Anti-vaxxers in Turkey meet in 'Great Awakening Rally'
In a reaction to new measures and an inoculation push, nearly 3,000 Turks on Sept. 11 demonstrated against COVID-19 related mandates in Istanbul, including vaccinations, PCR tests and protective face masks.
In Turkey’s largest such protest, the “Great Awakening Rally,” mostly maskless people shouted slogans, held placards and Turkish flags, and sang songs in defense of what they called individual rights, echoing anti-vaccine rallies in some other countries.
Though protesters attending the government-approved rally in Istanbul’s Maltepe district were not required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test, police officials did not let those who refused to wear face masks pass through the checkpoints.
Those who did not bring a face mask with them were only allowed to enter the area after they wore their masks given by officials on duty there, but most of them took their face masks off after entering through the checkpoints.
A significant portion of the reactions at the event was directed at vaccination campaigns and Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft who became the top target for various conspiracy theories revolving around the pandemic.
“They called us bigots and anti-science. They wanted to vaccinate us from afar, like animals. Funded by the Bill Gates Foundation, the pandemic started with a news report of the BBC,” said Abdurrahman Dilipak, a columnist who gave a speech on the stage.
“Vaccine is Bill Gates’ game. They started vaccinating people in three months. They will make us robots. They will make people sick,” said Mustafa Zeytin, a protester who attended the demonstration.
“Bill Gates, you too will be judged,” shouted a man wearing a t-shirt with the Turkish flag during the speech.
However, there were also those who attended the event as they disagreed with the pandemic measures in the context of personal freedoms.
“This pandemic is just going on with even more restrictions on our freedoms and there’s no end to it,” said Erdem Boz, 40, a software developer.
“Masks, vaccines and PCR tests might all become mandatory. We’re here to voice our discontent with this,” he added.
On Sept. 6, the government began requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all users of intercity planes, buses and trains, as well as for those attending large events such as concerts or theatre performances.
Wearing masks and maintaining social distance is mandatory for all, while unvaccinated school employees are required to take a PCR test twice a week.
Meanwhile, the hashtag “Maltepe is everywhere, resistance is everywhere” became the top trending topic on Twitter in Turkey.