A couple of trees could have been saved if just the Turkish youth had fought for them, but millions chose to fight for something else, something much greater through the help of the trees at Taksim Gezi Park: Democracy, Trust and Solidarity. At the very beginning of the Gezi Park protests, it was only a couple of naive youngsters sitting around the park trying to keep it from being destroyed. Then suddenly millions joined. Why? Because the people saw something more was worth fighting for in this country, because they knew that if those trees were destroyed, that wouldn’t be the end of the story; many more would follow. It was the last straw for the people to obey choices dictated by others.
Everyone had a part in this resistance. Women and children supported by the noise from kettles and pots and switching the lights off every night at 9:00 pm. Mothers and fathers bringing gas masks and fresh clothes for the kids who were in need for kindness after standing up to the police. People brought medicine and food from their homes to share at the camps they were setting up at Gezi Park. Children carrying milk to the wounded people from all around the world. They made a massive library from broken tiles and sidewalks near the road. People did not fear of anything at Taksim Gezi Park because people gathered with love and respect for each other, basically creating a peaceful magical world they wanted to live in, inside the walls of a park.
The protestors were shocked at the extreme force used by the police. First, it started with high pressured water, pepper spray squirted on people or pepper spray bombs thrown at crowds, followed by plastic bullets, all quite disproportional to women in their red dresses with canvas bags and men in their rock t-shirts and boks and guitars, standing up for what they believe in. People outside the country may identify Turkey with many things but it definitely should not be with cruelty and violence. This was one of the biggest reasons why 2,5 million people ended up on the streets to help their friends’ protest.
The rebellious acts are a sign of a democratic, open and a free country, showing that the youth of Turkey cares for their values. They prepared millions of banners, trying to give the message with a smart, humorous and a sarcastic tone. The protestors of Taksim Gezi Park and their determined speeches and slogans show the world how well the education system in Turkey works. They showed the world a brighter side of Turkey existed with these posters and banners by using wonderful creativity.
As much as Gezi Park is located in Istanbul, and the resistance started there, many other cities all around Turkey stood up to the government and protested on the streets. Adana, Konya, Tunceli, Mersin, Muğla, Marmaris, İzmit, İzmir, Ankara, etc. The social media like Facebook and Twitter was the biggest help for people to know everything before the police. The networks, full with pages the protestors prepared eased the way the protestors from aroun the country to keep in touch with people they don’t know, and help each other to escape from the brutality of the police. Although at times the social media was shut down for unknown reasons, no one gave up. The officials did not realize that when you shut down the social media, it doesn’t mean it becomes extinct. It means our quickly adabtive and tech-savy youth will come up with another way of communicating and this won’t stop them.
What’s interesting is that Turks weren’t always fond of differences among people. There have been times when they have been prejudiced against people with different religions, ethnicities, sexual choices, or even sports teams. But we saw the end of this discriminant behavior at Gezi Park protests. We saw things we never thought we would see on the streets of Turkey, the multi colored people, the Turkish flags carried by foreigners, gay communities, veiled and unveiled women, people wearing different uniforms of soccer teams known for their cut throat competition, all side by side, protesting the repressive, artless and disrespectful language. They were pulling each other out of the gas and fire, pulling each other into the homes of strangers, huddling into the lobbies of hotels, squirting water on the unknown eyes and skin poached red with burns. They were like a sudden family, healing their wound and yet continuing on with the baffling strength of each other, realizing that there is no reason why different people can’t be friends. The lesson was very well explained to us by a young girl: “I am a part of this revolution to fight for my rights of being a woman wearing a head scarf, but I am also part of it to fight for my friends’ rights who do not think like me and their rights of not being covered.”.
The movements and acts of Turkey as many witnessed are part of a much greater will for a democratic open society. It is the youth of Turkey who started this trend – an d they continue on to fight for their cause – but if millions had not joined. if all the country had not resisted, if the diversity of people had not been there, then perhaps the youth might have just saved a couple of trees. A couple of trees that would only provide our generation a cool shade. But no, the protests were the voice of many more. The resistance might not be over yet but we won an irreplaceable realization of true democracy, trust and solidarity.