A guest post from Comrade Mario
I’m a drunk and a looter, apparently. That’s according to the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sir, you are a complete and utter bell-end. Those that have demonstrated against you have taken up the foolishly dismissive insults of ‘ayyaş’ (drunkard) and, far more importantly, ‘çapulcu’ (looter) as badges of honour and pride now, to the point where the official dictionary definition of ‘çapulcu’ has had to be changed to ‘demonstrator’.
This is an interesting twist on the old ‘freedom fighters’ as opposed to ‘terrorists’ argument in the political language that we’re used to. The so obviously unnecessary police violence has, to an extent, galvanised support for Erdoğan amongst his hardcore, conservative, support, but has utterly alienated the majority of the populace against him.
How did this happen?
Many would point you to the environmentalist occupation of Gezi Park, and the brutal crackdown thereof, on May 31st as the starting point. That’s largely correct, but we could see evidence of an increase in authoritarian policing before then. A prime example would be almost a month earlier, on every pinko’s favourite holiday, May Day. And yes, it was an official holiday. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a conservative, right wing Prime Minister, made the first of May a state holiday. Now, May Day, as we all know, is a big protest day, and has been since it began. And, as we all know, it’s a right pain in the arse to get to a protest when you’re working that day.
It’s like Erdoğan wanted people to protest on the first of May. The Turks do love them a good demonstration (and they’re damn good at it), so they must have really appreciated their capitalist overlords giving them International Workers’ Day off so that they could tell them how they were all wankers. Of course, the May 1st demonstrations ended up with needless police brutality. Can’t have all those terrorists in the trade unions enjoying their day off now, can we? A good show of force would remind them who was in charge.
So, the scene was set: The police were going to be used politically, and without any subtlety or finesse. They were now the fist of the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). This political policing would be seen at the eviction of protesters at Gezi Park, and the subsequent violence meted out to demonstrators in Taksim Square and the surrounding area.
Now the protests are no longer about the construction of a faux-Ottoman shopping centre on a wee park. They are about political policing and privatisation on a large scale, similar to the May 1st protests.
What effects has this had?
For one thing, it’s unified the opposition. On joining in with the ‘chappuling’ going on in Taksim, I could witness a vast amount of different people united against the government (who have been in power for a decade now).
There were queers on the same side as conservative, religious Muslims. There were Kurdish separatists standing shoulder-to-shoulder with hardcore Turkish nationalists. There were anarchists and communists buying hard hats and gas masks (that got more expensive as the police got more violent) from the most enterprising little capitalist shits I’ve ever seen. There were even Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray football casuals singing Beşiktaş songs together, in spite of there being deaths in football related violence over the previous weeks. This is probably because everyone knows that Beşiktaş’ rowdy Çarşı fanbase have the best anti-government songs. But then again, I’m biased here.
Still, though, the government’s lousy attempts to control the media (showing penguins on CNN instead of demonstrations) have had some marginal success in brainwashing the general public. Speaking to friends, who are working in conservative areas, they were often warned by religiously conservative colleagues about the routes they would take home, because of the protests. When asked if this was because of the police violence, this would be met with strange looks, and an explanation of the honestly held belief that the protesters would throw bricks at bystanders. From what I’ve seen, though, the protests have been peaceful, almost to the point of pacifism. I saw no bricks thrown, only thousands of flowers.
The only violence I saw was state-sanctioned. There have been suggestions, though, in Turkish and international newspapers that the police have used agent provocateurs to kick things off more than once, and from what I’ve seen, that’s entirely possible as, during the day, you can witness dozens, possibly hundreds, of plain-clothes police with easily removed vests and weapons. It could, arguably, be to make them appear less threatening than a guy with a helmet on, but the fact that they could swiftly blend into a crowd made me half-shit myself.
So, yeah, the opposition is unified against a common enemy. It makes things nice and simple, I must say. There’s not much infighting like we see here on the left. Over there, the left, centre and even the right are aligned against the Prime Minister.
This, interestingly, makes going out and getting steaming a lot safer, and a lot more fun, than one might imagine. The AK Parti’s extreme opposition to my favourite hobby (getting pished) makes everyone that’s enjoying a beer rather inclined to consider everyone else that’s on the lash to be a comrade-in-arms.
When the nightclub you’re in is near-empty because it’s filled up with fucking tear gas, and the only idiots left are hardcore çapulcus, dancing on the tables, you know that everyone’s a friend. The free booze, saluting your bottle for dancing in ‘biber gazı’, doesn’t hurt either.
So, in spite of the fact that everyone I’ve spoken to in Istanbul knows someone who has lost vision in at least one eye, thanks to police brutality, I’ll say ‘şerefe Tayyip!’
Cheers, Tayyip! On your way out, you’re giving us one hell of a party. I predict yet another military coup in which the Turkish government is ousted. But more on that later.
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