
“Riot police arrived in front of the hospital as the funeral was ongoing to be sent to the forensics department. Some people also went that way and protested against the police. A scuffle occurred. The police officers did not restrain themselves at all from using gas. They once again used disproportionate force.. Tear gas even entered inside the hospital.”
Despite the initial reaction to the vigil and demonstration of the morning, the call to protest has grown significantly and has consequently resulted in the organisation of dozens of large-scale protests throughout Istanbul and around the entire country. The protests of the 11th of March have now become the biggest demonstrations since the Gezi Park protests of last spring as thousands have taken the streets in various districts.
As a reactionary jerk to the mass organisation via social media outlets (most notably being both Twitter and Facebook), the censorship law that was passed a few weeks ago has been used by the current acting powers of the government to completely over-ride sites and shut them down in an attempt to keep people from taking to the streets. After the hashtag #BerkinElvanÖlümsüzdür (“Berkin Elvan is immortal”) started trending in Turkey, Twitter, the biggest organising force was completely blocked follwed by live feed cameras around the city and freelance, alternative news sources.
As tensions will continue to rise throughout the night and continuing to the boy’s funeral (scheduled tomorrow in proximity to the family’s neighbourhood in Feriköy), the protests will develop and the efforts of the police in terms of attempting to contain the masses are virtually unpredictable. Stay tuned for updates of the demonstration’s developments as well as further analysis.
(For those in Istanbul: Take caution and conduct your actions and coordinate your plans with your best interest and safety as priority. Foreigners especially, don’t take these protests light-heartedly. Reduce your ignorance and keep yourselves informed)
Student march from Beşiktaş to Taksim (Taken with iPhone 4s)
Quote Posted on Updated on
After diving deep into the politics in Turkey, it is even more apparent that its existence is merely a complicated clusterfuck that bleeds into many arenas of chaos, corruption and controversy in which contaminants opinions with censorship and confusion. My attempt has been to significantly organise factual evidence, data and statistics to better comprehend the situation for myself as well as get it to a functional form in which I can share my research with the Turkish people as well as foreign media outlets.
My opinion has been requested regarding the topic of the Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan from both Westerners and Turks.
It’s a game: regime change and regime installment.
Marketing is everything, and everything is marketing.
My understanding can best be illustrated in the context of marketing:
One could have the best product engineering, financial backing, operational mastery, et cetera, but the success of the product is ultimately determined by perception- how the customers perceive your product; it’s branding. This same idea from marketing can be applied to politics and politicians, both in domestic and international arenas. In the context of the U.S. Empire, this principle governs one of its main operations: regime construction and puppet installation as well as deconstruction and reverse marketing engineering. The U.S. uses the same principle of marketing to bring down entire regimes they built and take down their own puppets. The current reversal of both Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s domestic and world image can best be conceptually understood with this idea of reverse marketing engineering.
For the past twelve years, the U.S. has aided in the branding, marketing, and promoting of Turkey’s AKP (justice and development) Party and its leader, Erdogan. The U.S. helped to paint the image of the AKP’s Turkey as being democratically sound, fair, just, and as being the ideal model of a democratic government for the Islamic world.
The following are examples of branding and marketing tactics executed by the U.S. media outlets as the crucial actors strategically planning and constructing the perspective most beneficial for the U.S. Empire:
1. CNN: One of the top media sources marketing the perception of Turkey in favour of the U.S.
“Turkey, led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), as a model of a modern, democratic and Islamic nation nurturing pluralist ideals.”
“Rather than viewing Turkey’s increasing currency in the region as a challenge, America should see it as an opportunity. From its free-market economic system, which is registering Chinese-level growth, to its compatible ideals, the promotion of the Turkish model is in America’s national interest. Turkey effectively counters militant groups by challenging them from within Muslim society while also representing a crucial bridge between the West and the Muslim world.”
“America can immediately take practical steps to promote the Turkish model by encouraging the Egyptian army to move the nation toward a genuine, civilian-elected government.”
2. NPR: Another top media outlet that functions uniquely through its disguised perception as being independent and non-profit.
