An Urgent Letter from Turkey
To my American Friends and Brothers and Sisters in Struggle:
If you have been following the news about Turkey ın your country, you are likely more aware of what is happening than the majority of the Turkish population.
For the last 48 hours, the police in my country have used excessive – even deadly – force on peaceful civilians. The impetus of the demonstration was to try to protect Gezi Park in Taksim. If you don’t know Turkey, Taksim is the very old and beautiful part of Istanbul, a part that dates back to the Ottoman times. Gezi Park is the last green space in the area. Our Government decided to build a Shopping Mall in the park and the demonstrators – the original ones – were trying to protect this green space.
It was at this point that the police moved in to disperse the crowd of perhaps 100 people. Using water cannon, some new and very strong form of tear gas, and brute force, they tried to remove the demonstrators. It was at this point, in the face of such brutality, that the demonstration became about more than green space.
Turkey is considered by many – certainly President Obama – as a moderate Islamic country, an example to the rest of the world.
We, who live here, do not consider our country to be so, at least not now.
Although modern Turkey was founded to be secular, and while we grew up in a culture that was tolerant of differences, this is no longer the case. Women were elected to leadership positions in Turkey before this happened in the USA, and until now religion was not considered a tool for politics. Our grandfathers went to mosques to pray, but also drank Raki with their friends and generally didn’t judge others for their lifestyle. Until the election of the present government, Islam was not our defining identity.
What the USA and Europe see as a strong government, a good example of a predominantly Muslim nation as a shining beacon to Middle East and a growing economy, we – those on the ground, those today being gassed, beaten and killed – see our journalists imprisoned, our army dispersed, and a government that is singlehandedly altering our secular constitution to serve their religious purpose. A purpose that is slowly taking away our freedoms.
Last night after a day of struggle and many injuries, Taksim was cleared of the police. The people in Gezi Park celebrate our revolutionary act: to stand in the face of a violent police department and a government that appears to prize development, even stupid and ecologically destructive development, over everything else.
The protests moved to other cities yesterday and today – Ankara, Izmir and Adana – major cities in which protests are ongoing. While we in Istanbul, in Taksim, are celebrating as if there were a festival, police in our other cities are shooting people with tear gas and water cannon.
My brothers and sisters, our people, your people, in Ankara, Adana and Izmir are in need of help. The police are gassing civilian houses, party buildings and even mobile hospitals. While we try to organize medical care with social media, our national media – with the exception of one TV station, HALK-TV – has been silent. The only way we can report our struggle is through the words we share here, and by social media.
A nation has been aroused. The initial aim of saving some trees and a green space has turned into a revolutionary act: To save freedom.
We need your help.
Call the Turkish Embassy. Tell them you are angered by this police behavior. Civilized people discuss their differences. Civilized nations and governments do not kill their children.
Send letters to President Obama, telling him that this is wrong, that our Prime Minister is not a moderate.
Talk to your friends.
Remember the words of Martin Niemoller:
“When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”
We are all Turks, we are all Americans. We are all one people. Those on the streets are not the Turks or the Muslims or the Liberals. They are the Turkish people, attempting to reclaim their identity: an identity that is secular and united.
To live like a tree, as one, and like a forest as a nation (inspired by Nazim Hikmet).
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