Anti-capitalist Muslim protester and author İhsanEliaçık tells Londoners how to interpret this summer’s Turkish protests.
THE AUTHOR İhsanEliaçık, known for his association with the Anti-Capitalist Muslim movement during the Gezi Protests, was in London this week as a guest of the Centre for Turkey Studies.
Speaking at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Mr Eliaçık spoke of his love of nature, freedom, respect, solidarity and pluralism in a discussion entitled “The Spirit of Gezi and its Reflections”. The talk was moderated by Sarah Wyatt, who was once an assistant director at PEN International, and Doctor ÖmerTekdemir.
Mr Eliaçık spent most of his talk considering the five themes that he said defined the Gezi movement, which refers to the summer of popular protests that emerged in Turkey against the leadership of the country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The protests were sparked by the heavy-handed police response to environmentalists wanting to preserve Istanbul’s Gezi Park, which had been marked for redevelopment into a shopping centre.
The first theme, Mr Eliaçık said, was love of nature, and he said Gezi demonstrated the first time such an explicit and powerful instinct to protect the environment was demonstrated in Turkey.
The second, he went on, was the search for freedom. He said it was this that united the different groups that had gathered in Gezi and that reason why they were able to operate in concert.
Respect was the third theme that the Gezi incidents created, Mr Eliaçık said, because the differences that were plainly apparent in and around Taksim square created that feeling.
It was this way that Atatürk flags and Abdullah Öcalan posters, LGBT members and more conservative people, religious and secular individuals, Kurds and Turks, Sunnis and Alevis were able to see what they had in common and share a common goal.
The solidarity that protesters demonstrated by throwing away their differences and embracing their common which, Mr Eliaçık argued, constituted the fourth theme of the Gezi Park protests. All the participants had come there voluntarily and this further enriched this sense of solidarity.
The final, fifth, theme was plurality, which was demonstrated through the large numbers of varied groups that were present throughout the protests. It was notable that they developed a series of rules for life in the park, Mr Eliaçık said, and that they voluntarily followed them without a need for an outside authority.
But, Mr Eliaçık went on, to expect a concrete political movement from Gezi right now was to misunderstand the spirit of the Gezi movement. This would only occur when an approirate structure or body was found.