The Turkish Gezi resistance movement against the Islamic -Fascist AKP government has become a phenomenon internationally. This movement has germinated among the millennials which include anyone born after 1990, initially starting as a protest against the government’s decision to tear down a small park called Gezi adjacent to central Taksim Square. A larger resistance movement has then been formed in reaction to the use of police force against urban activists, quickly evolving into a classic study in civil disobedience. The Gezi movement has brought together many oppressed minorities working in collaboration and equality to come up with a grassroots system to further their anti-oppression agenda. Gezi Park, before it was evacuated on June 15th by the government forces with tear gas bombs, physical violence and pressured acid water, had turned into a celebratory summer-camp for self-taught democracy for university students, communists, the LGBT community, feminists, Armenians, Kurds, trade unions even doctors and engineering organizations- all keeping guard to protect the park from government tear down.
The day after their forceful evacuation of Gezi, the #Standingman and #standingwoman protest was started by a Turkish dancer who merely stood in the square, spread into popular “standings” by all in the Taksim Square as well as all over the country, including in places where police victims were killed in Taxim and the capital Ankara.
Next, organized by the decentralized resistance movement, forums have sprung in more than a dozen parks through Istanbul. Locals, including children, grandparents, resistance movement participants, students and small business owners attend these forums to speak about their views and ideas for two minutes. Contributions are then recorded and published online. These outdoor town halls are well moderated and are helping the population gain courage, confidence and most importantly, leadership skills. By providing a basis for constructive social engagement, they are also helping build a needed foundation for unity, collaboration self-organization.
It’s like Turkey’s timid and apolitical population has morphed overnight into a democratic power base with it’s authentic voice, led by the youth and is constraining the Erdogan dictatorship at every turn while exposing to the rest of the world the oppressive tendencies of the 10 year AKP regime.
The resistance movement has caught many by surprise both in and outside of Turkey: Older generations in Turkey are shocked by the courage and efficiency of it’s youth and skill. As revealed in conversations with older opposition party leaders, academics and top business people, the initial reaction is one of overall support mixed with disbelief, quickly followed by skepticism: “The movement needs a leader”. I have witnessed naive attempts to even think through viable candidates to find someone palatable to the millenials but with “more experience” (older). While this is well intentioned, it is unnecessary: The resistance derives much more power with the all inclusive and decentralized structure it has adopted. Once a leadership is identified, it is likely to face risk of oppressive targeting and dispersing by the AKP regime. The resistance movement, as a whole, is better equipped to craft a strategy in collaboration when compared to the limited ability of an individual or a smaller committee. In addition, it would be premature to limit the leadership potential of the movement at early stages when the first objective needs to be public inclusion and education in order to help build a large power base.
The government of Turkey is the second contingency who has been caught short by the resistance movement: Erdogan’s reaction to each new innovative form of civil disobedience has been completely erroneous, responding to peaceful protests with violence. Police officers, whose id numbers, which appear on their helmets, was concealed. AKP has prohibited the media channels they control (which is most of the newspapers, channels in Turkey) from covering the protest movement, and fining independent Halk TV for their uncensored coverage with a pretext of showing cigarette smoking. During the June 22nd riots in Turkey, Halk TV cameras were attacked by the police and while the pro-government NTV channel’s reporter was on live TV talking about the lack of violence and use of chemicals for public control, they started coughing due to tear gas.
The third contingency surprised and unprepared against the movement is the international community: While Claudia Roth of the German Green Party traveled to Turkey and experienced the police violence first hand, US President Obama, a “close friend” of AKP’s Erdogan, by self admission, has to date failed to issue a statement condemning the use of police violence against peaceful protestors. The US nod to the resistance movement would have been a keen foreign policy move for several reasons: Domestically, such a statement would espouse the democratic values of the USA, and from a foreign policy stand-point, a “moral investment” in the future decision making body in the new Turkish government would constitute a wise decision for purposes of future collaboration. Sadly, it appears that the US foreign policy strategists have not internalized the lessons of 9-11 and the Arab Spring and will wait until a regime change instead of keeping their hand of the pulse of the popular consent.
Despite miscalculations by the older generations in Turkey, the oppressive regime and the international community, the resistance movement forges ahead to help develop not one but multiple natural leaders in the long run, while establishing as powerful an influencing base of power as possible. The resistance movement has become a force to drive change bottom up: Ethnic and religious minorities function together with tolerance but in equality. The resistance is clearly the new guard for anyone who suffers from government oppression, gender or ethnic discrimination or does not want to live in, or bring their children up in a third world nation under control of outsiders. That’s most of Turkey right now.
The level of skill required to undertake a successful civil disobedience movement is what’s required to run Turkey. The movement does not have to be understood at this stage by all domestic and international contingencies in order to produce it’s own natural leaders and path.