Taksim Square and #OccupyGezi: Of birds and bees, dogs and trees


The left-hand side of this photo shows peaceful protestors helping a dog who is suffering from pepper or tear spray – the right-hand image needs no caption. (Author of image unknown)

We have heard much about the peaceful protesters (a.k.a. “çapulcular“) who have gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square – and some about the non-peaceful protesters (who many postulate are actually police working undercover as protestors, and we agree based on photos we have seen as paranoid as that sounds). Much of what we have learned about what is happening has come from friends on Twitter.

Image of Istanbul dog in gas mask from Buzz Feed – click photo for link to original

As I scrolled through my Twitter feed the other night, I saw increasing numbers of reports from people living in the areas around Gezi Parkı – Taksim, Cihangir and Gümüşsuyu – about dead birds, bees, cats and dogs on the streets – apparently dead as a result of intense exposure to tear and/or pepper gas. Heartbreaking.

Perhaps as a result of Esma the hippie puppet’s Star Trek-like transport into the thick of the protests on the first day two weeks ago – and perhaps as a result of Esma herself being glued to my Twitter feed along with me, she has asked me to talk about the animals today.  Remember, Esma, the hippie puppet with a heart of idealistic and sometimes altruistic gold has a deep and sweet concern for all living beings.

Here is Esma, the hippie puppet - sans her usual rose petal dress - image from Karagoz.com

Here is Esma, the hippie puppet – sans her usual rose petal dress – image from Karagoz.com

When I awoke today, I noticed that the Esma had staged a sit in all around my head on the pillows – and had convinced all of the puppets to join her.  It is a rare show of unity among the rag-tag band of Karagöz Oyunlari who are known for their spats and indeed sometimes their puppet battles when differences between them erupt into whirling dervish swirls of mixed color and language.  So, the first words I heard this morning were a chorus of:

“hey hey, ho ho, NO blogs on animals have got to go!”

As soon as she saw that I was somewhat awake (which has relative meaning given the hardcore pain medicine I currently have to take while awaiting my next surgery) she began to read her proclamation.

“We, the unified and determined Karagöz Oyunlari demand that you, M’lady, write a blog post about the birds, the bees, the dogs and the trees over in Gezi Parkı and environs.  If you do not comply with this respectfully submitted demand, we will a) no longer deliver tea to you each morning in bed, b) no longer advise you on matters cross-cultural, c) no longer whisper the answers into your ears when you are struggling with Rosetta Stone Turkish and d) generally wreak havoc.”  

Well, I was in a position – but I reminded them that I would have written about the animals anyway.  I understood the birds, the bees and the dogs – but the trees? I was quick to be educated that Esma, you see, believes that trees are sentient beings, something I believe she learned after reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia and/or watching one too many Lord of the Rings movie on cable TV.  Who knows, maybe she is right.  In any case…let’s get on with it so the puppets will let me out of bed.

The trees in Gezi Parki were really the tip of the iceberg - or the straw that broke the camel's back about things a large segment of Turks were frustrated about.  Image source unknown.

The trees in Gezi Parki were really the tip of the iceberg – or the straw that broke the camel’s back about things a large segment of Turks were frustrated about. Image source unknown.

Let’s start backwards from how today’s post is ordered – let’s start with the trees – we have heard a lot about the trees in Gezi Parkı, of course.  They are the straw that broke the camel’s back vis-a-vis this spontaneous Turkish people‘s uprising.  There are relatively few trees in Gezi Parkı – and trees are a lovely commodity in a city with so few.  It is often the trees – or more correctly the lack of the trees – that get M. so steamed as we drive around Istanbul. Last year, as we took a taxi over to see his Aunt, Teyze B., he bemoaned all the areas that used to have trees while he was growing up.

“What kind of government allows such unchecked development – and I’m not talking about the gecekondu on the outskirts of the city – I’m talking about here, right here in the city.  I could NEVER live in this city again – the Istanbul that I know is lost.”

Image from the collection of Liz Cameron's M.

Two young Istanbullus playing in Gezi Park, circa 1962.  Image from the collection of Liz Cameron’s M.

This sentiment, perhaps, is a part of what brought those very quiet and almost invisible tears to his eyes the other day as he emerged from rummaging around in the basement with a cherished photo of Gezi Parkı, where he was playing with his brother in a toy airplane – in roughly 1962 or so.  That Prime Minister Erdogan would just wipe out one of the few remaining parks in the city, well, it was just too much.  Too much for M.  Too much for Esma.  Too much for the Istanbullus – and indeed too much for the people of the Turkish Cumhurriyet.

Karagoz was quicker than my Turkish economist friend in checking out the Prime Minister's math - he says "483 trees per day, 24-7 for 365 days for each of 11 years? (Image by Liz Cameron)

Karagoz was quicker than my Turkish economist friend in checking out the Prime Minister’s math – he says “483 trees per day, 24-7 for 365 days for each of 11 years? (Image by Liz Cameron)

What has been perhaps most humorous about the whole tree issue in these protests are the responses from the Prime Minister himself.  He keeps insisting that over the last 11 years, his party has planted 2 billion trees across Turkey.  As a Turkish economist friend quickly calculated, this is quite a statement (see Karagöz’ photo with the calculations here).  As much as I hate to admit it, I do have to point out that one of my favorite agent provocateurs over in Okcular, Turkiye, environmentalist activist extraordinaire HAS reported on major tree planting efforts in some areas…so in an effort to be balanced, there you go.

