Letter from Taksim

16 June 2013

I am at Kazanci Yokusu, Istanbul at the moment. Istanbul lived and is living through hell today. We have coughing fits from tear gas even when we are sitting at home. The ‘boos’ from the houses echo in the street when the polices passes by. They empty the bottles of solution [against teargas] that were left for the protesters. They photograph people looking from their windows, and the photos of the apartments.

Phone doesn’t stop ringing: ‘polis is here or there, careful, we’ve been gassed, going back home’. Everyone is worried for each other’s life. Phone doesn’t stop ringing: ‘can we come to yours? We are desparate’.

We are in Istanbul.

We live this right now.

A group attacked the CHP building in Sishane [reports that it’s been controlled came later].

A group wielding sticks and chanting Allah’s name is walking around Taksim. People are saying there will be large number of arrests and sporting arenas are prepared for this.

 

**Last week**

My heart is beating and my eyes are watering. I’m scared, hopeful and exited, but I’m very happy at Gezi. Very. On the first day, we went outside just to have a look. Nothing was like what we heard on the Internet. There were barricades, placards, photos, crowds and chanting everywhere. We looked around like idiots, and we spent our whole day at home or at Gezi.

But on Monday, I was terrified. That day was the first day the police entered the square. The protestors though, of course, that they were safe behind barricades. But when the police began removing them and pushing past, I was absolutely terrified. Our masks and helmets were on and we took our positions on the road to the hospital. Shortly after a siren called for the road to be opened for a wounded protester. As they wheeled the protester on a stretcher past me, I had to bring myself to realise that this was real.

I immediately looked around for my husband. He was close to me, (but I don’t think the helmet suited him that well). While attempting to get people of the hospital road, he comes and kisses me once in a while. After that, everything’s fine. Shortly afterwards another wounded protestor is wheeled past – this time a child screaming “slowly!”, and again I bring myself to realise that this is real.

But just as I was beginning to get terrified again, people with packages walk past, calling for whoever is hungry to take sandwiches or water. Any place left open in our human chain is almost immediately filled, and with a mobile phone in everyone’s hand, people begin to tell their experiences in the protests. An announcement that 5,000 people from the Gazi district were coming to Taksim drew vigorous applause. We shout “everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance!” as loud as we can, receiving frequent calls for protestors to take their children and leave.

On Wednesday, we were there for the whole day. In the morning we delivered aid packages to the Gezi protestors. There were several trucks and cars coming to aid as well. Incoming aid did not stop until the evening. In order to transport the packages, human chains were formed and the Divan Hotel car park was full of supplies. The people worked together as if they were friends for years. People offer to take the place of tired protestors, while others offer cigarettes. Meanwhile 500 meters away the police stare at us. What are they thinking? My husband has since become a ringleader of the protest efforts, giving himself and others who had nothing to do useful jobs. I then realised again just why I fell in love with my husband in the first place.

On that day my mother also came with us. A group of protestors who had set up a tent told us, “we’ve set this up for you. It’s raining, don’t get wet.” I cried and cried. My mother took her helmet home as a souvenir and kept calling me until night.

Yesterday, Gezi was both crowded and tense following a rumour that the police would pull off a struggle in the early morning. A 50 year old woman came to me while collecting litter, and told me, “I’m sorry. Since I have children and a job, I can only be here until 11 in the night. Then I leave you alone with the police. I’m very remorseful and I don’t stop thinking about you.” I cried and cried again. Several parents were at the protests too. They carried placards reading, “We’ve come to protect the children you failed to protect.”

A tweet on Twitter also saddened everyone, “My mother is probably at Gezi too, on a leaf of a tree.” We lit candles to remember those who died at the protest and listened to a German pianist with our eyes shut. “Please,” I thought, “please don’t let this dream finish, the only place I feel secure is at Gezi.” We had forgotten and missed our virtues which should have always been present. We had nothing to tell about our generation, but now we had a whole story to tell.

We always knew what Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was trying to do, and we were happy that finally people had woken up and opened their eyes. It wasn’t going to be easy. He was never going to leave his sultanate or his power, but at least the Prime Minister can now see that we are not as alone as we had previously thought we were. Don’t watch Erdoğan’s speeches and get depressed, listen to Vedat the drummer from the Çarşı group, for example. Or perhaps this video of the Beyoğlu Municipal Mayor (AKP) can provide some humour: http://webtv.hurriyet.com.tr/20/50797/23498712/1/beyoglu-belediye-baskani-na-taksim-gezi-parki-sorusu-sorulunca.aspx

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