‘Standing man’ inspires a new type of civil disobedience in Turkey
This DHA photo shows 'standing man' as he started the silent act of resistance, before he was joined by a large group.
A single man who started standing silently in the middle Istanbul’s city center has provoked a silent struggle across Turkey for the right to protest.
The young man, later identified as performance artist Erdem Gündüz, stood in the same place without moving for eight hours on June 17, staring at the flag of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the Atatürk Culture Center (AKM).
The police have been limiting access to the city center following the crackdown on Gezi Park protesters. Over the weekend, the police evacuated the city center to stop the Gezi Park occupation, which started three weeks ago against a controversial renovation plan, and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality planted trees and flowers in the park, which is closed to the public now.
“Clearing out Taksim Square [to pedestrians] as if nothing happened, planting trees in Gezi Park... Pretending as if nothing happened [in Taksim] is in fact the biggest violence,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Güler has said that the protest would not be subject to an intervention unless it began to constitute a menace against public order.
“We don’t intervene against any protest that does not disrupt public order or affect life in general,” he said.
“If it doesn’t turn into an act of violence, does not disrupt the public order and does not limit other people’s freedom, everyone has such a right [to stage a protest].”
Güler also said this protest shouldn’t affect traffic and also excluded the legitimacy of a protest in Ankara’s Kızılay that would continue from morning till night. “This is all about public order,” he added.
'Standing’ not a crime: Bar Association head
Union of Turkish Bar Associations head Metin Feyzioğlu also declared that the standing man’s act was not a crime according to the Turkish Criminal Code.
Though the detention of a man who stands still on pavement would have a provision in the Turkish Criminal Code, the policeman would at least be guilty of “malpractice” or “restricting freedom.”
“‘Standing’ does not constitute a crime by any means,” he said, adding that there was no stance more democratic than this. “Humanity cannot find a more democratic type of protest,” he said.
Act of defiance turned into nationwide silent struggle
People across the country were quick to pick up the new protest, and hundreds of photos showing people standing still have been shared so far.
The protest spread across the country hours after Gündüz’s launch.
In the western province of İzmir, a group of around 100 people blocked the traffic at Gündoğan Square around 2:30 a.m. in the morning, shortly after a ‘standing woman’ started standing in the middle of Kızılay Square in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
A small group of people, including lawyers, also “stood” for more than one hour June 18 in the Istanbul courthouse in support of the “standing man.”
Another man joined the action in the Aegean province of Muğla with an umbrella to protect himself from the 37 degree of temperature.
One photo showed people standing still in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, in front of the Madımak Hotel where 33 intellectuals and two hotel workers died when radical Islamists attacked the hotel on July 2, 1993.
Another photo showed three people standing in front of the offices of weekly Agos, where Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was shot and killed on Jan. 19, 2007.