A protestor and his beloved dog resting in Gezi Park between, presumably, peace attacks.

A protestor and his beloved dog resting in Gezi Park between, presumably, peace attacks. (Source unknown)

Well, let’s move on to the dogs. When I began spending time in Turkey, ten years ago, I saw many stray dogs – and few dogs as pets.  I have noticed an increase in dogs as pets as the years have gone by.  While many expats in Turkey have championed the cause of caring for street animals (thank you Ayak’s Turkish Delight who led me to this organization, Far from the Sticks and Adventures in Ankara), what many may not know is that Istanbul does quite well, these days anyway, with tagging stray dogs for annual vaccinations – and many feed the dogs on a daily basis. It may not be Blue Ribbon dog food – but they are being fed.


Image of dog cursing “son of a bitch Tayyip” from Buzzfeed

As we have watched recent events unfold in Turkey, I had not thought much about the dogs – but as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last night, I came across a friend’s post about a Veterinarian near the Italian Hospital who was remaining open to treat dogs hurt by the 19 hours worth of tear gas that the Istanbul police let fly on Wednesday night.  As people in love with our own beloved rescue dog, the images we have seen of dogs in and around Taksim Square and Gezi Parkı have broken our heart – and we include some of those images here. In general, we hope that the dogs have had the good sense to run as far as possible from the gassed area – and that they will be alright.  (Esma the hippie puppet emits an empathetic moan at this sentence).

Collage image of dogs in Gezi Parki from One News UK (click link for source)

Well, that leads us to the bees.  I am sure that there are not many bees in Istanbul, given the lack of flowers and trees (see lack of tree rant, above).  We do know that there is an international bee emergency – and that much of what is sold as honey in Turkey and worldwide has been found to have little to no pollen in it…instead replaced with the dreaded corn syrup.  We are sure any bees left in Taksim are dead anyway.

Author of this image is unknown.

Author of this image is unknown.

…and that leads us to the birds…and the FB posting that made me start crying today – of a dumpster full of dead birds in and around Taksim Square and Gezi Parkı in Istanbul, Turkey – dead as a result of excessive tear and pepper gas bombing over the last two weeks. I’m not sure M. would be as bereft about the birds as he would be about the trees.  As a child, it was always the Istanbullu pigeons that made his father aware of all the daily wrongdoings he had done before getting a punishment.  Still.  What of the chain of life?  As The Archers of Okcular reminded us on FB today, there was a reason that the Geneva Convention banned the use of gas on people. 😦

Well, now that I near the end of today’s rant – the puppets are slowly making their way off the sit-in bed and heading out to get some cay brewing.  Esma kisses my hand and places it on her forehead (something Turks with manners do to honor an elder) and says “Thank you, M’lady. May this current Turkish crisis end soon.  May the animals return.  May the Turkish environmental movement flourish more than it already is – and Namaste.”

(And to my dear friends who have encouraged me not to be such an obsessive perfectionist in favor of health, I have left mistakes in this post in the form of not putting all of the proper Turkish characters where they should be because I am just too sick – and because the point I want to get across has been made – and because this is just good ENOUGH.)
This entry was posted in On Islam and Muslims, Turkish Controversies, Turkish-American Matters, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Taksim Square and #OccupyGezi: Of birds and bees, dogs and trees

  1. mbrovelli says:

    This saddens and sickens me. Thank you for showing this, as terrible and heartbreaking as it is. It needs to be known.

  2. You express yourself very well. Thank you for speaking out, and spreading an awareness about aspects of this situation that people might not have thought about. It is creating many ripples that touch many more lives than one might think.

  3. lizcameron says:

    Thank you so much for stopping by the blog – and for leaving this comment. I also can’t help but imagine the impact this will have on tens of thousands of people in Turkey that have been exposed to these gases as well! Best wishes to you and yours for a more peaceful world.

  4. lizcameron says:

    Naomi you are so kind in your comment, that is very much appreciated. I do believe in doing something and this is what I can do right now. I think you’re right – this is creating many ripples that touch many more lives than one might think – I find that this particular article gets that point across for people who don’t know much about Turkey – There is a wonderfully intelligent and passionate Turkish politician named Şafak Pavey Who wrote on this in a way that you might be interested in:


    Best, Liz

  5. Alan says:

    . . the rebellion has spread it seems! Keep on trukkin’ dear friend and tell those unruly puppets that I’ll confiscate their sticks if they fall down on the care 🙂

  6. lizcameron says:

    Thanks, Alan. Those unruly puppets have been reading archers for too long now – they are embracing the socialist revolution. But don’t worry, they’re still keeping up with the care. Xo

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