The Teargas Revolution

I can see a growing interest from the rest of the world regarding the anti government (i.e. anti Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan) demonstrations in Turkey.  But the real perplexing thing for us Turks is that the demonstrations have mobilised a previously numb and apolitical fraction of the society.

Teargas Girl in Red

This Is How It All Started
(photo from

There have been excellent short pieces (an optimistic one from The Economist here, and a good one from Facebook user Fleur O. Van Wijck here) written already talking about the events and have been widely circulated among the Twitterati, so I won’t go into explaining the whys and hows but I’d like to answer a few questions that have so far been left untouched.

Watercannon in Istanbul

¨We’re Talking About Unchecked Agression Here Dude¨ – The Big Lebowski – (photo from

Is this a Turkish Spring?  How is it similar to different from the demonstrations all around the autocratic leader laden MENA?  

To me the biggest similarity between the Turkish demonstrations and last year’s events is that they are also:

  • Supported by all the classes of the society (except the majority of the islamists) and the fuel that feeds the fire comes from the well educated and both globally/locally connected middle and upper middle class.  This reminds me of Egypt and even Iran in 1979.
  • The people want more democracy and freedom as well as a fair representation.  The magnitude is different but the essence is the same.
  • There is no leader and there hasn’t been a pre-planned event, actions are taken by the few and snowball later to the others.
  • Social networking is the main source of communication among the protesters.


Protestors Crossing The Bridge To The European Side On Foot, A Feat Last Done By Bono With Special Permission From The PM – (photo from

The differences are:

  • The demonstrations are against a politically elected government led forcefully by one man, the PM Tayyip Erdoğan and not a dictator against the masses
  • So far there have not been any skirmishes among the people.  It’s the people vs. the police only and the people are a monolithic group who have put aside their ideological differences for the time being.
  • The government has not taken steps to hinder access to social networking sites contrary to rumours circulating.
  • Part of the local anger is directed at the conglomerates of the local media companies who have turned a blind eye to the events after immense and repeated pressure from the government.  Most of the reporting is done through independent TV stations and citizen journalism over the internet.
  • The demonstrators are very peaceful and the protests are in a celebratory atmosphere unless provoked by the police with excessive force.  The main square was cleaned up after the demonstrations – which I believe is quite unique and needless to say makes me proud.
  • The demonstrations are not limited to Istanbul.  There are copycat demonstrations all over the country (in 75 districts to be exact) and the reaction from the police forces also happens to be similar (more than 3000 people arrested as of June 3rd).

Istanbul Taksim Dervish

One Of The More Colourful Protestors
(photo from @AkinUnver)

Where do I stand?
The short answer: I believe in a democracy where citizens don’t just vote every 5 years but also participate during the years in between while actions affecting everyone are taken by those with the legitimate power.  The summer is an opportunity to move in that direction. There are also risks to move in the wrong direction, which the country needs to control.

Protesters Cleaning Up

Taksim Square Gezi Park Protestors Cleaning Up
(photo from

What would be my demands if they asked me (not that anyone is asking)?

  • All those in custody should be let free.
  • The police forces should withdraw and let the people do their walking and talking in peace.
  • There should be resignations to show that the excessive use of force is acknowledged by the authorities.  This would also make sure that such decisions are not taken lightly so in the future.
  • There should be plans for a governance reform leading the way to civil participation, especially for decisions affecting the daily lives of citizens.

Canisters From Gezi

Multiple Uses of Teargas Canisters (photo from

This is a test for our relatively young democracy, my fingers are crossed.

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