Gezi forums showcasing struggles of the oppressed in Turkey

Gezi forums showcasing struggles of the oppressed in Turkey

Nisan Su Aras - ANKARA
Gezi forums showcasing struggles of the oppressed in Turkey

Gezi forums are helping society make peace with oppressed groups. DHA photo

Turkey’s nationwide Gezi protests have evolved from frequent, direct confrontation with the state’s heavy-handed police forces to local forums in various parks in Ankara, Istanbul and Anatolia, providing a platform for once-invisible and still-marginalized communities the chance to speak out.

One particular aspect of the assemblies, as epitomized in Ancient Greece’s direct democracy where the floor belongs to everyone to speak their mind to steer where the Gezi will go from here is that there is a chance to revolutionize perceptions of society by speaking the unspoken. The prominence of Kurds, Alevis, members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans (LGBT) community and women in the protests can well be considered an extension of the “Gezi spirit,” assuring that nobody will ever walk alone.

Starting July 5, LGBT individuals organized under the Kaos GL association joined forums in Güven, İzci, Anıt and Ethem Sarısülük parks under their rainbow flag for the first time. It may be the first time they carried a flag, but definitely not the first time they were present. They were there for the funeral of Ethem Sarısülük, a protester who was shot dead by the police in Ankara; they were there when the police brutality hit its peak; and they were there in their tents sleeping over in Kuğulu Park. Until now, they protested individually, even “undercover.”

“People realized that it is not something to be done alone. This is the chance for the minorities to come together,” said Ömer Akpınar, a forum participant from the Kaos GL. While another participant, Aslı Demir: “I think people understood this: The LGBTs took the squares with similar worries, fears. They struggled. There is no difference. I think this is a step taken forward by society to address the problems of the LGBT.”

With the Gezi protests, the LGBT community is now able to draw the attention of those who were previously oblivious to them. “The feedback was this: We did not know until now,” Demir said.

‘Where are you, darling? Here I am, darling’

Many people learned to empathize with Kurds and how state-biased reporting has misrepresented their decades-old struggle after witnessing the mainstream media’s insufficient coverage of the Gezi protests. After all, struggling for the same cause is not built on being alike, but standing side by side.

The time to root merely for one’s rights has passed. The Gezi protests instigated a synergy among minorities, or in its most generic form, whoever feels degraded, bashed or impaired by societal norms or state policies. Therefore, it is not serendipity that this year’s Pride March drew thousands, gay and straight.

“Those who would not touch one another have realized that there is nothing to be afraid of once they ran into each other in the squares,” Demir said.

And yes, as Akgüner puts it: “Maybe not everyone there embraces them [the LGBTs], but they face their own prejudices there.”

For the first time this year, thousands chanted, “Where are you, darling? Here I am, darling”; – a signature slogan long used by the LGBT community in Pride Marches that is now being used out of context and without the fear of stigmatization.

Homophobic slogans are being replaced as people are made aware of their scornful implications. For the first time, LGBT individuals, once declared to be persona non grata, have found the courage to unite under their rainbow flag and come down to squares to exchange opinions. They have arrived to share what they have been exposed to – hate crimes at most, prejudices at least.

“The Gezi spirit” has indeed magnified people’s scope for struggling for their rights, meaning the increasing visibility of LGBT individuals is just one in a multitude of colors from the full spectrum of the oppressed.