I Beg Your Pardon Prime Minister

Turkish Ambassador, Dogukan Kucuksahin on the Turkish Protests including the views and experiences of Turkish Ambassadors: Nagehan Beypazar, Rasih Onur Suzen and Ezgi Karaagac.

 

Follow these Ambassadors on Twitter:

@dogukan_ISAWE

@nagehanzulal

 

Before you read the whole story, keep in mind that:

This is a wake-up call for Turkey.

This is a reaction to the implicit fascism raised in the last decade.

This is a fight to show that Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Prime Minister, not a sultan.

This is the rebellion of the Turkish nation to prevent any kind of antidemocratic enforcement.

 

On May 28, a peaceful protest started for Taksim Gezi Park, which is one of the few remaining green areas left at the heart of the heavily populated Turkish city of Istanbul. The government’s objective is to demolish the park, in the middle of the city, to create space for a new shopping mall based on the historical building that once existed there. Is that reasonable? In the beginning, a group of environmentalists started a legal, peaceful demonstration as indicated in our constitution: “Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission.”
 

There is so much evidence to prove that the people protested in a peaceful manner, such as a video, where the protestors offered to share their food with the police on duty. They talked and tried to convince them that it is their right to protect their trees.


On May 29, the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded to the protestors. What would you expect from a Prime Minister of a democratic country to say in this case? I would expect to hear something that would reduce the tension and indicate his understanding for the people’s concerns in the protests. However, that was not the case. Let me translate the crucial part of his speech: “No matter what you do. We have made the decision. We will apply it.”

 

On May 30, the tension increased during the night and the police started to interfere the next morning.

 

May 31 was the first day of protests for the thousands reacting against the government’s antidemocratic practices and the Prime Minister’s self-righteousness. That evening tens of thousands of people gathered in and around the park with the help of social media. In recent years it became a trait of the police to use teargas at the very beginning of almost every protest, they again did the same and used it in the early stages of this protest. However, teargas should have been the last resort.

 

On June 2nd, the interior minister stated that the protests spread to 48 cities, over 90 demonstrations took place and almost 1000 people were taken into custody.

 

Below you can read what One Young World Ambassadors have experienced on the streets.

 

“WE HOPE THAT THE GOVERNMENT TAKES STEPS TO STOP THIS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS”

Nagehan Beypazar on the collaboration between people, and the importance of the human rights.

 

“I was in Taksim Square on the 2nd of June to support the movement of Turkish people. There were no police in and around the area occupied by protestors. I witnessed how peaceful a protest can be when there are no police interfering. People from different cultural backgrounds, different political parties, different football teams were all singing and shouting slogans together. They were calling the government to resign. On one hand, some of the people were offering free food to the crowd and on the other hand, some other people were cleaning the protesting area. It was amazing and I had never seen Taksim so clean before! That atmosphere of solidarity was worth to see.

Unfortunately, late that evening, we heard that police had started attacking the protesters in Besiktas, another district of Istanbul near Taksim. In Taksim all mobile phone services were disabled making it difficult to get news from Besiktas. In the following hours, many people in Taksim moved to Besiktas to support the protestors over there.

The whole world should witness that the police are using teargas and water cannons to stop the protestors. Moreover the media is censored so that more than half of Turkey don’t know what’s really happening. Our Prime Minister, Erdogan, still ignores this violation. He is blaming the protestors and especially the main opposition party for all of the chaos. We hope that the government takes steps to stop this violation of human rights and let peoples voices be heard."

 

                               [[[image-0 medium]]]

                       (A woman resisting while being sprayed by water cannon)

 

“WE DON’T HAVE A SPECIFIC POLITICAL VIEW, THERE ARE PEOPLE FROM MANY DIFFERENT POLITICAL BACKGROUNDS”

Rasih Onur Suzen explains who the protestors are and describes one of the peaceful protests.

