Turkey has become rather different compared to the apolitical post-1980s country where people were scared to manifest their political standing. Turks are increasingly finding in themselves the moral courage to stand against what they considered an improper or wrong undertaking by the local or central administration. In that, I believe Turks must be thankful to the Gezi youth, who bravely demonstrated to this nation the supremacy of civilian hands united for the defense of rights against the brute force of the oppressor.
For Ali İsmail Korkmaz - the shy-looking university student killed by cowardly “unknown assailants” on an Eskişehir sidewalk on the night of July 10, 2013 - and his mother with a burning heart, this nation is now asking for justice, equality before the law, and respect to human life: The most inalienable and fundamental of human rights. Masses now demand “justice, simply justice” from a government that unleashed excessive brute force on the youth, branding them marauders or simply “çapulcu.”
The nation is not only demanding justice for Ali. Ethem Sarısülük was a young student with great hopes and ideals until the evening of June 1, 2013 when he was shot in the head, from three meters away, by a policeman acting on the orders of a prime minister who went out of his mind with anger. That policeman has not yet been sentenced. Is that fact not awkward and revealing of the mentality of governance, as well as pressing the need for a justice overhaul in this country? The demand for justice has become a scream. Mehmet Ayvalıtaş was murdered in Istanbul’s Ümraniye district on June 2, Abdullah Cömert was slain in Antakya by police bullets. Mustafa Sarı was a policeman in Adana. He fell down a bridge on June 5 and lost his life. His death still remains a mystery. Medeni Yıldırım was shot in the heart by a military bullet on June 28 in the southeastern town of Lice.
Apart from those who lost their lives in the so-called Gezi incidents throughout the country, making a small park in downtown Istanbul become the entire country, scores were injured and some lost their eyes. Police fired gas canisters not into the air, but aiming at the demonstrators. Perhaps it was not just the moral courage of the youth -long accused of being apolitical - but the brute and excessive use of force by the government against them that created a new and unprecedented “culture of resistance” in this country.
Was it sane to imagine someone attending an election rally organized by the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to raise a placard saying, “There’s a thief”? He was detained and beaten up, but he came out and said he had just exercised his freedom of expression. It was because of the new resistance culture that a young man took out a “There’s a thief” placard at Erdoğan’s rally, got beaten up, but proudly declared he did not regret his action. Was it possible before to think of housewives or a lawyer saluting a prime minister from their balconies with shoeboxes, reminding of the millions of dollars found in the residences of a banker and the sons of ministers in the latest graft scandal haunting the premier and his family?
Someone was commenting on the TV the other night that after the latest scandal, Erdoğan has become a lame duck and even if he survives this, what appears to be the largest ever graft scandal of Turkey’s recent history, he will be remembered for the millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes.
Changing laws, readjusting the justice system and establishing a “unity of powers” rather than a “separation of powers” dictated by democratic governance, may save the day today, but not tomorrow.