Today’s post aims to show a different and more global perspective of the situation in Turkey. In this little world, sometimes people focus a lot on their differences. When it comes to social movements and protests, people may think they are alone, that others don’t understand, follow or support them. On this occasion, we will hear from Barış, a Turkish high school student who will tell us a little bit about his experience. Afterwards we will give the floor to five people who are supporting fellow Turks from their countries, some of them neighbors and others further away. With a few questions we will try to understand what moves people who are living in other places that are hundreds or thousands of kilometers away to support the protests in Turkey. In higher or lower doses everywhere, people know what police repression means, and all of them agree that this cannot be the way to silent people’s beliefs, rights and complaints. This is even more true when we talk about “democratic countries.”
In my case, being Spanish, I can say that police (and also the politicians that gave them permission) all over the country less than two years ago showed important evidence of not understanding what real democratic rights mean.

This interview follows a former publication that you can find here.


Voices VII: Barış C. K., from Istanbul
My name is Barış C. K., and I’m an 18-year-old high schooler living as a boarding student in Lycée de Galatasaray in Istanbul, where most of the events that now affect all of Turkey started (it’s much more spread out now). I have never attended protests before, and only explained my political views (that until now seemed to be in the minority) on social media sites, but since last Friday I have been watching and spreading news about Gezi Park events nonstop. One of the main reasons people like me started raising their voice seems to stem from the way the government responded to peaceful protests in Gezi Park. I was outraged when I saw footage of the police firing water cannons at point-blank range, and heard about how they gassed the protesters’ escape routes. After the police threw gas bombs to the doorstep of a café where I usually met with my friends, I made up my mind: this had to be stopped. The walk on Friday evening was different from any protest I had seen on Istiklal avenue. There were people of all ages chanting in unison, and the front lines did not falter even against constant tear gas firing. It quickly became more than just about trees and a symbol against police brutality (which appeared against the protest continuously and does even now despite the atmosphere in Gezi Park). The following days I mostly followed on Twitter, trying to spread the information to others as quickly as possible. Today, Gezi Park claims victory, but other parts of Turkey are still brutalized by the police. Before these events, I had lost my hopes for Turkey and thought the majority was going to do whatever it wanted. Today I think there’s hope for a more democratic future. But for that, we need to be listened to seriously and not be seen as chapullers, as the neologism is now called.


Istanbul city center. Picture by Barış C. K.

Voices VIII: Misli Akdağ from New York

Misli Akdağ is 21 years old. She grew up in the UK and is now living and working in NYC. Both of her parents are Turkish and most of her family lives in Turkey.

G.Y: You have been in demonstrations showing support for the Tu protest movement. Can you tell us about it?
M.A: I have been protesting in Zuccotti Park and also in front of the Turkish Embassy. We have been chanting slogans, making banners and trying to raise awareness in New York. Many of us wish we could be at home with our families, but we are working hard to raise awareness here, it is important that the American people know what is happening in Turkey.

G.Y: What is it causing people in New York to show support for the Turkish people?
M.A: Many New Yorkers thought the protests were just about a couple of trees, so they are interested to hear what the real problems are… Many are shocked at what is happening since Turkey is considered to be a modern, secular republic in an area with very different politics. 

G.Y: Do the government and police repress with the same intensity in New York?
M.A: Of course there are problems with the police all over the world, but there hasn’t been any recent tear gas or water canon attacks in New York!! New Yorkers are horrified at the way the police are behaving in Turkey. Since the Turkish media is unreliable, we are using social media to spread news about victims of police brutality. During all of our protests, the NYPD has been very helpful and accommodating, even sending Turkish officers to our protest areas.


NY city supports Turkey. Picture by Misli Akdağ.

Voices IX: Aslı from Germany
Aslı Polatdemir got her B.A. in Istanbul in International Relations and is studying for an M.A. in Heidelberg in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She is from Turkey and she is 23 years old.

G.Y: You have been in demonstrations showing support for the Turkish protest movement. Can you tell us about it?
A.P:The demonstration on  June 1st in Mannheim, Germany, as I could follow via Facebook, was quite a spontaneous but legal event The different groups of people appeared to be pretty political, as the ideological streams could be recognized by their flags or slogans. The feeling of solidarity connecting individuals from different political viewpoints to protest against usage of excessive violence by the police and the “pontifical” political discourse of AKP was obvious. However, what I found significantly interesting was the renascent slogan competition between Kemalists and left wing groups. The best part of the demonstrations was to see activists from ÇARŞI, the ‘anarchist’ fan community of BEŞİKTAŞ Football Club. They brought some irony and humor with their banners, which is observed vastly in the current uprising in Turkey.

G.Y: What is it causing people in Germany to show support for the Turkish people?
A.P: As a student from Turkey, my motivation was compensating for my absence in the events in Turkey. With the contribution of my physical presence in the demonstration in Mannheim, I could at least hush my bad conscience. According to my subjective observations, the main motivation of the people from different political streams to participate in the demonstration in Mannheim was to cry out what their ideological concerns were about the governmental politics. Kemalists were there reminding others about the principles of Atatürk and secularism, the left wing groups called attention to revolutionary goals, the Kurdish community underlined their political existence, etc. Above all, participating in such a demonstration in Germany was related to the question of “hybrid” identity for many people who were stuck in categories like “German-Turks” or “Germans with Turkish background” in “white” German society. There were also German people who were very active with their slogans for solidarity.  I have sympathy for the individual motivations, but on the discursive level-–especially considering the still-existing imaginary distinction between Orient and Occident–I would not consider the motivation as innocent. The Eurocentric perspectives are undeniable and “the white man’s complex” was and still is in the news, obviously.

