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

Kurds and Turks Meet
Another interesting encounter was experienced between the mortal enemies: Kemalists or the secular branch of the Turkish nationalists and Kurdish nationalists. Historically, Kemalist nationalism adopted a strictly rejectionist stance against the Kurds, accused the Kurdish struggle of dividing the country after the rise of PKK and turned a blind eye against the state oppression. As a reaction to the oppressive and assimilationist policies of the regime, the Kurdish movement produced an anti-Kemalist ideology that deepened the gap between these two political traditions, making the two groups impossible to tolerate each other. The June Uprising, however, showed us some instances where this gap became smaller than ever. As I have said, in the early days of the protests, when Gezi Park and Taksim Square were occupied by the protesters, it was possible to see the posters of Abdullah Ocalan and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk side by side. In the following days, the residents of Gezi Park witnessed more spectacular moments: Kemalists chanted Kurdish slogans (“Biji pratiya gelan”) together with everybody else; hardcore Kemalist individuals participated to the Kurdish music and dances with their flags and banners.

The corporate media’s undeclared censorship towards the Uprising was one of the factors that created an understanding towards the Kurdish struggle. People were being attacked and wounded by the police, violations of basic human rights by the law enforcement were escalating at night; but the corporate media was broadcasting nature documentaries about penguins. And when they talked about the Uprising, they were only mentioning the physical damages created by the protesters. This attitude of the bourgeois media enlightened the protesters in another sense. By the 3rd of June, some interesting messages started to appear in the social media: “I am very sorry friends. We have been following the Kurdish problem from this media for years”, “I am ashamed of myself for listening the problems of our Kurdish brothers and sisters from this media for 30 years.” etc. The photograph that showed two boys, one with a Turkish flag and the other with the banner of pro-Kurdish party BDP, hand in hand running away from police summarized the encounter.

The efforts to connect with the Kurds and their problems gained a new dimension when a young Kurdish boy named Medeni Yıldırım was murdered in Lice, Diyarbakır by the police on 28th of June. A group of demonstrators in Kayacık Village of the Kurdish town Lice was protesting the construction of a new military post. Gendarmerie forces violently dispersed the protestors by heavy use of tear gas and real bullets. Medeni was shot dead and this incident stirred the country as another victim of AKP’s policies fell. Would the some components of the Uprising remain silent since this incident was seemingly irrelevant with Gezi Park and since Medeni was a Kurd who was killed while defending the rights of Kurdish? Contrary to the expectations, when the BDP and socialists took the initiative to organize demonstrations around the country to protest the police violence and murder in Lice, some Kemalists also joined them, chanting slogans about the sisterhood of the peoples and demanding peace.

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