Unity in Diversity: The June Uprising (a.k.a. Gezi Uprising) of Turkey

The fact that the profile of the protesters was significantly diverse was starting to become visible as the uprising unfolded. Flowing from the social media into the computers of millions of citizens, news and images were verifying what the Minister of National Education had said: The people behind the barricades were very different than each other. For example, it was possible to see the adversary political hand gestures like the fist (adopted by the left), and the wolf (adopted by the nationalists) side by side in the same frame. Same for the posters of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Abdullah Öcalan: Two important adversary figures of the Turkish and Kurdish nationalism in Turkey. While the Turkish nationalists and Kemalists chanted the slogan of “We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal”, the Kurds were shouting “Long live Apo” on the same square, and then they joined forces to chant “shoulder to shoulder against fascism”, a historic slogan of the socialist left in Turkey.

On June 1st, Gazi, Gülsuyu and Okmeydanı neighbourhoods of Istanbul, well-known Alevi and Kurdish working class districts where the militant left-wing political parties have strong networks, joined the uprising with their own slogans and experienced activist profile. There were some other slogans that gave an idea about the background of the protesters: “You are messing with a generation who beat policemen in the Grand Theft Auto” (a reference to a famous computer game); “Tayyip, winter is coming” (a reference to the TV series Game of Thrones); “Why so Tayyip?”; “S.O.B. Tayyip”; “Solution is Drogba” (a reference to a football player) and a very popular one among the football fans: “Go on, spray, go on, spray. Go on, spray tear gas. Take off your helmet, drop your baton. Let’s see who is the real man”. This diversity was conserved until the very last day of the uprising with its internal tensions and richness. However, towards the end of the early stages of the uprising, some attempts were made to develop a common identity for the protesters. Angry speeches by the Prime Minister and the continuous attacks of the police forces helped a lot.

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