Video of my talk on Gezi park protests

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I booked a short trip to Istanbul at the start of June because of a growing interest in the Ottoman Empire. Just after I booked the flight the cops launched the massive tear gas attack on Gezi park and so my holiday became a lot more activist than I intended including getting gassed on the first night and having an encounter with a secret policeman.

I should write up the whole thing when I have a moment* but for now here is a video of one of the two public talks I gave about the situation on my return. I also have also included the notes I used although they don't make a huge amount of sense without the accompanying images.

I gave the talk twice, firstly in Dublin and then in Cork. The video is from the Dublin meeting attended by about 60 people. For context my somewhat exasperated response to the lecture about fascism we received from the floor during the Q&A was in part because the guy giving it is one of the significant IST theoreticians, John Molyneux and I'd spent the last couple of months in a series of late night conversations with a friend about the damaging impact this sort of behaviour has on the sort of left we have created.

I'd a long argument / discussion with John about it in the pub afterwards, which was quite educational for me as a lot of his replies were the sort of thing I would have said a few years ago. I am going to try and write something around that topic in the near future although of late I've found my intention to writes far out weighs my delivery. (*In fact when I wrote the above I'd forgotten I had written a long account of the protests on my return!  You can read it at Tear Gas & Twitter in Taksim - an anarchist eyewitness analysis from Gezi Park, Istanbul )

Introduction to the video
Andrew, a member of Workers Solidarity Movement, gave  an eyewitness account with photos of the Gezi park protests and the state brutality against people in Istanbul, where he spent a week recently. Sevinc , an anarchist from Turkey,  gave details of the background of the struggle.

The video includes photos & video from Gezi park.    Recoded Thursday 27 June, 7.30 at Wynns hotel, Dublin 

My speakers notes

Tourism
- visiting Istanbul because of interest in history
- heard of some protest about trees being cut down
- as booking hotel heard of massive tear gassing of small group of protesters

First morning
- tourism way down
- Galata bridge, across Golden Horn from Taksim, none of tourists noticing smoke but hustlers were

Going to Taksim
- thought I'd go close to have a look
- kept going and got to square as demonstration arriving
- peaceful scene, hand holding + iPad photos (more later)
- not a cop in sight
- then tear gas fired all at once without warning into every bit of square
- intention is clearly to intimidate ordinary people from attending protests

Up Isalkal steet
Taksim major hub of city perhaps 3 times size of Stephens green and likewise located at one end of the major shopping street
- morning I arrived city workers already spraying off last nights graffiti, routine of trying to make things look normal

Hardware
A routine that met an obvious failure point when you enter square and see TOMA
Turkey has a lot of TOMA
Dye in water & later pepper spray
Drive fast at protesters resulting in injury and death

Routine violence
Tear gas canisters fired at protesters heads, hence the helmets
Lots of head injuries and at least a dozen people lost eyes.
Also plain clothes / secret police snatch squads
All serve to scare people away

Inside Gezi park
About 20% area of square
Explain map, political stalls, tents, meeting space, medical space & kitchens

Barricades
In terms of both mainstream and alternative media the focus has tended to be on the spectacular images. The tear gas, water cannon, barricades and now things like the 'Standing Man'.

When she heard I was coming over a Turkish friend whom I know from Zapatistas stuff in the 90's DMed me to say the real story was inside the park.

HUMOR
Being in a barricade park surrounded by hundreds of police with water cannon is as you might image a tense place to by.
All the more so when the cops are in the habit of firing off huge quantities of tear gas without warning
Humor is one traditional way people defuse tension

COST
The first of those two 'I was here' photo banners was in fact right beside this memorial to one of the protesters killed defending the park

Preparation
And all around the edges of the park are people keeping an eye out for a fresh police assault
Inside Gezi
Inside Gezi park looked very like any of the Occupies I visited - except there were a lot more people and a lot more tents
You had the multi-lingual signs reflecting an awareness of being part of an international movement and seeking to talk to it
You had the anonymous / Guy Falkes masks and banners
You had lots and lots of hand painted signs and banners
You had the Library - this picture is after it had already been destroyed by the police once if not twice
You had the little groups of people talking or as here playing music

Cops burnt this
You had the art stuff - this is just outside the park and when the cops stormed the park the next day they were photographed setting fire to it

You also had political groups being very visible
Revolutionary Anarchists
Feminists
but also traditional left, Kurdish left groups, Kermalist Turkish nationalist groups, LGBT groups etc

You had the football fans
Football shirts were common wear and like the nationalists there are certainly contradictions here, Sevinc may want to say more

Assemblies
Most importantly you had assemblies and meeting going on everywhere all the time
During the day it was mostly young people my friend told me were often 'skipping class'
In the evening it was an older post work crowd

Erdogan, populism + orientalism
Not going to say much about specifics of Turkish situation - leaving that to Sevinch
But two photos I do want to talk around
Erdogan big rally of 300,000 with populist conservative attacks, protesters were foreign agents who drank for 3 days in a Mosque and attacked women wearing head scarves
Reflecting an urban / rural old / young divide with rhetoric that we might have heard in 1980's Ireland from conservative polititicans and might here today
Other reason for this image is issue of Orientalism - traditional treatment of Turkey as 'the other' place separate from Europe where people are different etc
Rossport - could we have in Ireland a small enviromentmental protest being repressed by police and ignored by the media with the few mentions of protesters being weird sounding smear campaigns?

