MTV documentary on rebellious Turkish youth hits 2 million views

MTV documentary on rebellious Turkish youth hits 2 million views

Deniz Çiyan - ISTANBUL
MTV documentary on rebellious Turkish youth hits 2 million views

Tahribad-ı İsyan / CREDIT: Rebel Music/MTV World

Rebel Music is a series covering the stories of young people around the world who have risen up against social and political barriers to improve their lives and countries, including Turkey. Executive producer and MTV World General Manager Nusrat Durrani told the Hürriyet Daily News that their aim with the series was to present the lives of youths in a different way to regular news stories. 

“There are incredible young people around the world doing incredible things. Audiences are not exposed to the good things the young people are doing around the world … [With the Turkey episode of the series] we have a better understanding of Turkey if we have a view of the stories of the youth, because the youth is the future,” said Durrani. 

The video on Turkey, which features six artists, including a rap music group, activists, journalists, a social media phenomenon, and students of various orientations, has already been watched by more than two million people on YouTube. 

Nusrat Durrani / CREDIT: MTV World

Describing the series as a “document of change and action” led by youth, Durrani said the Gezi Park protests of summer 2013, which started as a sit-in demonstration against the felling of trees in a central Istanbul park and spread to countrywide protests, was a good example of Turkey’s dynamism. 

“Because of what is happening in Turkey and because of Gezi Park we felt that the story of youth in Turkey was very compelling,” he added. 

The 31-minute short documentary film features youngsters engaging on issues such as Gezi Park, women’s rights, the destruction of Istanbul’s Sulukule neighborhood under the framework of “urban transformation,” and the felling of more than 6,000 olive trees for the construction of a coal power plant in the Aegean district of Yırca. The film also features two artists, who are supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in government for 13 years, in an attempt to tell a balanced story. 

Meanwhile, a rap group from Istanbul, Tahribad-I İsyan (Rebellion of Destruction), who rap about the injustice they faced during the destruction of Sulukule and during the Gezi Park protests, said the film showed the world how “a state had despised and marginalized its nation.”

“It is not realistic to believe that we can tear down this system, against which hundreds of lives have fought, with one documentary. But it could be a spark that a fire needs, just like the rebellion in our music,” said members of the group, VZ, Zen-G and Asil Slang. 

‘Turkey has not yet discovered the film’

Gökhan Biçici, an independent journalist who was beaten up and arrested for filming excessive police violence against Gezi protestors, said his personal goal was to reveal the truth and to make as many people as he can reach this information. 

“The effect of the project has already started to be seen. The documentary reached around two million viewers in its first three-four days. Bur it has not yet been discovered by Turkey … I expect it to be more on Turkey’s agenda in the coming days,” Biçici said. 

Nine people between the ages of 14 and 27 were killed during the Gezi Park protests, including 14-year-old Berkin Elvan, who was comatose for 269 days after being shot in the head with a tear gas canister fired by the police. He later succumbed to his injuries in March 2014. 

Kazım Kızıl, an activist who documents protests and acts of resistance with his camera and cell phone, also said he hoped the video would spread awareness of injustice in Turkey. 

“With this project, topics such as the Gezi and Yırca resistance, the struggle for women’s rights, and the place of music in protests, reached people around the world,” Kızıl said. He was referring to the outrage caused by an energy company after the felling of more than 6,000 olive trees, the main source of income for the town of Yırca in western Turkey, in order to build a coal plant after a rapid expropriation decision. 

Fahreddin Özlen, who is a 23-year-old Twitter phenomenon among many of Turkey’s conservative Muslim youths and an ardent supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declined to comment after being contacted by the Hürriyet Daily News, citing personal reasons. 

However, the director of the Turkey episode of the series, Nisan Dağ, told the Daily News that the film could show the world that Gezi was “only a beginning.” 

“It’s still alive and kicking,” Dağ said. 

“In today’s Turkey, we don’t have freedom of speech. People get arrested for tweeting about anti-government content. Rebel Music enabled us to tell the stories of the people in Turkey without being concerned about censorship,” she added. 

“I think that’s what makes this project significant,” Dağ said.