June 1, 1000 hrs CET
Tonight, Turkey didn’t sleep. Turkey made revolution.
This is how it started. A small group of thoughtful, committed citizens camped out in the last green space of the city centre to save it from being sold out. Two nights in a row, authorities sent in the police to disperse them with massive use of tear gas and water cannons, as if they were disinfecting it from a harmful infestation.
There were dozens of wounded, tents were burned, there was blood on the streets. The park was closed and fenced in.
The people refused to accept it. Gezi Park has become a symbol for many more of their grievances. It’s not just against the private sector taking over the public space. It’s also against the assault on civil liberties under pressure from the religious right. And it’s a personal matter, with Reçep Erdogan.
The prime minister is being accused of behaving like some kind of postmodern Ottoman sultan, who is not to be questioned, but to be obeyed. He has led the country for ten years now, he has always been a fierce opponent of the left and a friend of the islamists. Because of this, he has been losing support from the liberals, and from the kemalists, who defend the secular nature of the state. Even big business seems to be frowning on him now, since some big Turkish investors have stated they won’t open a shop in the new mall as a result of the public outcry.
We have been following and rebroadcasting the events day and night. I’m so proud of my brother Memed for the visual coverage he has been providing. Throughout the afternoon there were clashes with police. As the gruesome pictures of the wounded came in via Twitter, all over Turkey people took the streets. When evening fell, barricades were erected in the Istanbul, and police attacked with gas, bullets and bulldozers.
No reliable data is available on the amount of casualties. In the evening reports from the ground spoke of hundreds of wounded, seven of them critical, and up to four people killed.
After each wave of attack there was a silence. Then an emotion that got transmitted around the world, as people started chanting again. When the clouds of smoke rose up, they were still there. They were everywhere. Pictures arrive from around the country. People hold the streets, and they make noise.
At 1:58 AM local time an anonymous voice on Facebook announced that it was officially revolution. And it must have been. I have seen and heard it myself and I won’t easily forget it. Thousands of people bashing pans together, with the lights of the city going on and off in solidarity, following the rhythm. This was it, Besiktas. A whole district jamming. A whole city in revolt, a whole country joining. And the world, watching.
In the early morning, tens of thousands of people were marching. At dawn, they crossed the bridge over the Bosphorus from one continent to another. Last time something similar happened was under Xerxes, king of kings.
That was 25 centuries ago. Today, citizens of all creeds and political convictions have risen up against authoritarianism all over Turkey. They are in control of their streets. The Turkish Spring is about to start.