Izmirians mourn Ankara victims through the largest demonstration since Gezi Park

Izmirians mourn Ankara victims through the largest demonstration since Gezi Park

Nazlan Ertan - nazlanertan@gmail.com
Izmirians mourn Ankara victims through the largest demonstration since Gezi Park

DHA Photo

What began like a lazy Monday morning in Izmir, a city that defines itself as “the largest bastion against the Justice and Development Party (AKP),” turned into a major show of unity and solidarity after Oct. 10’s suicide bomb attacks in Ankara. 

A dozen political groups, labor unions and other civil society marches peacefully toward Gündoğdu Square, the city’s usual place for demonstrations and political meetings, and was then followed by the funerals of local victims of the attack. 

At 11 a.m., the demonstrators, a diverse group of girls with headscarves and short-shorts, started their solemn march in the posh district of Alsancak. A single slogan was shouted by most of the demonstrators: “Erdoğan, the thief, the murderer.”

Izmir, Turkey’s third largest city, boasts that it has never chosen an AKP mayor nor  allowed the party more than thirty percent of the vote. In the last election, 44.8 percent of the vote went to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and - in more of a surprise - 10.6 percent went to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). That was the HDP's highest percentage in any city in western Turkey after Istanbul.

The demonstration carefully avoided any slogan or symbol that could lead to a divide between the groups that attended it. The municipal mayors and politicians from the CHP and HDP remained deliberately low-key, enforcing the image of a “people’s demonstration.”

The political messages came with a joint declaration read out in the square by Melih Yalçın, the Izmir representative of Turkish Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects (TMMOBB):
“We know who the murderers are. They are the ones who have said that they want 400 deputies; the ones who have no concern for the blood of our young people as long as they do not fail again at Nov. 1; they are the ones who smile when we ask for their resignation.”

Organizers claim about 30,000 people participated at the demonstration, which dispersed peacefully after carnations were thrown to remember the victims, including Ayşe Deniz, the local head of HDP, whose funeral was held later Oct. 12.

Participants who talked to Hurriyet Daily News were bitter about the police, whom they said only took security measures as they passed in front of the local AKP office. They said they had taken their own security measures, pointing at the men and women of Eğitim-Sen, Turkey’s labor union for the education sector, who surrounded the activists. With the unmistakable sharp eye of teachers, they directed the half a dozen groups, making with their bodies a wall that divided them from passers-by.

Municipal workers and teachers formed the largest group among the demonstrators, as their respective unions announced a two-day strike. The TMMOB, Progressive Labor Unions Federation of Turkey (DISK), Public Servants Labor Union (KESK) and Turkish Medical Association (TTB) will stop work Oct. 12-13. 

Only Turkish flags

Aside from four Turkish flags held by people at the front of the march, there were very few political symbols. Instead, the activists carried photos of the 13 from Izmir and its surrounding region who were killed in the attacks. “This is Izmir,” said a fifty-year-old woman who watched them. “No outbursts, only decency. No clashes with the police, no vandalism,” she added, as she pointed out the chic young mothers who were joining in the slogans as they sipped coffee.

The truth may not be as optimistic as that: only a day ago, about sixty people were taken under custody for attempting an unauthorized demonstration to protest the Ankara bombings.