Friday, May 31, 2013

Just one little tree.....

It's not much to look at really. Just another park in another big city, surrounded by roads full of dust in the summer and mud in the winter, and always stuffed with noise and fumes. It's not particularly large, or even really that green. If you're a tourist, you may not even realise it's there, as it's easy to pass by as you go to the Metro station or wait for a bus. But in a city where space is at a premium, where outdoor play facilities for children are rare and open spaces fewer still, it's a little green lung. This is Gezi Park in Taksim, Istanbul.

So why am I writing about it? Because, for the past couple of days, thousands of Istanbulites have been protesting there, trying to stop it being razed to the ground. And why is it being destroyed? To make way for yet another shopping mall. A shopping mall financed by leading members of the ruling AKP party, by people with eyes only for a profit. Right now, as I write, the police are attacking what has been a peaceful protest with tear gas grenades, pepper spray and rubber bullets. They are firing the pepper spray directly into people's faces. They have been firing the gas grenades into the metro station, where people not even involved in the protest, including children, have found themselves choking.

All for a few trees in a little park in a big city.

Of course, it's really about something much bigger: about the conflict in Turkey's soul between the aims and ideals of the secular republic and the Islamist desires of the government; about the endless struggle between civil liberties and libertarian greed; about the hunger for control and repression against the right to freedom of expression; It's about fights that take place every day between the over-mighty and the mass of people, all over the world.

This protest over this little park is just the latest act of unveiling the truth about a deeply ugly, authoritarian ruling party, run by billionaires who award business contracts to each other and leech the wealth out of an entire nation, who reward districts that have elected their MPs by channelling state money there while throttling aid to regions that dared vote differently, who censor, ban and imprison, who have a cavalier disregard for human rights, and who get away with it because the Turkish media has become a supine, discombobulated cheerer-on.

The only thing the AKP really worships, it seems, is the power of money.

But in a little park in a big city, surrounded by dust and noise, and right now filled with gas, tears and blood and protest, something, something is happening. The Turkish people have turned, and right now, they are saying 'Enough is ENOUGH'.

The thing is, one little tree is one little tree, but give it time, and it can become a whole forest.