G.Y: Do the government and police repress with the same intensity in Germany?
A.P: The answer to this question depends on the political perspective. As far as I could tell from following the discussions of students, the general “left critic” is that the police repress brutally, especially with “extreme” leftist groups and anti-atom-demonstrations. But I do not see myself in a position to compare the intensity of police in Germany and Turkey.


Germany supports Turkey. Picture shared from TGB Facebook page

Voices X: Güney from the Netherlands
Güney is 23 years old, a student of Media Technology and a web developer. He was born and raised in the Netherlands and is multicultural when it comes to his Dutch/Turkish identity.

G.Y: You have been in demonstrations showing support for the Turkish protest movement. Can you tell us about it?
G: It was refreshing to see so many others like myself who felt angry about the recent actions undertaken by the government of Turkey and its leader Recep Tayip Erdogan. 
Sadly, there is not much we can do here in the Netherlands, other than to show our support and solidarity to those in Turkey who believe in the same ideals we do and are now fighting for it out on the streets.

G.Y: What is it causing people in the Netherlands to show support for the Turkish people?
G: For those who don’t know much about the Turkish people and Turkey itself, I imagine it was moving to see the Turks in the Netherlands protest. The media was initially slow when it came to picking things up, so we had to rely a lot on social media and demonstrations such as the ones we’ve had in the Netherlands in order to get the word out.
Many of the reactions I’ve seen were actually quite supportive, considering we’re all protesting for the same rights and believe in the same ideals as the people living in this country.

G.Y: Do the government and police repress with the same intensity in the Netherlands?

G: To my knowledge, no. There are a few isolated incidents on a yearly basis, but other than that I can’t name anything. As a matter of fact, at the protests I went to, the police who were present were applauded by us demonstrators for their patience and understanding. 


Netherlands supports Turkey. Picture sent by Güney.

Voices XI: Israel Solorio from Mexico
Israel Solorio is 32 years old, he is from Mexico and has a PhD in International Relations and European Integration Policies. He is a member of the #YoSoy132Internacional network and is a researcher and activist for 132 DataAnalysis.

G.Y: You have been in demonstrations showing support for the Turkish protest movement. Can you tell us about it?
I.S: From #YoSoy132 Internacional we organized a protest outside the Turkish Embassy. Because of the urgency of the issue, we organized only one day before to show solidarity with the Turkish people. Around 50 activists arrived at the embassy, most of them from YoSoy132, but also citizens who wanted to show their support. Even some people from the streets who didn’t  know about our protest joined us.

G.Y: What is it causing people in Mexico to show support for the Turkish people?
I.S: A year ago we were in the streets protesting because of the imposition of a president in our country, we didn’t want to go backwards to an authoritarian Mexico like in the past. From Turkey, in spite of the distance, they showed solidarity with our cause. Today words are crossing again over the borders and the oceans, and are connecting our hearts.
We have been following the protests in Turkey lately. We have seen them showing the entire world their dignity. We saw them going into the streets as brothers and sisters. Today we also showing our solidarity with them as a part of a global movement that fights for a different world, a more fair world.

G.Y: Do the government and police repress with the same intensity in Mexico?
I.S: On December 1st, 2012, when Enrique Peña Nieto (the President of Mexico) came to power, we experienced a very intense, repressive day in cities such as Mexico D.F or Guadalajara. Here we know what repression is and that is also why we feel identified with the Turkish people.


Turkish Embassy in Mexico. Picture sent by Israel Solorio.

Voices XII: Bojan from Bosnia
Bojan is from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is 24 years old, a psychologist and activist for human and animal rights.

G.Y: You have been in demonstrations showing support for the Turkish protest movement. Can you tell us about it?
B: Today, June 5, 2013, people in Sarajevo wanted to show support for the people in Turkey. A few of them came to the center of Sarajevo with Bosnian and Turkish flags, trying to send message from Sarajevo, that people from this city are feeling the same as people in Istanbul, Ankara..We had help from a few people from Turkey who live and work in Sarajevo. They helped us to write messages in the Turkish language..But, at one point,  people who came to show suport for the Turkish people went to another part of the city to get involved in a protest in front of the main buildings of our country, where politicians are making big decisions about identification numbers for babies born from February 2013 until today. We all made two protests into one big one, and we are so proud of ourselves.

G.Y: What is it causing people in Bosnia to show support for the Turkish people?
B: Bosnia has big connections with Turkey. We are the same people, our languages are similar. What they are doing now in Turkey, we have here every day. We need to fight for our rights all over the world, together. Today it involves Istanbul, tomorrow Sarajevo, and the day after is maybe Moscow who it is in trouble. We need to raise our voices to save things that we believe in. Only united we are strong. 

G.Y: Do the government and police repress with the same intensity in Bosnia?
B: Well, we have reformed police in Bosnia, so they can’t do what they want anymore is different in a federation and republic, different laws I think that police in Sarajevo are much better than in East Sarajevo, which belongs to a republic. It is complicated here; we have two different police and it is not the same in every city.  These are all political questions so it is complicated to explain, but generally we don’t have problems with the police; they do their job, we do our job, but most important is that they are not violent to people.


Sarajevo support Turkey. Picture sent by Bojan.

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