Stony Brook's GSEU Business Agent, Selin Gonen, is one of many Stony Brook TAs who come from Turkey. She is currently located in Turkey for the summer, and has written a piece for us about her reflections on the protests in Gezi Park:
Today is the 17th day of the protests in Gezi Park, Istanbul, Turkey. Everyday we’ve been waiting for the Prime Minister of Turkey to react sensitively to our concerns. And I did not want to write before I saw the slightest signal of hope. However, our resistance is still continuing without any understanding from the government. Although I started my writing in a pessimistic way, I would like to tell you a nice, inspiring story, which I’ve been personally experiencing…
So, Gezi Park is a very beautiful, green park in the middle of Taksim, the most popular neighborhood of Istanbul. It is actually the only green area in Taksim. And Gezi Park is also historically important. When a couple of environmentalists found out that the Gezi Park will be destroyed and a mall will be built instead, they wanted to protect the park and started a protest there. However, this small group of people were attacked very harshly by the police, in particular by very strong pepper spray, water (not pure water, mixed with chemicals!) and police cops (with heavy sticks) from a very small distance. Once this happened, hundreds of thousands of people started coming to the park and supporting the protests. It was not a matter of a couple of trees anymore, which by itself is already very important, but it turned into a matter of human rights. Very young people and women were attacked. A woman was dragged and beaten by a group of policemen! A couple of people died (we don’t know exactly how many), a student lost his eye, many people got injured, and so on. This huge crowd of protestors was a shock for the government because Turkey, like most countries, has many different groups of people who have different political and religious views, who have different ethnic origins. However, when our human rights were violated, these huge differences evaporated so fast that I would honestly never expect it to happen, at least not in Turkey. Then the protests were spread all around, not only in different cities of TURKEY, but also in the US and Europe. So now the whole world is witnessing an amazing solidarity among humans. Regardless of whether they voted for the prime minister or not, they are there, they are there to say, “Enough!” You won’t believe this but none of this was announced in the media, none of the TV channels said a word! Turkey is a democratic country and, yes, the prime minister was elected with a strong percentage of votes, but we should all understand that, in this century, democracy can not only mean the majority of votes. Leaders have to be responsive to the needs and concerns of ALL the citizens, talk to them, understand them and try to find a solution. However, what we’ve been subject to is an imposition of restrictions. Restrictions have been placed on abortion, alcohol, media, communication and now even on green public areas. But this is not a world of dictatorship anymore; this is a world where the opinions of everybody have to be valued and taken seriously. Otherwise there will be chaos; there will be injuries, deaths of innocent, educated, bright people. And unfortunately, more and more people are getting injured, taken to courts because they are brave enough to protect their rights, because they have personality, because they are communicating through social media like Facebook and Twitter. Do you think all this violence changed the mind of Turkish citizens? Of course, not! Fearless people are still protesting, sleeping in the parks, and peacefully continuing to express their concerns. And media, surprisingly, started reflecting the facts finally!
I am so proud to see once again that solidarity and believing are the most valuable treasures we have! No matter who we are, despite which religious/political/ethnic groups that we belong to, as long as we are united we can change this world eventually.
If you'd like to discuss this piece with the author and/or with our GSEU community, find us on facebook at "GSEU Stony Brook," or email us at SBUGSEU@gmail.com!