 

“The square and the park is still ours. We don’t have a specific political view, there are people from many different political backgrounds, there are people who are Turkish, Kurdish, Laz and other different ethnic roots, from different spiritual beliefs, from different sexual choices. Everybody cleans the park and streets, even after we clash with the policemen. We are passive protestors. If they attack, we throw their gas tubes back or exterminate them. We just stand our ground. Those effected by the gas move to the back of the crowd while those not effected replace those at the front. We are mainly young. If somebody tries to throw rocks at police or act violently, we stop them. Medical students help the injured people. Police agents interfere and try to aggravate and antagonise us.

In short, this is not the “Turkish Spring" like they initially called it in foreign media. This is not religious. This is not political. This is a call to the government to stop their compulsive management. We are going to protest until they change their behavior."

 

“I LEARNT FROM THE EAST, TO SHARE, TO BE A FAMILY AND TO RESPECT OTHERS BUT I ALSO LEARNT FROM THE WAST, TO COMPETE, TO ENJOY BEING INDEPENDENT AND TO BE EQUAL”

Ezgi Karaagac on representing both the east and the west of Turkey.

 

“I grew up in the east in a conservative family, where, during our religious festivals, men and women had meals separately. After I turned 17, I moved to Istanbul to study at university and I have been living here, in the heart of western Turkey, for five years. I confess that in the beginning it created confusion for me but I have learned to adapt. I adapted to be both eastern and western. I learnt to create my own perspective about ethics, about Islam and about my expectations from life. I am not the only one. In Turkey, so many people, especially the young ones are on the same path. I learnt from the east, to share, to be a family and to respect others but I also learnt from the west, to compete, to enjoy being independent and to be equal.

For Erdogan and his party’s activities in the last ten years, as all governments, there are good and bad parts of it. As an average person coming from an average income family, our quality of life has decreased in economic terms, which is common for the average income class of Turkey but in general terms, in Turkey's economy, I guess we can see some improvement but mainly for the high income class.

Journalists say that Turkey is “the world’s biggest prison for journalists," which is possibly true. I’m not sure about the situation in the rest of the world but in my country, media is one of the most corrupt fields. A current example is that people get interrogated about their Tweets on this protest. Ten years ago, we were able to see a different side of the news on different channels but today each and every TV channel repeats the same news with same words, like a parrot. On Friday night, when the protests started in Taksim, no live news about protests was broadcasted on any of our TV stations. Even CNN Turk (a Turkish sub-brand of CNN International) broadcasted a documentary about penguins and did not mention the protests at all."

 

As I am studying abroad, I asked my friends in Turkey to share their experiences. I believe that it’s very important to know what the Turkish citizens are experiencing on the streets. They rose to their feet to fight for their rights, for their existence, for their democracy. I feel awful that I cannot stand by my friends on the streets but I have a few words for them:

Resist my friends, resist! I am proud of you. You will appear in the pages of history.

 

“WE CANT HOLD THE 50% IN THEIR HOMES”

This menacing statement belongs to Prime Minister Erdogan, referring to the 50% of the Turkish citizens that voted for his party back in 2011. He was indicating that he has the power to create a civil war in Turkey if he wants to. I beg your pardon Prime Minister! Who do you think you are? That 50% didn’t vote to make you feel like a sultan! You have to show respect and consider the demands of the other 50% as well. If you continue to ignore these demands, these people will pull you down from your democratic ways.

It is not just the behavior of the Prime Minister that makes us rise. We are aware of the fact that the governmental bodies and even the media in Turkey are not free and therefore democracy is not working properly. However, what we expect from the international platforms is not to have an external intervention. We just want our voices to be heard by everyone. This might be the last train to catch.

It all started with a bunch of trees and let me conclude in the same way.

As our great poet Nazim Hikmet says:

 

                                                             “To live!

                                             Like a tree alone and free

                                           Like a forest in brotherhood

                                                  This yearning is ours”