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June 11, 2013

Turkish People “Awakened” by Protests, Say Students

Demonstrations have now spread across Turkey for two straight weeks, with people of all walks of life protesting what they see as an increasingly autocratic government.

Nazenin and Naz, two Turkish high schoolers, have witnessed the protests first-hand in their home city of Istanbul, and see them as a major turning point for the Turkish people.

Peaceful protesters in Istanbul's Gezi Park. Via Flickr user Ian Usher

Young protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Via Flickr user Ian Usher

ISTANBUL — On the day of May 31, an anti-government protester took another’s hand and helped him to stand up no matter what his political view, race, or religion was.

Turkey, where I live, has become a so-called democratic republic where the government responds to citizens who are exercising the right of freedom of thought with tear gas. And there is a tragic fact that the anti-government protesters are protecting themselves from the police whereas the police forces are supposed to protect the citizens.

The protests had started when the government declared that they were going to turn the Gezi Park, one of the last green urban spaces in Istanbul, into a shopping mall. However, the only reason for the Taksim protests is not the Gezi Park. Gezi Park is only a catalyst.

Nazenin, Istanbul, Turkey

Nazenin, Istanbul, Turkey

Although the current government has been successful in terms of economic development, health and education, half of the population disagrees with the non-democratic and intolerant implementations such as the restriction of alcohol and the foreign policies.

The reason of the social reactions against the ruling party is fear. Apart from the Turks, minorities in Turkey also worry because they havefaced great oppressions and persecutions in history such as Alevis, Kurds, and non-Muslim groups. They are afraid that they might encounter such injustices again.

Why is it a turning point in Turkey’s History?

Turkey is a country that has major long-running conflicts between people with different world views. On the day of protests, people gathered in Taksim and became one despite those differences in thought. As a high school student, I find this an inspirational example of solidarity.

Twitter: The New Informative Media of Turkey’s Protesters

As the citizens of Turkey, we are angry with the leading newspapers and TV channels that were closing their ears to the loud slogans of the mistreated protesters.

Twitter, a social network, has become the online newspaper of the citizens, especially the young population. They communicated and reported the situation of Taksim by tweeting. Students from schools all around Istanbul, including my high school, set a date via Twitter and marched to Taksim Square where the protests were proceeding.

Even if the protests settle down in couple of weeks, something significant has awakened in people, and I think it doesn’t look as it’s going to disappear easily.

Nazenin is a 16-year-old sophomore at Robert College (a high school) in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Protests In Turkey: Youth in Action

ISTANBUL – The awakening of a country’s youth was never via a few tweets before. With the help of social media, the “Y” generation of Turkey, considered apolitical and distracted, came out of their shell, and they have something to tell the world.

Starting out with only an environmental protest against the removal of Gezi Park (one of the few green spaces in the city center), the excessive use of force by the police, in order to disperse the crowd, has caused hundred of people to rush out on the streets. Soon the protests turned into riots, spreading around Turkey, including many major cities.

Naz, Istanbul, Turkey

Naz, Istanbul, Turkey

The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, identifies them as “a small marginal group”, the media pretends that they’re not even there and yet they are the ones who keep getting injured. Who are these people? They are anybody, and everybody.

I was on the streets with these protestors and they were people you would see every day. There were medical students who created temporary clinics to help the injured, pharmacists who gave away free medicine, football fans who stood in front of the police barricade united so that the tear gas affected mostly them and not the crowd behind them.

The old lady who yelled at the protestors when they were kids not to play ball in the middle of the street, now yelled at the police not to hurt these innocent kids.

For the past few days, ordinary citizens were on the streets. For what? Their freedom of speech, and right to assemble which are taken away by the government, which is supposed to be democratic.

Despite the efforts of various political parties, which included themselves in the crowd, the protestors refuse to be identified with any political movement. They have tasted freedom, and they hope to enjoy it if it ever becomes available in their country.

The scars on our bodies, whether from a beating we got from the police or from a tear bas bomb blowing up in our faces, will always remind us of how it felt to say what we feel. I believe, it’s safe to say that this generation won’t go home before they get what they want.

Naz is an 18-year-old junior at Robert College (a high school) in Istanbul, Turkey.

H/T Emre Şarbak

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