Gezi Park: Turkey’s new opposition movement
By Emre Azizlerli BBC News, Istanbul
It is a sunny afternoon in August. Sitting under the dappled shade of the plane trees, I watch a group of council workers tend the flowers by the central fountain of the park.
A stray dog idly lies on the grass to escape Istanbul’s heat, while men and women stroll by, some with kids.
This is a far cry from the Gezi Park of early June, when it was under occupation by anti-government protestors. Gone are the tents, the blankets, the banners and the pamphlets.
Gone too are the gas canisters the police threw in to push the demonstrators out, in running battles in and around the park.
If anything, it looks too good.
The orange blooms in newly dug borders appear strangely fresh and orderly in what was, until recently, a poorly maintained, forgotten park.
What do Brazil, Turkey, Peru and Bulgaria
have in common?
This year’s protests have less to do with ideology and specific grievances than a new architecture of protest.
Alter, remix, hack
What do the Bulgarian, Turkish, Brazilian and Peruvian revolts have in common? Another similarity is the fact that they did not aim to destroy the power structure.
“The best subversion is to alter the code instead of destroying it,” wrote French philosopher Roland Barthes in the 1960s. Connected crowds, assembling emotions, do not destroy power. They prefer altering the code of power, the protocols, the process. Doing yoga in front of the Bulgarian congress or in the local occupied political assembly of the Brazilian city of Niteroi can be as subversive as actually taking power. Holding a horizontal, popular and open assembly inside an occupied public building – which has been quite common during the Brazilian uprising – can change how politics work.
When Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan referred to the protesters using the slang word “chapullers”, or looters, the crowd took over the code, proclaiming a “chapulling movement” and creating Chapull.tv, which streamed the events in Gezi Park. And when the Brazilian media called the protesters “vandalos” – rioters – the crowd remixed the insult, proclaiming: “Vandalism is what they do with your father in the doctor’s queue,” referring to the country’s sclerotic medical system.
Alter, remix, hack. Spread the virus. The Peruvian Indignados movement referred to the “repartija” – the government’s opaque distribution of political offices – as the”lagartija”, or lizard, an ironic icon for memorably spreading the message.
For their part, Bulgarians brought watermelons to the door of parliament on day 45 of the protests, an act laden with layers of metaphor. The Bulgarian word for “watermelon” sounds similar to the words for “day” and “year” said together. The Communists ruled Bulgaria for 45 years, and the Bulgarians surrounded the parliament for 45 days. The country, the protesters were saying, was ripe for a change of cycle.
All revolts are connected
What’s more, all revolts are connected somehow. The fact that a Brazilian flag was flying in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, or that the slogan “Brazil will be another Turkey” was used during Brazil’s demonstrations, are examples. The Interagentes study [Es] of digital networks mentioned that when the first protests were called in Sao Paulo on June 6, there were two Turkish Facebook pages among the ten most influential in Brazil on that day: Diren Gezi Parki [Tr] and Turkiyenin Gururu Recep Tayyip Erdogan [Tr].
‘Turkey’s partiality’ adds to bloodshed in region
The main opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu says government’s biased approach in regional foreign policy is one of the main factors behind the escalating bloodshed in the ‘Islamic world’.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (L) shakes hand with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit Iraq branded by the PM Erdoğan as ‘touristic.’ AA photo
The Turkish government’s biased approach in regional foreign policy is one of the main factors behind the escalating bloodshed in the “Islamic world,” the main opposition leader has said, while also slamming Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for crying in front of cameras, which he described as “pitiful.”
The remarks from Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu came in a speech delivered in the town of Bayat in the western Anatolian province of Afyonkarahisar, which he was visiting on the 91st anniversary of the “Great Offensive” against Greek forces during the War of Independence.
Despite the government’s self-proclaimed foreign policy of “zero problem with neighbors,” Kılıçdaroğlu said Turkey was no longer friends with any of its neighboring countries, including Iran, Iraq and Syria. He described the use of chemical weapons in Syria as “a crime against humanity,” while claiming that the only place in the world that was scene of such bloodshed was the Islamic world.
Turkey’s Kurdish Strategy Muddled
By Talk of US Syria Strike
Very interesting–AKP supports the ethnic cleansing of Rojova Kurds
While the borders controlled by the Syrian opposition are open, three crossings under Kurdish control are closed, even for humanitarian assistance, allowing no dialogue with the Kurds. As a result of popular demonstrations the security forces tried hard to suppress, the first humanitarian assistance finally reached Dirbesiye via Senyurt and Qamishli via Nusaybin on Aug. 8 and again to Dirbesiye in the last week of August. The shipments were arranged by the Turkish Red Crescent, as agreed, and delivered to the Kurdish High Council representatives.
The opening of the border between Turkey and Syria’s Rojava (Western Kurdistan), which we have been treating at different times with optimism, caution and suspicion, has not achieved any of its desired results.
On Aug. 6, when I met in Istanbul with a representative of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), he told me that they were asked by Turkish Foreign Ministry officials to “wait 10 days for good developments.” The most significant development expected from the dialogue Ankara established with PYD co-chair Salih Muslim was the opening of border crossings between Turkey and Rojava, the Kurdish region in Syria’s north. For the Kurds, the opening of the crossings would be an important sign of the end of Turkey’s hostile attitude, held ever since the PYD took control of the region.
Last weekend, I spoke with the same PYD official again after his return from the border near Urfa and Suruc. He said that promises had not been kept.
“Turkish officials don’t even take my phone calls now,” he complained. Turkey’s demand in response to its rapprochement with Rojava was “for the PYD to clarify its position and to join the opposition fighting [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad. The PYD official said, “If Turkey had recognized and assisted us, we could have had more leeway in joining the Syrian National Coalition [SNC]. But lack of confidence between us is still a serious issue.”
Salih Muslim, in a statement to Reuters on chemical-weapons use in Syria, said, “The regime in Syria … has chemical weapons, but they wouldn’t use them around Damascus, 5 km from the (UN) committee which is investigating chemical weapons. Of course they are not so stupid as to do so.” He believes the PYD would not blindly join the ranks of the SNC, as Turkey wishes.