Turkey protests: Squaring up in the name of solidarity

 

Among the many who have protested in and around Taksim Square over the past weeks, some have made a longer journey than others.

While some Turkish living abroad have been following the protests on rolling news and through social media, a large number have returned to join them.

Yaman Zencirci, a 31-year-old musician, is one of them. He was in Rotterdam, where he is a student, when the protests broke out.

“I was watching videos of peaceful protests broken up with violence from police. We started organising protests there, but it came to a point when we needed to do more,” he said. “In the Netherlands it is easy to protest; here it is not.

“I couldn’t sleep for a while. I realised that this is a very important time for my country, and so decided to come here to join the protests. Around 15 of my friends who were abroad have also come back.”

The same is true of many others among the protesters, the majority of whom are from middle-class backgrounds.

Social media have played a large part in galvanising the protesters here in Taksim Square. A loose coalition of activists calling themselves Taksim Solidarity have set up a website, Twitter account and Facebook page, in both English and Turkish. Through these media they have shared videos and pictures of the protests and ensuing crackdown in the hope of bringing more people to the square.

When the protests first began, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, singled out  Twitter as a reason why the protests had spread.

“Now we have a menace that is called Twitter,” he told reporters on 2 June. “The best example of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

Despite Mr Erdogan’s ire for the social-media site, activists appear to be using it to their advantage.

Selva, a 45-year-old communications specialist, said she was demonstrating to fill in for her daughter until she could return from Europe, where she is studying.

“She can’t wait to come back. She has been following it all on the internet and says she will come as soon as she can.”

Another demonstrator, who did not want to be named, returned with her husband, who came to cover the protests as a journalist.

“I just wanted to show my solidarity. My husband was coming too so I had an excuse, but I wanted to be here myself.”

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