3. Middle-of-the-road sources
“Turkey’s rising trajectory was highlighted by the rock-star reception accorded to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during his recent tour of the Arab Spring states of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and his high-profile meetings during the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.”
“Many find the Turkish model enticing, with the moderate Islamic Justice and Development Party, known as AKP, in office; a secular constitution in place; a strong military that is subservient to the elected civilian authority; and an economy that has been expanding.”
“Overall there’s hope that a new democratic era in the Middle East and North Africa will enable Arabs to develop a new paradigm for relations with the West. This paradigm would be based on equality and partnership – a position that Turkey has already achieved.”
4. BBC: International marketing outlets also played a key role in expanding the brand as a globally accepted concept.
5. The White House: Symbolic figures also played a unique role in justifying and promoting alliances and legitimation of the brand and advertising it with a stamp of approval and confirmation.
“I just want to say how much I appreciate the opportunity to once again meet with my friend and colleague, Prime Minister Erdogan. I think it’s fair to say that over the last several years, the relationship between Turkey and the United States has continued to grow across every dimension. And I find Prime Minister Erdogan to be an outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues.”
The U.S. Empire spent over a decade marketing its ideal puppet in the Middle East and promoted the AK Party and Erdoğan as being the model for democracy in the Islamic world. Abruptly, sentiments changed and the AK Party reached their expiration. Almost over-night, the party went from democratic to despotic, from democracy-loving to dictator, from squeaky clean to utterly corrupt, from moderate to extremist. What the hell happened?
The following are some examples of the sudden reversal in branding and marketing in which is best presented by comparing and contrasting the language and sentiments from those of the examples from above. (Keep the dates in mind, for the time sequence between the decade-long branding/marketing and the now reverse branding/marketing.)
“Erdogan ‘is offering unfortunate proof that it is possible to be both elected and authoritarian.'”
“Many journalists say press freedoms in Turkey have declined under his rule. Reporters Without Borders says Turkey ‘is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue.'”
“Many secular Turks complain that the Islamist-rooted government is intolerant of criticism and diverse lifestyles, as evidenced by the recent enactment of tight restrictions on the sale of alcohol, Fadi Hakura, manager of the Turkey Project at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said in a CNN.com column.”
2. Wall Street Journal
3. The Jerusalem Post
4. The London Economic
6. Commentary Magazine
8. The Times
Seriously, how did this 180 turn happen? No one can be transformed from democratic to fascist dictator in a matter of few months. No person can switch from fair and squeaky clean to utterly tainted and corrupt. Nobody can convert from being a moderate Islamist to an extremist bigot in less than a year.
What is even more peculiar is the fact that the U.S. has even resorted to using the “Terrorist” label in the reverse branding-marketing of their previous puppet prodigy. You know what it means when they play the terrorist card, right?
The following is an article that establishes Erdoğan’s ties with a famous man designated as a terrorist (but only when it is convenient for the U.S.):
“Turkey’s political crisis took a dark turn this week. Photos of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s son meeting a suspected al-Qaeda financier in an Istanbul hotel were leaked to the press. The photos allegedly show Bilal Erdoğan meeting Saudi Arabian businessman Yasin al-Qadi, whom the US blacklisted in April 2013 as an al-Qaeda funder. According to media reports, Qadi, who visits Turkey frequently and was escorted by the Prime Minister’s security men, met Bilal to discuss a deal for a juicy piece of real estate worth $1 billion in Istanbul’s Etiler neighborhood.”
Note: The refuge of Al Qadi in Turkey and his ties to Erdoğan, along with other high-level figures in Turkey, had been known for more than a decade.
“Qadi’s relationship with Turkey and the Erdoğan family goes back a few years. In 2004 the Wall Street Journal uncovered transactions worth more than $1 million between Qadi and Maram, a Turkish front company that funded terrorists in Yemen. Associates of Qadi’s, including managers at Maram, are known funders and founders of al-Qaeda. Qadi has frequently and vehemently denied the accusations and spent a lot of money trying to clear his name. But at the very least, his dealings in Turkey are suspicious. According to opposition lawmakers, his presence in the country is illegal.”
