Activists and organizers in Syracuse, NY gathered on June 27 for a teach-in on the recent and ongoing protests in Turkey. Melek Küçükuzun, a young Turkish activist, joined the event from Istanbul via Skype. Küçükuzun worked with ANSWER Syracuse in the fall of 2011 when she was studying at Syracuse University. She was in Greece when the uprising first began but has since returned to Turkey.
Küçükuzun spoke about the historical context of the protests, their current state and the future potential of the movement. She began by stressing that, with a history of coups and military rule, the large civil uprising that began May 28 represented something fresh. “For years we had been organizing demonstrations against the privatization of natural resources,” she said. “Initially it was like one of those [demonstrations], but it spread! Even in small villages people took to the streets.”
There were several contributing factors to the spread of the protests. In addition to the planned destruction and privatization of a public space there was outrage over recent encroachments on women’s reproductive rights, the growing authoritarian nature of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the strengthening of neoliberal tendencies.
What was especially galvanizing was the severe police repression faced by the first group of protesters at Gezi Park. “Most of the people joining the demonstrations were attending for the first time in their lives, but they were so brave in resisting the repression and throwing stones at the police,” she said. “Dying isn’t something so scary for us anymore. That was the psychology of the movement.
Yet Küçükuzun also had words of caution. “We should be very careful about wishful thinking. At this time, we cannot call this movement a revolution,” she said. But on the other hand, Küçükuzun stressed that the movement was incredibly significant: “What is very important, and difficult for activists to do in the absence of mass movements, is to create the image of revolution in people’s minds. That’s what this has done; it has demonstrated to our people that revolution is possible.”