World socialists discuss Gezi protests in Istanbul

World socialists discuss Gezi protests in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
World socialists discuss Gezi protests in Istanbul

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, Socialist International Secretary-General Luis Ayala expressed his happiness at being hosted by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to discuss the protests. Cihan photo

The Socialist International (SI), the umbrella organization of 168 socialist and social democratic parties from all over the world, has gathered in Istanbul to show its solidarity with the recent Gezi Park protests, the largest wave of anti-government rallies in the country’s recent history.

Activists and representatives of civil society organizations explained the motives and consequences of the Gezi movement during the gathering, which was hosted by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). A common theme was criticism of the international community for having been convinced that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) “had transformed Turkey toward democracy.”

Speaking at the opening of the meeting, SI Secretary General Luis Ayala saluted the Gezi Park protests and voiced his satisfaction at being together with actors of the Gezi movement.

Two videos were shown in the meeting hall about the Gezi demonstrations and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statements about the protests.

Turkey Director of Amnesty International Murat Çekiç, General Secretary of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) Arzu Çerkezoğlu, Chamber of Architects head Eyüp Muhçu, Islamic scholar and the public face of the Anti-Capitalist Muslims group, İhsan Eliaçık, and actor Levent Üzümcü took the floor during the event. Speakers laid an emphasis on the generally anti-neoliberal motivations of the protests.

Çekiç said Turkish authorities had excessively violated human rights during the protests, and claimed that the authorities also violated a number of international conventions.

Üzümcü said: “The people in Gezi Park acted with their conscience. Police violence put an end to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, but it was police violence that triggered the Gezi movement. So was the prime minister’s desire to be everyone’s life coach. Maybe among you there are some who believed that Turkey was going toward democracy under the prime minister. But today, there’s a country that’s being polarized by its leader day by day” he said.

‘Shocking’ reaction

DİSK’s Çerkesoğlu recalled that the international community was shocked about the government’s reaction toward the Gezi protesters. “People of the world were convinced that Turkey was in a democratization process under AKP rule. But we, as the ones who are in a class struggle, experienced the AKP’s practices for 10 years. Some circles told stories about how the AKP was democratic while only 5 percent of workers could be a labor union members and one third of all workers were working without records,” she said.

“The angriness of its leader cannot be a pretext of the policies of the AKP. The AKP’s so-called economic success was realized with the applause of international circles. However, the uprising has shown that people could create their own future by themselves if they resist against this government, which has considerably lost its legitimacy,” Çerkezoğlu added.

Meanwhile, religious scholar Eliaçık denied government claims that there were anti-religious, pro-coup motives and “foreign powers” behind the protests, stressing that demonstrators acted in line with freedom, solidarity, social justice and anti-capitalism during the protests. “The people in Gezi Park had a dream. And that dream was not only for Turkey, but also for the world,” he said.

SI President Georgios Papandreou’s speech linked the Gezi protests to the economic crisis in Europe. “Responsible political parties” are necessary for a better functioning democracy, Papandreou said. “Our parties should be more inclusive and transparent. More people should participate in the decision making process. It should include new movements, such as the Gezi movement,” he said.

Papandreou added that socialism was still relevant, adding that democracy, human rights, social justice and seeking peaceful resolutions to problems are “the fundamentals of today’s socialism.”