Old news, but it doesn’t matter- dirt is dirt and can be exposed only when it is convenient. It also doesn’t matter that the U.S. government did not have problems with al Qadi and several other high-level terrorists operating out of Turkey for over ten years. Really, it doesn’t matter at all and the branding-marketing branch of the U.S. empire will continue to use the terrorist card:
“According to findings by investigators leaked to Turkish media, Yasin Al Qadi is suspected of involvement in a scandal over the sale of land in an upmarket neighborhood in Istanbul. His alleged meeting last year with Bilal Erdogan could implicate the prime minister’s family in the affair. The allegations could not come at a worse time for Mr. Erdoğan, whose government is reeling from a series of corruption allegations.”
“Not everyone agrees with this picture of Al Qadi. ‘I know Mr. Qadi,’ Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a local television news station in July 2006. “I believe in him as I believe in myself. For Mr. Qadi to associate with a terrorist organization, or support one, is impossible.”
“Back to Turkey: Al Qadi is not just a friend of Prime Minister Erdogan, but he’s close to a group of Islamic businessmen and politicians around the prime minister. It has already been widely reported in the press, mostly notably in a Wall Street Journal article in August 2007, that Al Qadi was a major and early investor in BIM, a food retailer originally founded in the mid-1990s by entrepreneurial brothers Aziz and Cuneyd Zapsu. According to Al Qadi’s lawyer, the Saudi exited BIM in 1999, despite reports to the contrary, and well before his controversial U.N. listing.”
“Kacar’s 2004 Al Qadi report, delivered under what the investigator said was intense pressure to complete his probe, cited evidence that Al Qadi’s companies in Turkey were transferring funds between 1997 and 2001 far in excess of both companies’ net incomes, and were still operating at the time of the report. Wired funds he traced from various companies and individuals went to, among others, a ‘charity’ and other individuals branded terrorists or terrorist fronts by international investigators; there was reason to continue his investigations, Kacar wrote.”
I strongly recommend that you to read the entire investigative article. Prior to the terrorist attacks in September 2001, the F.B.I. was fully aware of Al Qadi’s operations with key al Qaeda figures. On top of this, there were several investigations along with operations that targeted the activity of Al Qadi and his network in the United States prior to 9/11 (some of these investigations were based in the F.B.I.’s Washington Field Office, while others were being conducted from the FBI’s Chicago Field Office).
The State Department and the C.I.A. pressured the F.B.I. before and after 9/11 to close and cover-up those investigations pertaining to Turkey and Al Qadi, because exposing those operations would have resulted in exposure of covert CI.A.-N.A.T.O. operations in Central Asia and the Caucasus during the period between 1996 and 2002.
The terrorist card is being played as a marketing tool, and it will continue to be played. The favourite puppet, who was previously characterised and openly promoted as being an ideal, moderate and democratic leader has been reshaped is Erdoğan is now being reintroduced to the public, in Turkey and abroad, as despotic, a dictator, corrupt, and a terrorist. Here is the million lira question: why?
The downfall of Turkey’s Erdoğan began with a feud between him and the C.I.A.-created Muslim Preacher, Imam Fethullah Gülen. One cannot truly comprehend the downfall of Erdoğan without knowing the importance and power of C.I.A.’s Fethullah Gülen. Not much has been analysed, reported, and exposed of the Imam and his multi-billion dollar Islamic network and correlating operations around the globe (which has been fully orchestrated as well as backed by the C.I.A.
The following is a recent article that delves into Erdogqan countering the C.I.A.’s Mullah Gülen’s operations and network in Turkey:
“Turkish police raided offices of a government-backed Islamic charity in six provinces on Tuesday and detained at least 23 people accused of having links with Al Qaeda, local media reported. The coordinated operation against the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH, prompted the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to sack the senior police official responsible for conducting the raid at the charity’s Kilis headquarters, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.”
For Erdoğan, the feud with Imam Fethullah Gülen transcends to a a rift with the C.I.A. This tension anticipates doom in terms of expiration. Once a puppet is considered expired, the reversal branding and marketing begins in which all old skeletons are dug out of the deep closets and leaked to the media. Erdoğan;s previously overlooked human rights violations are observed and scrutinized under a microscope.
