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Gezi Park – What did we learn over a month?

Suddenly, a lot of things have happened in our lives, just as we were all getting ready for our hot Turkish summer lethargy.
Gezi Park Resistance

Suddenly, a lot of things have happened in our lives, just as we were all getting ready for our hot Turkish summer lethargy.

The environmentalist agenda that emerged with the Gezi Park protests evolved into a much broader political struggle after the initial first few days of the protests. Police brutality and the dismissive political arrogance of the government, only served to anger many thousands and bring them out onto the streets. In the process, a lot of stereotypes were broken and a lot of clichés were proven to be totally wrong.

We will continue to discuss and politically analyse the events, but there are already a lot of lessons learned from this complex, multi-dimensional, full of contradictions, full of Byzantine games – struggle, that started almost a month ago. These were both practical and political lessons.

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It seems the useless, selfish, individualistic 'çapulcu' youth, who are even incapable of tidying up their own rooms, were able to get together, get organized and collectively defend a public park.

Civilians, ordinary citizens weren’t afraid of the riot police and they could rise for democracy, freedom to protest and resist peacefully.

The big business media, as it is clear to all of us now, isn't really objective or independent. If they needed to they would ignore actual news and manufacture other fake news. A lot of people are asking now: “What must they have reported over the past 30 years?’’ What lies have we been told all this time?”  The analysis of why the media is as such, is still ongoing but people clearly see the media for what it is.

It looks like we have discovered the social media as a tool, useful for more than just sharing dinner table pictures. We also saw how many lies were being told on social media. We are learning how to filter these as the State is trying to create 'social criminals' from social media users.

Perhaps for the first time ever, we have realised the fact that two Muslims may be politically, completely on opposite sides. We have met Muslims in the protests that fought against a government run by Muslim people. We have also noticed that two Turks aren't always the same just because they are both Turks. We have seen Turks fighting against a government that is proud to be Turkish. We have seen Turks defending the rights of 'others' against attacks from some other Turks.

Our mothers seem to have changed too. They no longer said, “Don't be getting yourself into trouble, just study for your exams”. Instead they said, “Go on my child, your mother is with you”.

It is clear now that it is not always the 'terrorists' who get the tear gas and police batons.

People are questioning the State and authorities within the State. There is no more blind obedience, no more enforced respect out of fear. People demand transparency, openness and accountability from the political leaders and state officials, courts etc.  

It seems that a little bit of gas in your head gives way to brilliant creativity. From wall slogans to graffiti and political chants to songs, it is clear that being creative isn't the privileged occupation of 'certified' artists. It seems people also discovered the joy and humour of the revolt. A banner by the local county council advertising free circumcision has been written over with “Resist Pipi!’’ Another protester complains about not having any slogans : “Couldn't find any slogans”. Another one was not sure but wrote anyway: “Down with some things”. Some were more serious and focused: ''One Solution, Revolution''. Yes, down with some things, by marching, camping or just standing still wherever you can.

These days, neighbourhoods aren't just about polite “Good morning”, “Nice day”, “Good evening” passers-by greetings. They are about forums in local parks and squares, making every park Gezi Park, every square Taksim Square. People are arguing: “Elections, fine, bring it on, but we also want democracy between two elections”.

There is of course another dimension to all of this. At its core, environmental and pro-freedom and democracy movements are against neo-liberalism. The lines and boundaries may not always be clear or straightforward, but these movements ultimately put people and environment before profit.

In Turkey, the anti neo-liberal movement is surrounded by the Islamophobic, pro-army legacy of nationalism and the policies of the military coup-paranoid, evermore cocky politically arrogant AKP government.

While on one hand, the legacy of the army-state is slowly diminishing, on the other hand, the new status quo of AKP is rising. It is important to see the legacy of military coups gone, but it is also equally important to stop, with mass civil resistance, the anti-democratic, neo-liberal policies of the new regime.

This brings us to a wider analysis of the state; not just in terms of “hard” economic analysis but also in terms of democracy, human rights and freedom. While some of the nationalists taking part in the protests were attacking minorities, the police fighting the protesters were also attacking the very same minorities. While there was some racism in Gezi Park, there was also racism outside it.

A more civilized and green life will not be created by choosing between the military legacy and AKP’s status quo of neo-liberalism. Both of these are comfortably compliant with capitalism and therefore will not care about the people nor the environment.

While the AKP government wants to build a shopping centre in place of a public park, the nationalists praise one of the biggest capitalist families in the country for their stand against AKP.

While the nationalists call the army to duty to bring down the elected AKP government, AKP threatens the people to call the army onto the streets against the protesters. 

Nationalists call themselves “Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk's) soldiers'' and AKP threatens protesters with ''letting their own angry army of supporters onto the streets'' to fight the protesters.

Nationalists call the AKP government the loyal servant of imperialism while the AKP government calls the protesters the agents of foreign states and imperialism.

As the nationalists start to talk about the Arab Spring, which they had dismissed as backward and Islamic all this time, the AKP government that is supposed to support these uprisings, now calls them a dangerous movement, not required in Turkey. They both still don't get it.

Pro 'army-state' secularists once banned the headscarf in public, now the AKP wants to ban abortion.

There are many more examples one can give. Therefore, it is a progressive move to fight both the old legacy and the new status quo in the country.

Both sides have problems. Both sides are baffled with the 79% in Gezi Park who have no political affiliations and the 47% who don't have a political party they can vote for. They don't know what these people will do next or which direction their fight will go, and how these protests will affect the nationalism and AKP neo-liberalism in the country. AKP may lose supporters but the nationalists will not necessarily gain from their loss.  

This is why the nationalists are bombarding these people with pro-military sentiments to win them and the AKP government fires tear gas at them to show to their own supporters how strong they still are. 

It seems that the 79% don't like either of them. They are looking for something different, something that represents freedom, fight for civil democracy, environment and an alternative to the current imposed 'two-party' system.

Whatever happens from here on, nothing will be the same in the country. A lot of things have been learned and a lot of things are put into practice. It is a new beginning. There are many uncertainties and challenges ahead but people are trying new things and experimenting with true democracy and a ‘from the bottom up’ approach to build the future. All is not easy and definite. But people are hopeful, brave and their confidence is high, despite the hundreds arrested, thousands injured and 4 dead, despite the tear gas and water cannon attacks.

So, the park in Turkey is saved, for now.  The harvesting rights of national forests in Ireland are rescued from privatisation.  And in Brazil, millions are on the streets. These are the things that connect us everywhere. We learn from each others' struggle. 

Can all these really be just for a few trees or a few pennies? 

It is no wonder that everywhere states are becoming more and more violent... They seem to be traumatised, and they seem to be incapable of stopping people from protesting.  And this is where the tear gas and water cannons come into play. ''For the betterments of the Nation'' the rulers say. But we see them for what they are; clearly against the nation and against the people, in order to protect the wealthy.

Long live(!) the tear gas that brought millions onto the streets... And long live the people who take on the challenges to build a better life, a life for people before profit.

Our job is to work with the 79% of Gezi and build an alternative mass movement to confront oppression, racism, militarism and of course neo-liberalism.

Wherever we are there is these days, there is a Gezi Park, there is a struggle.

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