#Solidarity

June 28. Kadıköy demo in solidarity with Kurdistan, via @WashingtonPoint

June 28. Kadıköy demo in solidarity with Kurdistan, via @WashingtonPoint

[Spanish translation here]

Istanbul, June 29

Dear people,

The two biggest popular forums in Istanbul are Beşiktaş and Kadıköy. They host thousands of people every day. The former is a point of reference for the European side of the city, the latter for the Asian side. Both are apparently very distinct in nature, like all the districts of Istanbul. Beşiktaş is left wing with a tendency towards anarchism. Kadıköy is mixed, leaning towards nationalism. Other districts, like Üsküdar are more islamist. But the distinctions don’t end here. Some neighbourhoods are dominated by cats, some by dogs. They don’t mix. The cats have the upper hand.

One thing that people from all the districts have in common is that they love to march and chant. Last Tuesday, we walked together with a few dozen people from Üsküdar to Yoğurtçu Parkı, home of the popular forum of Kadıköy. We again voiced our displeasure with the release of the police officer who killed Ethem Sarısülük. Upon arrival, people took the streets for yet another spontaneous march, applauded by the local population.

Popular Forum in Üsküdar.

Popular Forum in Üsküdar.

On Thursday we marched with the people of Beşiktaş, from their home base in Abbasağa Parkı to the television studio of ATV private media group, to protest against the lies that were spread by one of the company’s newspapers. They had insinuated that Ethem Sarısülük had burned a Turkish flag, as if to say that he deserved what happened to him. Two nights in a row, thousands marched. And when they returned, they continued their daily business of making revolution as if it were a normal day’s work.

Yoğurtçu Parkı is very much into community building. Abbasağa Parkı is much more politically focused, and evolving fast. Since the last time we were there, the list of working groups had almost doubled. There was a map at the entrance of the park to indicate where the working groups were meeting. There were three Çapulcu cafes. A new wing had been added to the Resistance Museum. The park has its own newspaper now. A commission had been founded for internal coordination between the working groups, and external coordination between the parks. An international commission was about to be founded.

We speak with two girls from the coordination desk. Their English, like that of most people we meet, is impeccable. Their revolutionary enthusiasm is boundless, their ambitions are huge, and growing bigger by the day. What started off with a few trees in Gezi Park, quickly turned into an uprising against the dictatorship of Tayyip Erdogan. Now it’s not even about him anymore. He is not important. He and his gang will be swept away. What people are working on, day after day, is a revolution in the most literal sense of the word. A change from top-down politics to politics from the bottom up.

Symbols of resistance at Abbasağa Parkı.

Symbols of resistance at Abbasağa Parkı.

What pleasantly surprises me is that the Turks are not repeating the errors of the Spanish indignados or the Occupy movement. In almost all of the Spanish occupations, decisions were taken by the General Assembly on the basis of consensus. To make it work, people wasted a lot of energy in defining the assembly’s methodology. In practice, this resulted in endless bullshit. And even if people finally agreed on something, it was usually what the Austrians call ‘Sitzfleischkonsensus’: those who can bear the bullshit long enough take the decisions. Which is just another form of top-down politics.

Zuccotti Park was similar, but with a twist. The Trojan horse of Occupy Wall Street was the money. After the NYCGA got flooded with donations, something changed. It was bitter irony. In the end, the General Assemblies in Liberty Square were not about revolutionary politics any more. They had become vulgar discussions about the allocation of funds for outlandish projects.

The Turks do their own thing. They don’t accept donations and they don’t accept the authority of the General Assembly. In fact, they don’t even call it an assembly. It’s an open Forum, where everybody can voice their grievances and their ideas. Decisions are made directly in the working groups, by the people who actively participate. The Murcia model.

We speak with a few nationalist Turks. They acknowledge the differences. But for them, the most important thing is not the way of organization, it’s the act of resistance. ‘Direniş’. In the West, authorities more or less willingly allowed the occupations to happen. Not here. To be able to start their revolution, people had to fight, hard, for days in a row. They had to win. And they did. They beat the police and took the square by force. They destroyed the myth of the authority’s invincibility. They proved that ultimately the only true authority resides with the people. And hell, they have reason to be proud of it.

Map of Abbasağa Parkı.

Map of Abbasağa Parkı.

Next we speak to a lawyer. He emphasizes how this is a movement in which the working class and the middle class stand shoulder to shoulder. For freedom, against bigotry, against the influence of the big multinationals. He adds that many Muslims are sympathetic to the movement because they don’t consider Erdogan to be a true believer, for one basic reason. In Islamic culture it is forbidden to charge interest, which is exactly what keeps the banking system afloat. Erdogan’s leniency towards big business makes him not only an enemy of the working class and the middle class shop owners, but of Allah himself.

Yesterday, again, was a day for the history books. In Lice, Turkish Kurdistan, there was a demonstration against the enlargement of the local police station. And when Kurds are involved, authorities don’t only use their standard remedies, like tear gas and water cannons. No, they fire real bullets. One person got killed, ten got injured. As a reaction, all over the country, people took the streets in solidarity with the Kurds. Everybody. Also the nationalists. Also the people who used to oppose the peace process in favour of all-out war.

Something like this has never been witnessed before. It was unimaginable. People with Turkish flags and images of Atatürk shouting slogans in Kurdish, a language that used to be banned until very recently. Maybe the government tried to split the movement with their repression of Kurdish ‘terrorists’, but if they did, they accomplished the opposite.

Now, finally, there can be peace in Turkey. Not because of the government’s geopolitical interests in the Middle East, but because the people themselves are making peace. They are realising that the Kurds or any other group are not the enemy. If there is an enemy, it’s he who tries to divide us, who slanders us, who brutalizes us, who orders force to be used against peaceful citizens.

These tricks no longer work. At Occupy Gezi, something has fundamentally changed. We have looked each other in the eye. We have recognized each other. We have come to understand two simple things. Without adjectives, without distinctions, we are the people. And as such, we have the power.

Beşiktaş Forum. Via @15MBCN_int.

Beşiktaş Forum. Via @15MBCN_int.

Kadıköy demo in solidarity with Kurdistan, June 28. id.

Kadıköy demo in solidarity with Kurdistan, June 28. id.

Kadıköy model at Yoğurtçu Parkı.

Kadıköy model at Yoğurtçu Parkı.

Updated list of working groups at Abbasağa Parkı, June 27.

Updated list of working groups at Abbasağa Parkı, June 27.

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4 Comments on “#Solidarity”

  1. Grecu says:

    I too was in Abbasaga park, on the 28th. For me, as a Romanian, it was very pleasing to see how these forums really work and really produce change, even if it is at a local level, or at a psychological one. I have learnt a lot, even if I didn’t understand anything that has been discussed there. I think that at least the forum parts, this I can take back home with me, in Romania, where we are already experimenting with consensus decision making, plenary meetings and working/discussion groups (in informal groups, at a 2 week student occupation…)

    • James says:

      Great letter, though not knowing your blog I don’t know who wrote it?
      Good stuff Grecu. A word of warning and consensus – it can work well in small groups with focussed goal. I don’t think it works well in big groups – or not without significant modification. This might interest you: Occupy LSX Debrief Part 2: Your consensus decision-making sucks a lot sometimes http://withtheresistance.com/occupy-lsx-debrief-part-2/

  2. Thank you for writing this up. Great work. I tweeted it.


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