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

Intersections: Meeting with Each Other
June Uprising successfully brought together people from various class backgrounds, nations, beliefs and political views. It created an environment where the social groups that were formerly perceived to be contradictory or intolerant against each other stood side by side. The togetherness and tolerance of these different groups was one of the important factors that emotionally and rationally reinforced the protesters’ convictions that they were doing something legitimate.
Football Fans
One of those encounters occurred between the fans of rival football teams. This might seem strange for an outsider, but the fans of the biggest three football clubs in Turkey, -Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray- used to have a long-standing hatred against each other that was expressed in the form of abusive slogans, songs and even clashes. In such a culture, the identity of a Fenerbahçe fan had been constructed against the fans of other teams and when two rival groups met, a clash was unavoidable. The June Uprising quickly politicized the football fans that had a bitter history with the police forces and government. United in front of the barricades to resist together, football fans stopped attacking each other during the Uprising. They were still wearing the uniforms of their own teams, but this time avoiding any offences and aggressive slogans against each other. Particularly, the enthusiastic and joyful presence of a leftist Beşiktaş fan group named “Çarşı” was welcomed by the fans of other teams.

In the following days of the uprising, the pictures of rival football fans hugging each other, chanting slogans and resisting together against the police violence flooded the social media. A logo appeared that showed the football fans crossing the Bosporus Bridge together: Istanbul United, as they called it. This spirit of solidarity among them excited the protesters and brought a new boost to the resistance. As it has always been the case, the hooligan culture has a patriarchal tone with widespread violent sexist and homophobic insults and slogans. However, when the football fans met with socialists, feminists and LGBTT individuals in the streets, they were forced to reconsider their attitude. As soon as the Gezi Park was occupied, feminist groups started to distribute fliers titled “Just think for two seconds when you resist”. In these fliers, they called for a stop to the use of sexist language and militarism in the slogans. “Think about the prostitutes who resist with you shoulder to shoulder, when you call Tayyip as S.O.B, how would you feel?” and “Think that you are driving off the resisting homosexuals when you call the police, government or Tayyip as faggots (ibne),” saying these pamphlets.

An observer explains the impact of these attempts to change the attitude of the football fans towards homosexuals as follows:

They [LGBT individuals] approached the soccer fans, Carsi, and asked them not to refer to AKP politicians –or others– as “ibne.” “We are the fags and real fags are here defending Gezi Park” they explained to the bewildered Carsi supporters who probably had rarely seen anyone proclaim the identity as a source of pride. However, Carsi had also seen the LGBT folk brave police repression–which the LGBT people explained is part of everyday life for them. Soccer fans, too, had often experienced clashes with the police.  An understanding was not impossible.

After some back and forth, Carsi soccer fans countered that they might drop “fag” but they needed good insults. “How about sexist Erdogan?” was a suggestion from the LGBT contingent. So, this all ended with Turkey’s ultra-macho soccer fans chanting “Sexist Erdogan” (Tufekci, 2013).

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