For the past twelve hours, we (me, occasionally M. who can barely stand it, and the entire Karagoz puppet troupe that inhabits my head during this cross-cultural marriage) have been glued to the Internet in order to understand what we can of the exceptionally brutal crackdown on the Gezi Parkı protesters in Istanbul – and of course on the many protesters around Turkey whose stories are not being covered.
We have seen the EU Turkish Minister explain that all who go to Taksim Square/Gezi Parkı will be treated as “terrorists.” Hacivad Bey the Sufi elder puppet lets out a distinctive sigh of shock at this statement.
We have seen photos and live feed of children, elders and families engaging in peaceful protest in Gezi Parkı. Soon after, we heard reports of police warnings amplified over the crowd, suggesting that children and elders leave the park, as it was about to be cleared. The protesters resisted by chanting slogans back at the police. Esma the hippie puppet chants along with them whenever we can get a live feed.
We have seen a sudden police action circa 8 p.m. involving water canons laced with chemicals from the TOMA (Panzers) and yet again scads of tear gas. We have seen photos and videos of people writhing in pain, people vomiting, people with great red welts, horrified children who cannot breathe and their terrified parents. We have seen great clouds of tear and/or pepper and/or vomit gas hovering over most of the city – even miles from Taksim Square. Even Karagoz, the oppositional trickster cannot speak about this.
We have seen protestors taking cover in the Divan Hotel, a fancy hotel where in the past, I often stopped to buy fistikli lokum - they make the best in the city – for my father, who loved it. We usually had a glass of Çay on the terrace before we left. We have seen that hotel turn itself into a shelter for protestors – and into a voluntary infirmary. We have seen police fire tear or pepper gas into that hotel – and to storm that hotel. Now, at 5 a.m. Istanbul time, we see those peaceful protestors sleeping on the carpet in the lobby of that hotel – afraid to leave as the police have threatened to arrest all who do so. Zenne, the nervous nelly like a glass of quivering quince jelly puppet, wrings her hands in anxiety at this.
We have seen the TOMA (Panzers) shoot the same chemical-laced water on people attempting to enter Istanbul’s Aleman Hastanesi (German Hospital), thwarting their attempts to obtain help. Celebi, the modern lover puppet, can only cover his eyes.
We have seen M.’s home street, Sıraselviler Caddesi bombarded with tear gas, bashed up by anarchist protestors – the lunatic fringe perhaps – still trying to fight the police. (Archers of Okcular, I welcome debate/opinion on that one). The chorus of little dancing ladies begin banging their pots and pans again at this.
We have seen increased protest, arrests and fighting and resistance to police brutality in M.’s 80 year-old Aunt’s neighborhood, Şişli and so many other areas. So far, she is fine, she has lived through a lot, but we are still worried about her. Kenne, the Queen of Manners, demands that we call her at 5 a.m. her time to make sure she is safe, but M. nixes this idea and hopes that she is sleeping.
We have telephoned, Facebooked, Tweeted and Skyped friends who express the same range of emotions – devastation, anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, anxiety – and in the end, resilience.
In the last conversation of the night, I asked my very dear friend about her day. Mostly, she said, it was punctuated by fear about not knowing the location of one of her three sons for too many hours. When I asked her whether people buying her (truly delicious) Börek at one of her Börek Online franchises (still open and ready for business) she said “yes, business was good.” Continuing, I asked whether her customers spoke of what was going on – she stopped and thought. I watched her face for a while on our fuzzy Skype connection as silent but long deep tears appeared to slide down her face. She was tired, but more sad than tired. Finally, she said “no, we didn’t, we have to keep it like normal. We have to pretend like normal, or we go crazy.”
At this, the whole troupe of Karagoz puppets weep.
And while it is not normal to experience any of the horrors described above (Börek excluded), our only wish tonight is for the people of Turkey to find their inner resilience and to keep on going as they seek to find some balance and some peace between all parties.
And just when I thought that I could not look at Twitter one more time tonight or my heart would break, I did, and I began to see reports and photographs from trusted friends of thousands of people crossing from the Asian side of Istanbul, across one of the city’s two continent-spanning bridges, to support the protestors in Taksim.
And with that, the puppets begin a never-ending whisper of a chat as we try to sleep – #DirenTurkiye!
- People raising (nilgunaydoganphoto.wordpress.com)
- Turkey’s genuine Occupy movement. Happening right now in Gezi Parkı, Taksim, İstanbul #DirenGeziParkı | Erkan Saka (snuproject.wordpress.com)
- turkiye is heaven and hell all at once (mayawitnesses.wordpress.com)
- Chapullists in London greet the Science, Industry and Technology Minister of Turkey (translatingtaksim.wordpress.com)
- turkiye is heaven and hell all at once (turkiyeisnow.wordpress.com)
- Live stream: Turkish police renew assault on Gezi Park protesters (legalinsurrection.com)
- Turkish protestors start ‘chapulling’ craze (cbc.ca)
- OccupyGezi Call to Action! June 8th & 9th! (bayareaintifada.wordpress.com)
- Ozgur Uckan: 7 Outrageous Photos of Turkish Protesters Being Hit with Tear Gas and Water Cannons – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic #DirenGeziParkı #OccupyTaksim (theatlantic.com)
- Gezi Park protesters vow ‘struggle will continue’ (timesofisrael.com)