Gezi generation joining Turkey’s protests made up of free souls, says activist
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
The initiative to protect Gezi Park from demolition is not only gender equal; it reflects equality on all aspects, according to Mücella Yapıcı. 'It is not homophobic; it has no hierarchy; it has no leadership,' says Yapıcı who spend the last two weeks in Taksim Square. DAILY NEWS photos, Emrah GÜRELThere are free people in Turkey but not-so-free public spaces in Turkey, according to a representative of an NGO that has been objecting to the plans to redesign Istanbul’s Taksim Square.
“If universities were free and democratic places, youngsters would not have been so reactive,” said Mücella Yapıcı regarding the thousands who took to streets initially to protest the demolition of Gezi Park near Taksim Square.
“I am happy to see that we have raised a generation with free souls,” said 62-year-old Yapıcı from the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB).
The woman in red who was subjected to tear gas in the early days of the demonstrations became a symbol. Was the presence of women strong in the movement that initially started as an objection to the demolition of a park?
More than 50 percent were women in the park. I was there in the very first days, and at that time women were even the majority. I think women are more sensitive to the environment. They value more the spaces where they live. They have a special relationship with nature. In addition women are very patient and they resist with soberness all kind of resistance. But they can also become very brave if they feel their living space is threatened. The reflex of defending issues pertaining to life is stronger. By the way the police have made no distinction at all in their brutality. I was among those who were subjected to gas in the very early days. I am a 62-year-old woman with three of her heart arteries blocked. The woman in red was also there; we are all proud of her.
Is the Gezi initiative a gender-equal movement?
Not only gender-equal, but it reflects equality in all aspects. It is not homophobic. It has no hierarchy, no leadership. It is like in the song that says, “Something needs to be done.” It’s like we are doing that “thing” all together.
The plans for Taksim will foremost intervene in the lifestyles of women. Right now Taksim is a safe place for women as thousands flocks to the square at night. But now traffic will be taken underground, bus stops will be underground; it will be dark, Taksim will become a less safe place for women. Women demand lit green public spaces, against all sorts of harassment. They want a park where everybody can go without paying anything, without people saying, we are now closing, a space under control. My mother used to feed me in that park when I was a baby.
It seems everybody was surprised by what many saw as an apolitical generation.
I don’t share the view that they are apolitical. They succeeded in sort of protecting themselves from the weird style of political parties that are unable to solve any issue, that keep fighting with each other even over the most insignificant issue. Politics are not only words uttered via politicians. It is the way you live your life.
As mothers and fathers, I’d like to have my share in all this as I am very happy to see that we have raised individuals with free souls, who can take their own decisions, who do not accept any imposition. And they are very resilient. These kids cannot liberate in universities. Had universities been places that were free and democratic, they would not have been so reactive. These kids see their professors whom they value being oppressed by political pressure. In our generation there were free public spaces. Here there are free individuals but not-so-free public spaces. This system gave importance to individuals and forced people to be individualist in the sense that everyone should rather care about their own interests. But these kids have learned to be individuals rather than individualists. They have different communication channels. They were patient. But once the patience runs out, it is like touching a raw nerve. Once you touch that nerve, you see neither gas nor brutality.
Did the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) touch a raw nerve of women?
It did. And not only with its policies on population growth. I think the biggest insult is being done to women with headscarves. It uses religion. The polarization is such in the society that those who have headscarves are seen as pro-Shariah and those who do not as infidels. We say, this is not so; there are Muslims who do not wear headscarves, and there are headscarf-wearing women who are revolutionary. I refuse any codification though the body of women. And I don’t like it, [being told] how many children I should have and how I should give birth. But we mothers are now educated too. Mothers don’t tell their children not to go. They stand by them. Actually children started to tell their mothers to go home. I demand that youngsters should not interfere in my choices.
Do you think the protesters are made up of those who did not vote for the AKP?
I don’t think so. This is really divisive. I did not go home for the past 15 days; I see it every day. Once when we were gassed, a woman near me took off her headscarf and we tried to cover our mouths together with her headscarf. Then I helped her put it back on her head. I did not ask her whether she voted for the AKP. But of course this whole thing went beyond Gezi Park. The people thought it was important to come together as an alternative. I think this is a liberation movement.
In which sense?
First the people are liberating themselves from fear. And they are asking for their honor back. They are asking for their values back.
It is Saturday afternoon, what do you think will happen from now on?
We have passed an important threshold. This is a great gain. Of course this can be oppressed. This is no joke. There is disproportionality between police and demonstrators. How can I resist my police children who throw gas bombs? I can’t overcome the brutality. However, the threshold of fear has been passed. We have seen silenced since the 1980 coup d’etat. We had imprisoned our brains. All of us, we have unchained our brains; tremendous intelligence, tremendous humor came out. We laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance.
Even if there is a crackdown, I don’t think this weird thing we have will go in a bad direction. The spirit of these youths will spread out day by day and we will open our eyes to a much better world.
What is the main difference between the new generation of women and those of older generations?
Women of my generation concealed their feminine traits and values and tried to become like men. We used to say equality, we did not know about positive discrimination. We did not use make-up, we wear pants. The women of the current generation are there with their feminine traits; they are there with their make-up, with their emotionalism. We could not wear red dresses. I now started to wear red dresses. Young women have liberated me as well, and I am grateful to them.
Who is Mücella Yapıcı?
Mücella Yapıcı was born in 1951 in Taksim.
She is a graduate of Istanbul Technical University Faculty of Architecture and a member of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB).
She works for the TMMOB disaster commission as well as TMMOB Istanbul branch’s commission for urbanization and environmental impact assessment commission.
TMMOB is one of the NGOs that make up the Taksim Solidarity Platform.
TMMOB’s Istanbul branch has served as the secretariat for the platform.