Gezi Park has become a hotbed of activity as Turks make their stand

Constanze Letsch writes: It is one of the most beautiful successes of the Gezi Park protests: cramped together inside an endangered inner city park, united in their anger at an authoritarian prime minister, protesters of all colours – leftists, nationalists, feminists, anarchists, religious groups, secularists, students, bankers – are engaging in dialogue.

Ahmet Metin, head of the Istanbul branch of the nationalist Association for Kemalist Thought, says he led “some wholesome discussions” with Kurdish protesters, LGBT activists and liberals, for the first time. “We don’t share the same political views, and we don’t agree on everything,” he admits. “But we’re all here to defend democratic rights. It’s a point of departure.”

Few romanticise this unexpected eruption of pluralist civil society. Every now and then, small verbal skirmishes break out: nationalists grumble at flags of the jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, hoisted in one corner of the park. Kurds are uneasy about protesters claiming to be soldiers of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Posters ask activists not to use sexist or racist language in their slogans. “Before you call anyone ‘a faggot’, remember that faggots have been on the frontline of this struggle all along,” one cardboard sign reminds passersby.

Hamdi, a 29-year-old architect who quit his job in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri to join the Gezi park protests, underlines that no political party has managed to force its label on to the movement. “We all know what we want from this and that’s enough to keep us together. We don’t need pre-packed ideologies.” [Continue reading…]

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