[Spanish translation here]
Istanbul, June 25
It’s pride week in Istanbul, and this time the term pride has a double meaning. On the one hand, the LGBT folk are proud to be queer, and on the other hand, after their heroic stand against police, the rest of us are proud to have them among us. Last Monday, the week kicked off with a good vibe and a swinging march through Istiklal Street. It was only a rehearsal. The big parade will be next Sunday.
Yesterday, indignation spread through Turkey as the man who killed Ethem Sarısülük with a real bullet was released, pending trial. The judge only needed a week to establish that the police officer in question acted within the ‘limits of self defense’.
It’s a dangerous precedent, because if the killer goes unpunished it may pave the way for a police officer’s ‘license to kill’. But it’s just as dangerous if you look at it from the other side. If a cop can fire at an unarmed protester and get away with it, then what should a protester be allowed to do to protect himself from police?
“The water cannon tried to spray me, your honour. It was only in self defense that I blew it up with a bazooka.” Or: “They were firing tear gas at us, your honour. So it was perfectly legitimate for us to shell them with mortars.”
These things are not going to work. Police can have good reasons to disperse a crowd, and a crowd can have better reasons to disperse police. Both sides can employ a series of escalating measures to achieve this objective. But there’s no point in killing each other. That’s not fair.
If you do, you have to respond for it. As a protester, and as a police officer. But there is a difference. A protester is a free agent, whereas a cop acts on orders. This means that in the interest of discipline a commanding officer should bear responsibility for the behaviour of his troops. If one of them acts with disproportionate force, then the commanding officer will have to be punished to the same extent as his subordinate. You kill someone, you go to jail. And your commander with you. This could go all the way to the top. If the prime minister willfully orders a violent crackdown, he will have to be held accountable for all ensuing damage inflicted upon his own citizens.
After the decision to release the officer was announced, the local popular assemblies immediately organised a series of demonstrations. We went to stream the one in Kadıköy, where thousands of people marched from their home base in Yoğurtçu Park to the centre of the district and back.
It was good, it was loud, and the whole district played its part. Those who didn’t march and chant, banged their pots and pans from the windows. Those who were sitting in the bars applauded as we paraded by. The cars honked, the drivers raised their fingers in sign of V for victory.
“Kadıköy don’t sleep! Come down and take freedom into your own hands!” people chanted. And much more. “Rebellion! Revolution! Freedom!” To police: “Take off your gear and we will see who is the strongest!” And, one of my favourites: “A thousand greetings to Madrid, Athens, Tahrir and Brazil!”
Upon return to the park, people gathered in general assembly. The whole place is under permanent community occupation. There were two free bars – franchises of the original ‘Çalpulçu Cafe from Gezi Park – one library, a supply centre, an exposition and an art corner. After the GA, the Coordination group of about a hundred people met on the playground to discuss the demonstration and future events. Today, again, there will be protest marches in all of Turkey.
Napoleon reportedly said that if the world were one single state, Constantinople, the city of two continents, would be its capital. In these days, it truly feels that we are the centre. All around us, the world is rising up. From the Far East to the New World. Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Bulgaria, Brazil, Paraguay. The first wave of revolt in 2011 was mainly limited to the western world. Now the movement is expanding into a #GlobalRevolution.
So be prepared. Soon, this show will come your way. It’s the biggest show you’ve ever seen. And you yourself are going to be the star! You’re going to love it, I can tell you. There’s nothing like revolution.
I could write something amazing about this, and call it ‘the tragic story of a second rate porn star’. It’s about my roommate. It really is tragic.
He told a me bit about the scene, about the characters that dominate this world. The actors/directors/producers who made it big. Like Rocco Sifredi, the ‘Italian stallion’, and Riccardo Schicchi, the godfather of porn. There’s a few more. And there’s the girls of course. Most famous is Cicciolina, a Hungarian born girl who got voted into the Italian parliament, as member of the ‘Love Party’ somewhere in the 90s.
Until a few years ago, this business was big. Just outside of Budapest there is an enormous porn castle, actually just a warehouse, where many European producers come to shoot. It’s divided into different sets. An office, a bathroom with jacuzzi, a living room with fireplace, a kitchen, hospital room, even a bedroom.
