As one walks from Harbiye towards Taksim, the crowds get thicker and thicker. When strolling the streets, from the sides you see people in groups of dozens with their gasmasks, goggles, helmets, and different flags in many colors. In the middle of this colorful opposition there are dozens of thinner-addicts that all shout the same thing: “Don’t go to Taksim, you will get gassed! You are going to your certain death! Stay away from Gezi, stay home be safe!” Normally it is common to see one or two of these addicts around the streets, and they never shout out loud like that – let alone shouting the same thing. In hundreds of meters, passing by these guys the crowds get even thicker, with people selling masks and helmets by the side of the road. Once you reach to the park and enter “Taksim Commune,” you realize the great feeling of solidarity, hearing the songs of thousands of people, and unified resistance of all colors.
While the Resistance Park is very peaceful and festive with all the high spirits of solidarity, in the meantime a delegation supposedly representing the Gezi Park – but who in fact have almost nothing to do with the park or occupation movement – assembled to meet with PM Erdogan. Among them were names the general public associates with nationalist propaganda or apolitical fashion. These “representatives” who had nothing to do with the park or resistance against police brutality stated their opinion on events, and in the end the government officials suggested that there should be a referendum on whether Istanbulites want a park or an artillery barracks and shopping mall.
About the referendum, most of the protesters questioning the government’s sincerity in resolving the park issues, let alone all the crimes against civilians committed throughout the last few weeks. They reminded people that it was Erdogan himself who suggested that human rights and social liberties can never be put on referendum, in 2009 at an AKP Rally. The court decision is clear: Gezi Park cannot be demolished. But the government dictates that popular-vote support for the governing party gives them enough legitimacy to disregard the court’s decision. The protesters remain on the side of rule of law and want to see it prevail.
In the international arena as world leaders, foreign governments, supra- and international organizations are condemning the infringement of basic human rights and the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, the government declared that they would not recognize the EU Parliament’s declarations as legitimate. The Turkish EU minister even went so far as to suggest that the EU is actually bringing itself into shade by falling into the trap of an international conspiracy to topple the Turkish economic miracle. Still, looking at events from an economic angle, the Turkish government is very focused on conspiracy theories and shows signs of fear.
The government-leaning media keep exaggerating the invented claims made by AKP members that religious people are being attacked by protesters, while devout Muslim organizations condemn these claims as they say these reports simply do not reflect reality. While turbaned girls use social media to deliver the message that they are fine and safe among all other groups, and everyone keeps an open mind towards all others, it is only a certain group of AKP fans that do not get the message.
Already there are a few people resigning from the governing party, and members cancelling their memberships. There are also some people who are family members of AKP deputies, who – without revealing their names – support protesters and block the roads in front of police buses.
The issue has of course gone well beyond Gezi Park now and protesters, while denying any party affiliation, demand a new political culture free of hatred, lies, provocative leaders and demagogues in the name of Turkey’s future. The constitutional debates that have been blocked by all parties seem to be an urgent necessity today; perhaps there could be one like the Icelandic people are having over their constitution.
It is obvious now that people do not want any part of a government official would say, as Erdogan said on April 23rd to the kid who assumed the PM’s duties for one day: “Now that you are the Prime Minister you can slaughter and hang whomever you wish.” This movement is definitely bringing more tolerance into mainstream culture in Turkey, which has been divided by many issues throughout decades due to politicians’ intrigues. Now that they have discovered the potential of the social movement, the defense of the park can lead to a truly democratic transformation of the country, if it does not get interrupted.
However, while the heartbeat on the streets reveals hopeful echoes for future, the higher authority for TV and radio broadcasts declared that four TV stations will be heavily fined, and one – Hayat TV – will be banned from broadcast for discussing the police violence against civilians. While traditional media platforms are already under severe pressure to stay in line with the government’s perspective, now the social media law in the penal code seems to be threatening the future of freedom of speech, the right to information and the basic right to communicate freely. Against all odds and discouragements from the government, the humanist protesters still keep up their passive resistance in peace and solidarity.