A Turkish riot policeman holds a tear gas grenade launcher in Taksim Square. Photograph: Tolga Bozoglu/EPA
I am scared. With every speech that prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gives, I feel the hatred and disgust against me and young people of my generation increase. All we are after is a bit of freedom, a bit of space to live and a few trees. It reminds me of a line from Jimi Hendrix’s If 6 Was 9: "I’m the one that has to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to."
Today I was in Taksim Square again, a few hours after the police cleared the area with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets, and protesters hurled fireworks and fire bombs. Some say the protesters’ firebomb attack was staged, and while I don’t have certain proof that this was the case, it wouldn’t surprise me: over the past few days I have witnessed so many lies from the police and government that I don’t think I can ever trust them again. I have spent days with the protesters – withstanding another gas attack, cheering, singing chants and sharing food in the park – and I haven’t encountered any signs of weapons or violence on their behalf. These people made me feel like I’m living a dream.
The purpose of my visit to Taksim Square was to listen to the press conference the Taksim Solidarity movement had prepared; and I was confident that I could trust the chief of police and Istanbul mayor’s assurance that the park would not be attacked. Then, right before the press conference was about to start, gas rained down over our heads once again. It was a moment of crushing disappointment. Coughing, wiping tears out of my eyes, practically blind, I realised that our government would never understand the meaning of the passive resistance that Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi were famous for. That’s when I ran out of the park.
I am the owner of the biggest literary publishing house in the country. In the past few days I have received hate mail and death threats, just because I was publicly part of this passive resistance movement. After each speech Erdoğan gave, the language in these emails became more violent. Today, the lawyers who arrived at the main courthouse of Istanbul were beaten and arrested by the police. These were the lawyers who were there to defend the protesters who had been arrested.
I am scared, not for myself, but for my girlfriend, my mother, my sister, and for my country. It is quite clear at this point that Erdoğan’s only way to cope with problems is to ratchet up aggression levels. If he continues to do so, I fear that this aggression will lead to a civil war in Turkey.
For the past few years, I have lived in fear of expressing my ideas. I didn’t do enough to criticise Erdoğan, or speak up loudly enough about the misdeeds of public officials that I had witnessed. But not any more. I am not afraid to lose my business, my wealth, or even my freedom by being jailed and sentenced; but I can not bear to live a dishonorable life any more.
What do I and my fellow protesters want? Well, here is the official list of Taksim Solidarity Platform:
1. We want the park to stay as a park.
2. We want the arrested protesters to be released.
3. We want the police aggression to stop, and prosecuted.
4. We want our right to demonstrate and protest in public areas respected, as it is respected in the constitution, hence to have the bans on those rights revoked.
5. We want Erdoğan to stop increasing the tension, and hence, peace.