Ziya Meral writes: Much has been and will be written about why and how a small and peaceful protest in Taksim Square’s Gezi Park evolved into a large social eruption. Relatively little has been said about what this might mean politically, socially, economically and diplomatically in the near future.
No matter from which political angle one looks at the events we have seen in Turkey over the past days, it is clear that one of the biggest problems in Turkey is our weak democratic culture. We have problems in handling different opinions, lifestyles, beliefs and political views and expressing ourselves, compromising, negotiating and reconciling.
Soon, there will be healthy calls for accountability and justice over how the police and authorities and, in some cases, protesters have conducted themselves and how the government handled this process. All of these are necessary, but if we want to see a lasting impact of what we have experienced last week and if we want to learn lessons from it as a nation beyond our usual polarization of “us” versus “them,” we must find ways to conceptualize Gezi Park’s memory from now on.
One way of not only memorializing but also seeking to develop Turkey’s democratic culture would be to declare Gezi Park as a Speakers’ Corner in the style of Hyde Park in London. This would not only make sure that protesters’ voices are not lost amid all the party politics and finger pointing that will follow, but also it would give us an inclusive platform to learn to communicate, listen and disagree. Thus, it would be a memorial site with a dynamic and future-looking aspect, which not only seeks to establish an account of what happened but universalizes what we learn or should learn from it. [Continue reading…]