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YUSUF KANLI

yusuf.kanli@hurriyet.com.tr

YUSUF KANLI > Gezi Park is now a symbol

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Will the government manage to disperse the Gezi Park and the solidarity protests in almost all the cities of the country? Using horrendous brute police force on the “Turkish uprising” proved to be ineffective. On the contrary such brute force helped the Gezi Park uprising spread to almost the entire country. What will the government do then? Smash the resistance, like the futile effort undertaken by the Istanbul police the night of June 11? Or will Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan abandon his macho leadership style and “succumb” to the demands of the protestors? Would he, like the Istanbul governor, send an early morning electronic message telling the young “rebels” he indeed “decided” to understand them? Would anyone believe such a message after seeing how brutish the governor turned out in less than a day or so?

No… We are in no mood to make jokes. The almighty sultan would not of course ever concede he might have been wrong on any issue. How could he be mistaken? If he wanted an Ottoman artillery barracks that had been totally erased in the 1940s to be “restored” who can oppose him? After all, those barracks were the birthplace of the 1909 fundamentalist uprising, thus was carrying symbolic importance for the almighty neo-sultan… Furthermore, every barrack included a mosque. Through “restoring” the Ottoman barracks in the heart of Taksim, a mosque would be constructed. As is said, two birds in one stroke.

People were against the designs of the premier regarding Gezi Park with some 600 old trees, one of the remaining green spots of the heart of Istanbul. Local NGOs and business groups were against it. They established a platform and were hoping that they would be listened to before construction plans were finalized. No one was listened to. When under direct orders of the premier local authorities went ahead with the Ottoman barracks project and even supplemented it with construction of a shopping mall and lush residence complex, the issue was referred to the court. An administration respectful of the supremacy of law would have waited for the outcome of the legal process started. Yet, demolition started at the park, triggering a modest protest by some 300 people. Then, on May 31, early in the morning from three directions a merciless, brutal attack was unleashed on the protestors. That excessive use of force on protestors triggered a national protest wave. Then, the court ordered suspension of the project but an adamant government insisted on the project, aggravating the standoff.

Now, after all that was experienced since then and particularly after the “If you do not give up immediately we know to speak in the language you understand” declaration of the premier, sorry to say but Gezi Park has become a symbol. It has become a symbol showing that this nation can abandon all differences and organize civilian resistance. It has become a symbol of the spirit of solidarity, cooperation, trust, social reliance and, of course, self confidence.

Gezi is of course no longer a small park in the heart of Taksim; it has become all the squares of all the cities of Turkey. It has become all of Turkey. It showed Turks and others – but apparently still the premier has not seen it – that young Turks cannot be silenced under immense tear gas, merciless attacks by water cannons or horrendous beatings by the police. Perhaps the force applied to them was so excessive that all limits were left behind, using force on them has become useless.

Gezi has become the symbol of participatory democracy as it underlined that elections alone are not sufficient for democratic governance, people need to be consulted all the time.

Most importantly, Gezi reminded everyone that united we are powerful and to protest is a constitutional right. And of course, with the social media, there is a new world with new and awake citizens.
 
Note: Frustrated and tired with the developments I am taking few days’ leave. Yet, I will try to follow events onboard a boat somewhere in the western end of the Mediterranean and write as much as allowed by the conditions.

June/14/2013

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