|Photo of teargas and fire barricades in Kadikoy (photo circulating on net,|
please contact me for accreditation)
During last week, on any given afternoon, my computer was receiving live feeds from Kadikoy, and I was tweeting the information to the best of my knowledge. It sparked memories of the Gezi protests when my neighborhood was one of the centers of clashes between protesters and the police; in fact, the morning after the police finally took Gezi Park back from the protesters, I returned home from a trip to a TOMA (water cannon) and teargas on my street; it looked and felt like a warzone and I worried greatly for all the parents with children stuck there, and the elderly who occupy a great part of the neighborhood.
|On the side streets of Kadikoy|
(contact for accreditation)
The most obvious reason I was so fixated on Gezi is the fact that Istanbul has been my home for over a decade; almost a quarter-of-my-life. Even if I have been commuting back and forth from New York, and at times from Israel (making it a lot easier in terms of distance), my four-walls in Istanbul are my home. They include memories of my child’s first years (her first shoes), a collection of pointless memorabilia (magnets from cities of the world), and artifacts from the past (the long forgotten photo albums). Indeed, this is a personal side that few know about, save for close friends, and of course my neighbors, who see me come and go every few months, as I lug my suitcases up-and-down the 5-floor walk-up. They have long become use to me, and me to them.
Not like past years however, Gezi happened just as I had been over a year in
Istanbul, making only two
brief trips to Israel.
For someone who has spent his life in a constant nomadic state this truly was
one of my most relaxed periods of my life; a year filled with plenty of love
and happiness; and, the Gezi protests broke this calm and serenity.
By chance just before all hell broke loose during the evening of May 31, I found myself on Istiklal, Taksim’s main pedestrian avenue, trying to find a route home and every side street I went down seemed to be drenched with teargas. I know the streets of Istanbul even better than the ones in Tel Aviv, a city I adore, and much better than the ones in New York, a place where I randomly ended up due to employment; a love for the streets is not bound by law and belonging is not based one’s passport or by a resident permit. The same streets I saw under massive clouds of teargas are the very these same streets where I pushed my daughter’s stroller, and where I taught her to ride a bicycle. It is in also these streets I forged love and said farewell to other loves. It is in these streets I regularly take a stroll on semi-serene Sunday evenings. These streets are mine, and I share them with all who walk them.
A surprise to me was that where I encountered the violence up close was actually at my favorite bar in Taksim; perhaps not a second-home but a regular hangout for me. During the protests, it served at times as a makeshift hospital; on weekends, as teargas poured in, so did the injured-a woman injured by a plastic bullet on her back, an activist beaten black-and-blue by police, and a leg injury due to a teargas canister. And, once everyone was in safely the barman quickly brought the shutters down, turned out lights fearing a police raid that could lead to arrests. Twice I met tourists who took cover there, and once I led an Egyptian mother and her panicking daughter from the bar once the gas settled and across police lines in the midst of battles taking place on Istiklal. For me, this side showed me that when push came to shove the protesters were left powerless, left with wounds, fear, and anger, but nevertheless defiant.
For me, the politics of Turkey have very little to do with my stance on Gezi; it is much more about a personal conviction that every person has the right to express dissent unhindered; it is about freedom of expression, it is about defending the innocent people who were injured, it is about helping the elderly who fell down due to teargas, it is about standing up against excessive force used by police, it is so that the death of the protesters will not be in vain. Even if I am not a citizen of
showed me that I have invested way too much in the country to remain indifferent.
Yes, for me Gezi is personal, very personal.
For my articles on Gezi Park Protests see the following links:
"With One Voice they yelled: Erdogan Resign!" (artilcle appears in entirety on my blog, or Haaretz's website)
http://louisfishman.blogspot.com/2013/09/with-one-voice-they-yelled-erdogan.html -or- http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.527192
"Erdoğan istifa diyenler ne istiyor" (Haaretz'den tercumesi) http://www.radikal.com.tr/yorum/erdogan_istifa_diyenler_ne_istiyor-1136142
"The Twitterization of the Gezi Park Protests" http://www.todayszaman.com/news-319990-the-twitterization-of-the-gezi-park-protests-by-louis-fishman-.html
"The Gezi Park protests, the Middle East, and the secular-religious divide," http://www.todayszaman.com/news-318406-the-gezi-park-protests-the-middle-east-and-the-secular-religious-divide-by-louis-fishman-.html
Istanbul-Tel Aviv-New York (my blog)
"A Monday night Stroll from Besiktas to Gezi Park," http://louisfishman.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-monday-night-stroll-from-besiktas-to.html
"Update from Istanbul: Has teargas become a Saturday Night Ritual," http://louisfishman.blogspot.com/2013/07/update-from-istanbul-has-teargas-become.html
http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/world/middle-east/.premium-1.2035196 "זה לא רק הפארק: המפגינים באיסטנבול רוצים דמוקרטיה"
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