All U.S.-installed puppets and regimes must commit to the U.S.’s commandments- this is the political reality. If you don’t play by the Imperial rules, you get thrown out of the game by being disgraced, exposed, uninstalled, and possibly be sentenced to death. Just look at the history of the past century. When an installed puppet gets too confident and and ignores at least commandment, their images is reconstructed as dictators, despots, human rights violators, and terrorists. This is the time when their backyards get dug up to find a microscopic trace of weapons of mass destruction.
So, what was Erdoğan’s crime? Did he get too confident? Did he violate a commandment or two? The media would like to paint it like he did:
“Turkey has said that it is likely to buy a new missile defense program from a Chinese firm, unnerving NATO and American diplomats. A Reuters report from earlier this month said that Turkey is ‘highly likely’ to buy the $3.4 billion program, from a firm under American sanctions, no less.”
“Washington has reacted with concern over the decision of Turkey’s Defense Industry Executive Committee (SSIK), the absolute authority on the country’s defense projects and procurement, to acquire China’s FD-2000 system to fill the NATO member’s high-altitude and long-range air defense gap. The committee met on Sept. 26 with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to enter into contract negotiations with the state-owned China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation.”
Another majour rule violation:
“During a trip to Russia in November, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again said that Ankara would abandon its quest to join the European Union if it was offered full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.”
“Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan dropped that bomb on Jan. 25. With Turkish hopes for the EU membership diminishing, he declared the SCO to be a viable alternative to the European Union. ‘I said to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ‘You tease us, saying, ‘what [is Turkey] doing in the EU?’ Now I tease you: Include us in the Shanghai Five and we will forget about the EU.’”
Three majour commandment violations:
- Thou shalt not buy weapons from China or Russia regardless of quality or price advantage.
- Thou shalt only feed the U.S.’s own fat Military Industrial Complex players.
- A puppet shall only be a member of clubs solely owned and operated by the U.S.; joining others’ clubs, even thinking of joining others’ clubs, shall come with severe retribution. (A rule that has been written with in-erasable ink).
Three strikes, you’re out. Erdoğan’s expiration clock is running out. It is impossible for one with such a row with the C.I.A. to maintain legitimacy and control. While he still has seconds on the clock, this doomed man should use his final fragments of power to seek shelter- a refuge.
Cenk and Barış did not instantly repair their bond. They did establish a vague understanding to which they learned to trust one another. Over the course of the next month, they notified each other of their whereabouts during the demonstration. Although on opposing sides, they teamed up; they defended each other. They covered each other’s backs in the protest, they shared a hiding place taking cover from the TOMA, and they took turns pulling guard at night on their trek home.
In late October, they made a brotherly pact stating that if one of them were to be crippled—a wheelchair wound—the survivor would axiomatically find a way to end it. As they were boyhood friends, it was difficult to detect seriousness in their plan but, in context, they believed sincerity in each other’s voices. To make it appear more legitimate, they drew it up as a contract and signed their name only having each other’s eyes as witnesses.
Weeks later, in mid-November when the air began to chill, Barış was hit. Protestors with fireworks had given a new definition to “friendly fire.” The explosion took off his right leg, so conveniently at the hinge of the knee. At first, he managed with a funny little half step, almost like a child hopping about in play, then he started to wobble and tilted sideways until he finally keeled. “Oh, bok,” he said. He just kept repeating in a faded, hushed voice calmly almost as if he had simply stubbed a toe. “Bok, oh bok.” as if he’d stubbed a toe. Losing blood, he wheezed for air. He only began to panic when he looked down and saw himself wallowing in his own blood. He tried to get up and run, but there was nothing left for him to run on and he fell, hard. The stump that had replaced his right leg twitched violently. Stained white slivers of bone were now visible, and the blood came in quick, spiratic spurts like water from a pump. Wild-eyed and bewildered, Barış reached down as if to pat his lost leg. In the poignant act, the little blood he had left all seemed to sprint to his head and he immediately passed out.
