Turkey at a tipping point
and a hashtag guide to its mystery and momentum
As a Turkish fellow living 7,000 miles away from my beloved city Istanbul, I feel sad that I am not physically able to join the snowballing civil momentum against rage and disproportionate use of force by the state police. Unfortunately, I am not walking the Istanbul streets with thousands of others under the risk of tear gas and water cannons, but I still feel united and empowered to make a difference thanks to the open media that I can read from and contribute to.
This is a truly unforgettable moment, because Facebook and Twitter now go 10x beyond what they meant for me just two days ago. Having just finished a phone call with my mom and dad, who live in Turkey, I realize that I know much more about the #DirenGeziParki movement than what they are able to. Why? Here is the story.
When a group of Turkish protesters arrived at the last strip of green land in Istanbul city center a few days ago, they wanted to prevent the government from demolishing it in order to build a shopping mall. The use of excessive force by the state police lead to an #Occupy movement. Continued police oppression, lack of understanding by the government, and an ignorant media created a significant snowball effect, bringing more and more masses of citizens to the hold-out. The #DirenGeziParki, which means “park, hold on”, is born from these masses coming together and forgetting their political and social differences for a broader objective: Being heard by a government that has become more and more authoritarian in the last few months.
At this moment, if you check the worldwide trends in Twitter, you will realize that all the top 5 hashtags relate to the civil movement in Turkey. Here is what the second one is about.
This is a call to action for all the citizens to unite: “Speak up Turkey, you are not alone.” It signifies how the snowball went from a very specific situation (protesting against the demolition of the park) to a general civil movement that is happening in more than 40 cities in Turkey and 50 cities around the world. There is one even in San Francisco, which is close to where I currently live, on June 1st 11am, in case you want to witness the peaceful get-together.
The number #3 hashtag globally. The traditional media in Turkey is completely oblivious to what is happening in the city. Instead of televising the streets of Istanbul and the violence against protesters, with police pouring excessive amounts of tear gas and water, Turkish citizens around the nation are forced to watch dull TV series repeats and talk shows on history and religion. That is why this hashtag is calling the TV channels and newspapers as “Coward Media.” Even CNN Turk, the Turkish subsidiary of the news network CNN, has failed to report any live coverage from the streets of Istanbul on Friday. The protest, therefore, unites not only against authoritarian government and the enraged police force, but also against the oblivious media. And the uniting against media happens through social media, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. You can’t just believe how my Twitter feed is exploding right now with updates, photos, and videos from all across Istanbul. It seems like each and every action by a user becomes the tipping for another user to break silence and join the action. The snowball is just getting bigger, rolling faster, and triggering new snowballs to get rolling in other cities around Turkey.
While I feel compelled to continue writing, I believe the international media has now picked up the lead and will report meticulously on the subject. What you won’t likely hear from them, is how this movement is gaining momentum from the Facebook and Twitter feeds via quick iPhone snaps and Vine videos.
If you want more stick to #SesVerTürkiyeBuÜlkeSahipsizDeğil or shout out; I will be up.
Author’s note on Jun 3, 2013:
Since the original edit, too much has happened. Numbers grew into millions. Hashtags changed. Police violence increased. Stories grew nationally and globally. And unfortunately, lives are lost. Yet, I will keep this story intact, as it was never meant to comprehensively cover the movement. It will instead remain as a glimpse into the first few hours of a civil response that was ignited by no more than 50 people who were decisive enough to stand up to the authoritarian government forces in order to protect a park.