The REAL Turkish March

[We do not want] a coup again. This has to stay as a people’s movement. We are against the dictatorship of Erdogan and the government, [and] we don’t need the army’s weapons to succeed

First, I want to apologize for going silent for so long. I was busy finishing up classes and preparing to return home (which I did on May 19). Although my Turkish march has ended and there is nothing more to write about in keeping with this blog’s purpose, it should be obvious that my silence is no longer possible to maintain and that a much larger and more far-reaching Turkish march is in progress. That is the long march for freedom and participatory democracy.

I am going to try to provide more updates as things happen, but for now I can say that the protests appear to be active across most of the country (90 protests in 50 cities, according to one Turkish friend based in Ankara, which is experiencing police repression as I write this), and the center of Taksim Square, the heart of Istanbul, is currently being occupied by protesters. This means that for the time being the people control the public (Gezi) park that Prime Minister Erdogan and his administration want to turn into a shopping mall at the expense of the area’s last green space. You can read a good summary of the context here. Recent reports put the arrest total around 1,000 with dozens of injuries and possibly a few deaths as well. Although Erdogan may not resemble Mubarak and Ben Ali in the eyes of many commentators, this mass uprising is already being referred to as the ‘Turkish Spring.’

Almost every Turkish person I know is involved or has already been gassed by the police, who overreacted to the peaceful takeover of the park a few days ago with a military-style show of force. One friend today fell in the streets of Eskisehir, a city in central Anatolia, after being sprayed for the second time in two days and had to be helped up by fellow protesters and splashed in the face with milk to stop the burning.

He and others (including reports on CNN) are saying that “orange gas” or Agent Orange is being used against protesters. This is a bizarre development given that Agent Orange was produced as a defoliant by the U.S. mega-corporation Monzanto, and although it was notoriously used in Vietnam by the U.S. military, causing birth defects, food crop destruction, and massive environmental devastation, it was not used directly against people — as far as I know at least. With all the hoopla about possible chemical weapon use in Syria, I never thought I would see reports of chemical weapons being used across the border by the Turkish police.

While the outcome is far from predictable, I encourage those in the United States and elsewhere to embrace the people of Turkey in their struggle for human rights and not view this as an issue of ‘Islamists vs. secular nationalists,’ which is far too simplistic and absurd to anyone close to the issue. For those unfamiliar with Turkish politics, the former group is associated with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) while the latter traces its roots to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first president of the Republic of Turkey and the man credited with its independence in 1922 (through military means — which have also been used three times since to maintain the status quo domestically in the form of coups detat). As my recently teargassed friend and classmate put it: “[We do not want] a coup again. This has to stay as a people’s movement. We are against the dictatorship of Erdogan and the government, [and] we don’t need the army’s weapons to succeed.”

comandante nilayprotests by cityturkey protests 2013

Please SPREAD THE WORD! The government is trying to silence the people by blocking cell phone access and the internet. Break the blockade!



  1. Sami Aras said,

    June 2, 2013 at 3:28 am

    well done my friend!

  2. Michael said,

    June 2, 2013 at 5:26 am

    Excellent article Matt! Just a quick note: Agent Orange was shipped in orange containers but was not itself orange, and modern security grade pepper spray is often orange. So I am guessing the reports are confusing the two, and the government is using pepper spray only. This is bad enough, of course. I’m now seeing reports that several people have been blinded for life fromdirect/over exposure.

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