There was nothing much anybody could do. The crowd was dense with thousands, screaming barbarically almost forgetting their own cause for this chaos. After penetrating through the treacherous swarm of rebels, Cenk through himself over his friends body to shield it from more atrocities and pain, but it was of no use. Barış and his stump had stopped twitching now and his blood drained tranquilly. He already resembled a cadaver, and the air was filled with puzzlement at his status of life. These thoughts were quickly muted when he opened his eyes and looked up at Cenk. “Oh, kardeş,” Oh, brother– he moaned as he attempted to slide himself away. “Hayır, beni öldürme.” No, don’t kill me.
Barış seemed confused, befuddled, and distant. He remained still again, only for a moment, then gestured toward his missing leg. Patting the ground frantically, searching for something irretrievable. He used up his waning energy on an impossible whim. Chocking back upon internal, private pain, Cenk managed to utter a word to his friend, “Dur (stop).”
“Merak etme, sorun değil. Onlar geri dikebilirsiniz.” Don’t worry, it’s not a problem. They can sew it back on.
“Biliyor musun?” Do you know?
“Hiç sanırım.” I think so.
Barış set his gaze due north, up towards the dim, smoky lit sky. He passed out again. Minutes later, he awoke, eyes shut and still, and softly whispered once more, “Beni öldürme.” Don’t kill me.
“Yapmayacağım,” Cenk responded. I won’t.
“Beni öldürme, lütfen.” Please, don’t kill me.
“Söz verdin” You promised.
Cenk nodded and looked into the somber visage of his friend and said, “Biliyorum.” I know. Moments later, Cenk carried Barış through the demonstration, humbly yet seemingly heroically. When he reached an ambulance off the protest route, Cenk reached out and touched Barış’s remaining leg. “Gitmem lāzım,” he said. I must go now, and he departed to return to his post with his fellow policemen. Later, he heard from the television set from the comfort of his couch that Barış had died before he reached the hospital.
This news seemed to relieve Cenk of an enormous weight.
Despite being blatantly foreign to this culture in my thoughts, I am constantly having to remind myself that this is not my home. Immediately, after the first day, I found myself without the “foreigner” label. Convenient enough for me, I blend. I match the exact general description of a Turkish woman, except my eye colour betrays me. I can best describe my first encounter realising how intriguingly well I camoflague here as follows:
Walking through the busy streets of Kadıcöy Boğa at 22:00, I cannot quiet the crazy gnat buzzing about in my mind cleverly named Paranoia.
They all know that I am not one of them.
These simple thoughts of heightened delusions occupied my already busied mind. There was no validity in those infecting thoughts. I had prepared for the subconscious occupants of the dreamer to turn on me as an invader as viciously in the film “Inception.” In reality, I was actually treated as if I were one with them.
As I walked back from a rally by the waterfront in Kadıköy Rıhtım, the streets were packed with thousands of demonstrators passionately screaming.
HER YER TAKSIM, HER YER DIRENIŞ!
(“Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance”)
I participate in the chant as I document the protest and keep an eye on my friend.
People, people everywhere and so much stimuli your mind’s gears screech and jolt to maintain the desired high speed of mental processing. I turn my head jerkingly, looking side to side for my friend. She is quiet, little and beautiful. It seems hard for someone so sweet like her to be in a situation like this. It baffles me also that such an astonishing contrast between her and the hostility of the protest to go unnoticed. I feared the demonstrators had gotten carried away and devoured another innocent. I use my peripherals, trying to maintain an air of coolness while I stress.
The police are coming.
They will gas us soon.
We need to get back to the flat.
There are so many people.
There is not much time.
I need to find Sebahat.
I become more aggressive in my movements. I grab my bag tightly, slightly flex and prepare to act in any means necessary to complete the task at hand: find Sebahat and get home fast. I bend and bounce to get the lactic acid in my knees flowing, just in case I need to bolt. Not realising at this point how silly my little pre-game warm-up looks, I pivot in a 90 degree increment, looking for dear Sebahat. Ducking, avoiding the thrusting of fists and signs, I rotate my head with my eyes squinting looking past the bold colours of torches to see the darkness of the people.
