The consensus is clear. Middle Eastern equals conservative. So Westerners have come to assume after decades of politically over-determined news coverage, and militaristic foreign policy posturing, by the United States and its allies following the Iranian Revolution. The assumption is universal. Even Israel is subject to this distortion, albeit for different reasons, stemming from its conflict with the Palestinians. Never mind the fact that the country has actually moved to the right over in recent years.
Nevertheless, events like the the Egyptian Revolution, J14, and Occupy Gezi continue to surprise outsiders, as their significance is undeniable. The nature of these protest movements, their size, and their grievances are inimical to crude stereotypes of regional politics, as only being motived by religion, or terrorist subversion. Even in Turkey, like Israel, a mixed European-Middle Eastern country, whose Islamic culture is subject to the same derision as that of Arab states, informed by all same the Orientalist clichés.
With repetition, truth accretes, one hopes. Especially, as evinced by the examples one continually finds in diasporic communities, in European cities like Berlin. There’s a complexity to them which, though displaced from their countries of origin, is still indigenous to them. Hence, the tee-shirt worn by the Turkish-German twentysomething above, and the translation of Turkish-language anarchist flyer, below. You don’t have to go abroad to sort out things out. The same educational opportunities are also available at home.
Solidarity with the Rioters
People are being poured into the streets, barricades are being built, cars are burning and the one’s being captured are giving their all to the police. The sky is covered in gas and (those) crying out for freedom are finding their bearings in the mist.
Thousands of people are filling the streets for the resistance, not wishing that Istanbul’s last green area be destroyed for the construction of a shopping center. Gradually rioters overran the whole country in a growing fire. How different were the impelling reasons for the participants struggle, ranging from an array of reasons like self-government, solidarity, and the growing idea that it was possible for the shopping center to be in a new area.
All the things that we had known in the world are unwillingly being muddied. It seems there is no time to dispute our neighborhood’s annihilation of school, work, the rent struggle and poverty. That troubled people still, purposely, take issue in this world is beautiful to us. We saw that life’s daily wages could work as a small struggle to collectively grab the spark of resistance. We are in a different smoke rising from the city, and in that smoke we see that we are carrying out our struggles against civic transformation, acting dishonorably, and police violence.
For these reasons we call out in solidarity with the rioters, as is also expressed from the Bosphorous: You are not alone!
Shoulder to shoulder for freedom!
Translated from the Turkish by Jeremy Bender. Introduction and photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.