Monday, July 01, 2013

A long walk...

Well, it appears that the world's media has turned its incessantly spectacle-hungry eye away from Turkey, but that doesn't mean that it's still not happening. In fact, there have been protests pretty much non-stop for over the past month, while the AKP has sought to criminalise and threaten everyone left, right and centre, all the while losing face and credibility with the rest of the world.
The shrill tone coming out of Ankara smacks of Grand Guignol - everybody is at fault, it's all the work of Foreign Powers and the Interest Rate Lobby (?? No, me neither), everyone who isn't AKP is some kind of baby-eating atheist - in fact, the more one listens, the more you can hear the petulant squealing of Violet Elizabeth Bott: 'I'm going to thcream and THCREAM until I'm THICK...'
an AKP spokesperson, threatening to scream until they're sick.

It would be amusing if it weren't for the fact that people are not only being threatened with violence, but actually having it meted out, too. A Turkish BBC journalist was denounced as a 'traitor' and 'foreign agent', and started getting death threats; A man was stabbed to death by a man saying 'We are Erdogan's slaves'; An Erasmus student was held illegally for being present during the Gezi protests, then deported; and all the while, the state sifts through millions of tweets and Facebook messages, vowing to hunt down and prosecute the 'ringleaders'. What they haven't really understood is that this is a movement that doesn't have leaders per se, and so it's not something that can be cut to size by targeting a few individuals.
And what is happening while the witch hunt continues? The protests go on, and on, and on. They widen, and take on different issues. Yesterday there was a LGBT parade through the middle of Taksim, to which many people who had never given a thought to gender and sexuality issues flocked. The day before that, there were protests against the shooting of villagers in Lice. There have been standing protests, lying protests, reading protests, and it seems that half of Turkey has woken up to the fact that each and every person has the right to a voice, and that there are issues that should and must be spoken about.
Looking at it from the outside, as I must (and trying to avoid writing this like yet another Analysis Of Turkish Stuff), it seems that the protests have now entered a new phase. The cries of anger and dismay that were so much a part of the initial few weeks on social media have quietened somewhat, but have been replaced by thoughtful, thought-provoking and really quite marvellous challenging of assumptions. But still continuing is the fantastic humour and occasionally genuinely staggering and moving art being produced in huge volumes. The people seem to be finding each and every way possible of expressing their thoughts and feelings, and that, ultimately, can only be a good thing.
The AKP and the police thought they could use force to snuff out the little sapling of protest that they found in Gezi park; Instead, they have only fed something that has spread its boughs and leaves across the whole nation.Maybe it will take time to reach fruition, but my feeling is that these summer months will shape Turkey's future for a very, very long time to come.
Creative Review: the Art of the Turkish Protests