I face adjacent to the crowd. I still don’t see her. Without a working mobile phone, this is most certainly not the time to hunt for a miraculous wifi signal (despite it being needed and most ideal). Communication-less and separated at the worst possible time.
If she gets hurt or gassed again, I will never forgive myself.
This thought brings about an anxious weight of her well-being being my responsibility upon me and I get a sharp pain in my gut.
I think I am going to be sick.
I hide my feelings, but they escape through my stare. I almost feel the subconscious projections realising now that I am an intruder- this fear they smell wreaks and they trace me as the source.
I am achy and tired and even lifting and turning my head in a compact angry mob hurts. I am stressing unfathomably and trying to maintain self composure and control, but I can feel my exhausted self slipping.
The crowd still roars.
(“Murder the police”)
I can hear the police banging their shields with batons, trying to flex the muscles and establish a desired sense of dominance but end up failing to do so and come off as being both unprofessional and rather timid. They are young, probably most are former schoolmates with the protestors. Unexperienced and appearing frightened, they looks like youths in their boyscout uniforms carrying their AK47s. These boys cannot cry to mother when the mean kids mock them, so they fire as them and hose them with gas instead.
My eyes burn. I can feel tear gas in the air. Though a distance away, the officers draw near. I acknowledge the fear of the consequences if I am to encounter a close quarrel with the police and it forces more weight on my strong but enervated back. Pushing people out of my way as I challenge myself to go against the current, I am swimming far away from all of the rules I firmly established in my mind in terms of not standing out. I crouch a bit and protect my body with my arms raised to defend. I hurry along with swift strides of intense precision.
I walk 100 metres, scouting as if for my prey.
I walk a few strides farther.
Still, no sign of Sebahat.
I fight to post myself up, juxtaposed to the crowd at a makeshift curb of the street. Drenched in excretion from the harsh combination of heat, people, and panic, my thoughts race and I have almost lost all hope.
I can’t leave.
I should go.
Maybe she made it back to the flat.
I cannot risk that.
I have to stay here.
I can’t leave.
From the 15cm curb I territorially claimed as my spot, I searched through the crowd with my effulgent eyes. What I am looking at is a disguised Kadıköy Boğa (the centre of this district). Famous for always being busy with traffic, trolleys and the thunder of passersby, it has has recently become the notorious night venue of the #DirenKadıköy movement. Its iconic bull statue in the middle of the square is lost in the protest. Kadıköy is transported, its natural state almost completely lost at this point, in the mist of people, protest, and police. The neighbourhood becomes unrecognisable, even to the locals.
Thousands march past me, none of familiar. Time changes its shape, it morphs with the chaos and transforms five or ten minutes into hours. I find myself overwhelmed with stressor emotions and I hover over the fine line of focused and out of control. I am standing still, almost statuesque, slightly above the people. I am able to look down on their heads, only signs, banners and flags tower above me. There is no empty space in my view, the canvas is cluttered, busy, and completely filled. I play a twisted game of “Where’s Waldo,” looking for a little girl in a white tank top in a cacophonous crowd of contentious civilians.
The batons banging, the warlike drum roll matches the beat of my heart. It is hard not to lose hope as the crowd becomes more heated as they continue to provoke the police. Louder, the tension shrieks as a kettle does when it about to boil. My thoughts pound violently in sync with my pulse and I fade out of focus, wondering in a subconscious sea of neverending stress. My subconscious embraces the crowd, unites with it and becomes one as the rush comes.
I have surrendered to the stampede.
I accept the chaos.
I agree that I am a part of it.
This confirmation brings an unorthodox sense of peace to me and calms my head. Forced feelings subside, my eyes already open can see past the opaque haze of both tear gas and confusion and I can see again.
“They don’t know that you’re a foreigner, did you know?”
A familiar voice.
Quiet, almost a vivid imagined whisper, just barely audible amongst the discord.
Jolted with my new found vision and now apparent auditory abilities, my head turns cautiously, almost suspiciously to the target of the stimulus.