Social media
Hashtags were everywhere - a global tendancy
We saw that iPad earlier - people taking pictures of themselves with or on barricades with smartphones was constant
Presumably a lot were then being posted to social media as a public identification of that person with the much repressed protest that was underway - something we have seen many times now
Penguin meme as twitter overcame failure of media to report - so well know that it needed no explanation
Even the cops were keeping an eye on twitter
and I certainly was
Our own media broadcasting constantly from Gezi

WORDS: Andrew Flood (follow me on Twitter)

 

Comments

Andrew, I have to be honest

Andrew, I have to be honest after listening to the talk and the conversation in which John raised these points I have to say that I agree with much of what he pointed he out, but can see where sevinc is coming from also. Her basic point that 'oh your not from turkey or a women; or that I'm not having this discussion' I felt was a bit rude and doesn't wash with me. It's a bit like saying that you cannot oppose a particularly regime or for example the israeli occupation because you have not been to that country.

It reminds me a bit like students calling the police fascists because they are engaging in police violence. 'Fascism' is one of them words which is branded about too much, often losing its contexts and devaluing its meaning.

A couple of months ago I had a long discussion and disagreement with some republican friends who tried to say that ongoing selective internment was fascism.

We have to very careful about how we use such words especially in context of of horrific fascist regimes in the past and may require a proper article in itself. Sean M

I'd say we first have to be

I'd say we first have to be very careful that the way we perform doesn't create a left that is deeply unrepresentative and therefore very self limited.  That is the central problem the left in Ireland faces, the issue of what exactly we should call the AKP in Turkey is very secondary to that indeed (selective internment is a good deal more relevent than the nature of the AKP but also less relevent).

Perform?  By this I meant the huge tendency of the left to reproduce particular methods of political discussion that are very gendered and intellectualised.  Which leads to left meetings where discussion is dominated by older academically educated males sniping at each other about technicalities whose importance is mostly in that they are things to snipe about in order to prove the superiority of one person's intellectual knowledge and ability to express it over another.  The easy acceptancee we give to that particular type of performance create a very particular type of left centered around people of that type and people who can modify their behaviour to that type.  (I have no problem fitting into this at all and for most of my life have not only accepted it but unthinkingly reproduced it).

Perform?  Because this isn't the only way throgh which information can be exchanged and disagreements discussed and resolved.  Your standard lefty public meeting is a performance in exactly the same way as a play or a film or a gig is.  The performer takes the stage, works through an act and the audience is more or less entertained by the process and may clap or laugh to demonstrate this.  Except while the methods and plot lines of plays, gigs and films vary quite a lot and a lot of thought gets put into which ones to use, who that will attract and what impact it will have on the audience the left pretty much follows the same basic method and plot line over and over and over.  ( And again I've tended to fit into that and be part of its unthinking reproduction ).

Perform?  I'm using that particular term because a while back I read some of Gender Trouble which is a tough read (and hence so far unfinished) but one thing I keep thinking about as a result of reading it is the way gender is constructed through performance.  I read your comment Sean over breakfast and what I was thinking as I cycled to work was that the connection here is the way the gendered nature of the left is also constructed and reconstruced through the way we perform politics (actually not just the left but then 'we' are supposed to want to change this sort of thing so we should be more self-aware).  John is a little unfortunate here as his intervention just happened to be the first after I'd started giving a lot of thought to all this, it by no means is a particularly bad example, as he pointed out himself afterwards he is careful to be polites and avoid name calling. But still it is an example of a particular type of performance.

Sevinc is more than capable of speaking for herself but one final note.  At the time I said I thought John was technically right as to the AKP not being fascist.  But since I've been thinking that the question is a little deeper than it appears because the experperiece of Islamist organisations in power (of which the AKP is a soft example) is itself so gendered.  In her response Sevinc drew the distinction as to the impact Islamists would have on her as a secular women from a Muslim background.  That would be a very different impact to that on a western male from a christian background and in many respects does indeed reproduce the impact fascism had on the individual, which also tended to be very gendered. I'm not sure if this impacts the technical aspects of the description (something worth thinking about) but certainly we need to recognise who is doing the observing and who is being impacted.

Andrew, I understand where

Andrew, I understand where you are coming from completely agree regarding John trying to score a few political points in the first question, but he had a point. While I know sevinc and consider her a good comrade I still believe her response was a complete overkill and basically tried to shut any discussion about this down which was equally distructive. Unfortunately she never actually answered his point beyond saying that I'm a women from turkey so what gives you the right to disagree. I find this logic very problematic as I've already mentioned above.

Again, this reminds me of a discussion I had with an ex Israeli woman reservist last night in my room whose basic point was what the 'fuck would you know about Palestine and the Israeli occupation because you have not lived there' or that 'you don't know what it's like to live under terror attacks from gaza and suicide bombings blah blah...'

I also find it very problematic when sm of my Catalan and basque friends still continue to describe Spain as fascist. There is no doubt that there are still fascist elements in the state including the PP but the country has changed since Franco terror clearly...

I agree with you that there is of course a fascistic element in the Turkish regime especially during its years of military rule and genocide against the Kurds. Likewise the most radical aspect of Islam which is almost like a reincarnation of fascism under a religious embrella which sevinc should of explained better instead of closing down debate.

I'm glad you touched upon in your article because like you I was also a bit disturbed and bewildered by the debate but for very different reasons.

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