Echoes of GeziPosted: September 21, 2013
In Turkey a new wave of protest is spreading through the country. This time, it comes from the capital Ankara, in particular the campus of METU, the Middle Eastern Technical University.
The underlying motives for revolt are still the same. Resistance against savage capitalism and against a dictatorial style of government. Similar to Gezi, the direct stakes are a few hundred unsuspecting trees. Trees on the university campus, to make way for a road, as ordered by mayor Melih Gökçek.
Students at METU generally don’t like long time mayor Gökçek, and they like his party colleague Tayyip Erdogan even less. Plus, METU students have a reputation for being fierce warriors in battle.
Last December, Erdogan came to METU to monitor the launch of a Turkish military satellite built by the Chinese. He brought with him an army of 3000 police officers, 8 water cannons and dozens of ‘scorpions’ as a testimony to the students’ militant valour.
Although outnumbered three to one, a brave detachment of black-clad students clashed with riot police in the woods of the campus until late at night. At the costs of dozens of wounded, of whom one serious, they stood their ground until Erdogan was gone.
The regime struck back in the following days by rounding up the ‘leaders’, using anti-terror laws. A week later the students admitted that they had been rightfully demonized by the government press, and that they were, in fact, the root of all evil. Hundreds of students marched over the campus wearing masks of Darth Vader. The most malicious among them was carried by his fellow Vaders on a shield, right to the entrance of the campus, where the press was waiting for an evil statement.
The killing of the Kurds, the censorship of the press, the exploitation of the workers, the sell-out of public space for private gain, and more. For all these things he claimed responsibility, and for all these reasons, the METU students represented the embodiment of evil.
Let me tell you something about the stories surrounding the legendary Darth Vaders of METU. In the first few months of the Gezi uprising, they would go clashing with police every single night, on principle. The repression had been especially hard in the capital where authorities wanted to avoid insurgents from establishing an autonomous zone at all cost. Still, the Darth Vaders tried. Hell knows they tried.
Gradually the confrontation changed. It went from being about conquering a space, to just being there to be there, and to resist. Thousands of people, every night. On a rare occasion the cops wouldn’t show up. They’d be tired or something. Then the rebels would call the police. They’d say: “We’re here, you lazy bastards. Come and get us.” And they would keep calling until the cops finally came. Then tear gas and pepper water, rubber bullets, casualties, and chanting “Everywhere Taksim! Everywhere resistance!” Until late at night, when one or both parties would go home, and only the streamer would be left to film the smoldering barricades.
A few comrades from METU came to visit us at Kadıköy in July. And so I asked: “Why?” And one of them said: “What else can we do? We can’t give in. We must fight.”
Now the Ankara mayor tries to cut down trees right on the campus of METU. And what’s more, those trees were planted by the students themselves, many years ago. Like planting a dagger in the evil veins.
So METU rose up. That was two weeks ago. The resonance of the clashes in Ankara was nationwide, and when Ahmet Atakan was killed by a police officer in Antakya, it went out of control.
Not coincidentally, in Kadıköy there is another Gezi park situation going on. No trees this time, but the idea is the same. On the wave of the current real estate bubble in Turkey, the old train station in Kadıköy is to be transformed into a luxury hotel with a private pier. Not everyone is happy with that.
Today, as protests in solidarity with METU are flaring up again througout the country, people on the European side in Istanbul Istanbul had organized a Beşiktaş Tea Party. The idea was to take a thermos, come to the seaside, bring family and friends, and drink tea on the public pier.
Police arrived in full riot gear. There were tensions, but the people didn’t back down. They kept drinking their tea defiantly. Police hesitated. They didn’t know what to do. They made some arrests and retreated.
Before going after them to demand the immediate release of the detainees, the people finished their tea in triumph.
[edited on the basis of comment below]