Behind me, sandwiched between a brick wall of a posh daytime café and the infinite mass of demonstrators is little Sebahat.
Finally, as I had just accepted a perceived to be doomed fate of a potentially brutal encounter with the Turkish police, I had kept my hope and promise.
I found my friend.
I grabbed her hand and clasped her fingers so firmly as I navigated the massive maze of men to lead us to safety.
We would make it home just in time.
Istanbul, Türkiye– I anticipated the excitement, the colours, the infinite sense of intensity, passion, wonder, and romanticism. It is truly impossible to describe properly. The first few hours after my arrival were as perfect as a postcard. When I was preparing for my big move, I had expected to gradually shift from the status of foreigner/tourist to eventually being accepted and, as I familiarised myself with the city, the later privilege of being upgraded to honorary local. I am humbled to say that I skipped the tourist step and was thrown into the role I will refer to as “blending in” as a local resident.
My timing of arrival could not have been more perfect (used relatively and perhaps ironically depending whether my mother is reading). My first night moving into the district of Kadıköy, Istanbul (Asian side of the Bosphorus) was the same night the Turkish police killed another civilian. 22 year old Ahmet Atakan: killed by a canister of tear gas by the Turkish government’s right arm: Türk polis. Outrage– another civilian casualty adds fuel to their fiery cause and consequently sparked more demonstrations all over Turkey.
I am currently writing an article regarding the political situation in Turkey at current. The situation is dense and traces back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire. However, recent evolution of the new Ottomans begins in 2002 with the election of the AK Parti. The economic success of Turkey within the past decade is due to the AKP, however their manor of rule has been quite shady in terms of the people. Escalations of disagreements between the ruling party and the people of Turkey peaked in May 2013. The original cause was in Gezi Park, Taksim, Istanbul back in May (28th) in which the people voiced their opinions against the government’s decision to destroy one of the city’s last green spaces. The AKP maneuvered with confidence, but they did not expect the consequence of their action. Hard police action, the government reacted to the protestors with blunt force by gassing its own citizens. This turned the cause of the initial protest into an amplification of rage and triggered the protests to spread from Istanbul to a nationwide cause. Taksim Square, Istanbul and Ankara hoist the worst demonstrations in terms of aggression, hostility and violence, but more demonstrations are arising.
My first night in Kadıköy was also a particularly heated night in which another demonstration arose in Istanbul. Kadıköy Boğa Heykeli, a few blocks away from my new home in Caferağa Mahallesi, play host as a new venue of the Occupy Gezi Movement. As I looked out from my balcony, beyond exhausted and already feeling the inconvenience of jet lag, I first heard the chanting. This was about 21:00 local time. I had unpacked by this point, ventured through the neighbourhood, bought groceries, and cooked a housewarming meal with my Turkish roommate, Sebahat. We were eating pasta with cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh local cheese as the protestors were gathering. A few hours had passed and we could hear faint chants in the background as we cleaned the kitchen and went our separate ways. I was still functioning on eastern standard time so 2:00 felt like 19:00 to me. The yelling had gotten more aggressive and the wind was perfumed with smoke. As I sat at my desk lethargically and dazed attempting to strain my tired eyes into reading, I began to cough and noticed an unfamiliar burning sensation in the back of my throat, my nose and eyes. Confused, I acted instinctually without hesitation and rubbed my eyes profusely as I continued to gag. Wrong. I unknowingly experienced my first encounter and lesson to tear gas. It is almost like crystalized glass in the air and leaves residue on everything, therefore the worst thing you can do is follow your instincts and rub. I learned, and the sensation has gotten to be familiar already and I know the remedies and how to prepare for gas effectively now- a great, un-glorified skill to have.
Within the day of my arrival, I had already come to the realisation of what I truly would have to look forward to this year. There would be no frou-frou tourist fluff for me. I am a visiter, I am a guest, I am an objective observer taking notes and seeing political and cultural tension internally under a microscope. I was flushed with an empowering sensation that filled my being that I can only come to label as both appreciation and sheer excitement. I knew that my time here will be unscripted, unpredictable, and raw. No media framing, I will be seeing untainted stimuli– this is real.