Yesterday, my roommate had a gig, he had to play doctor and patient with a French girl. Many of the girls are from the East, Russia, barely adult. They get coked up before the scene and fucked in all imaginable holes for 500 euro.
After having heard all this, by contrast, my other roommate took me to a queer-feminist hideout, called ‘KLIT’. I must say I was afraid that the ladies might bite, but they were actually very kind. They told me a bit about the current political situation here.
It may sound familiar. In Hungary, one single party controls enough seats in parliament to change the constitution at will. The party is conservative and nationalist, it’s called Fidesz. After one and a half years of preparation, they left a heavy party-political mark on the nation’s democratic institutions with a vote on Monday.
The power of the constitutional court will be limited, the family is officially defined as father, mother and kids, leaving no room for gay marriage. Poverty and homelessness will be outlawed. Political propaganda will be limited to the state television. There will be restrictions for university graduates who want to emigrate.
Aside from all this, the girls at the feminist cove also said that right wing groups have been targeting immigrants and gypsies in the country side, as well as gays and lesbians in the cities.
People in Hungary and abroad have been critciizing the changes in the constitution and demonstrating against them, especially the students. But it seems that even the student movement itself is infiltrated by the nationalists.
Another feature of the new constitution is the limitation of free speech where it touches ‘the dignity of the Hungarian nation’.
Like in Turkey. It’s typical for nations with an inferiority complex to feel the need to punish people who insult or poke fun of the national identity.
So at the risk of having the secret police pounding on my door, I will say that the Hungarians, like the rest of us, are bastards. Their culture is a mix of Turkish, Germanic and Slavic influences. It’s a country of barbarians, a river valley that used to be Atilla’s base camp when he ravaged Europe with his horde of wild Huns. After Atilla came the Magyars, the Hungarians proper, who ravaged Europe again, in a similar way. Then came the Mongols. You can still vaguely see their traits in the faces on the street.
The Hungarian language is incomprehensible to anyone else in Europe, except maybe the Finns. Their nation would later be absorbed by the Ottomans, then the Austrians. During the revolutionary year 1848 the liberals rose up against their overlord, the Habsburg emperor, a feat that was celebrated here last Friday.
The revolution was ultimately crushed with the help of the Russians. As part of the Habsburg empire, Hungary was on the losing side in WW1, and saw many of its countrymen fall outside its shrunken borders after the humiliating peace. As a nazi satellite, Hungary was also on the losing side in WW2. It was invaded by Soviets and rose up once more, unsuccessfully, in 1956.
Finally the country embraced liberal capitalism. So you see the same familiar brands you encounter in the rest of the world. You also see people sleeping in the streets and looking through the trash.
And now, by law, Hungarians are special. And their dignity not to be tread upon.
Many people fear that the Fidesz party is installing a dictatorship. Even from Brussels, EU leaders openly voice their concerns. And all I could think was: why have I never heard these concerns when Berlusconi made a mockery of the Italian justice system?
At the cove of KLIT, there was a small exhibition about the history of feminism in Hungary. Mostly photo’s, not much English. The first woman laureate, the first woman doctor, the first woman pilot etc. There was one image in particular that struck me, dated 4 December 1956.
Six weeks earlier the Hungarian revolution had swept away the communist government. It looked like the country might break away from the Eastern bloc.
For Moscow, this was a problem. The Soviet Union had been morally bankrupt since Stalin’s purges in the 1930s, but now Khrushchev had started a process of destalinization, maybe even reform. The Hungarian revolution forced him to make a decision. If he allowed Budapest to go its own way, then all the other satellites would likely rise up as well, and maybe even the Soviet republics.
So finally, he ordered the Red army to invade Hungary. By November 10th, the uprising had been crushed. The arrests and the persecutions would go on for a long time after that.
So what struck me in the photo, was the sight of these Hungarian women, mothers and daughters, who braved the Russian soldiers a month after the crackdown. They waved Hungarian flags, without the red star. They marched in silence, first to the Hero’s Square, then to the American embassy.
Famous Hungarian poet Endre Ady once said that Hungary is like a ferry boat, it goes back and forth from East to West.