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

Islamists and Seculars
The foreign and domestic corporate media tended to reflect the 2013 Uprising as the reaction of the secular social sections against the Islamization project of AKP. Although this reaction was one of the important driving forces of the Uprising, the existence and impact of Islamists among the protesters obliges us to challenge this doxa. On 5th of June, an Islamist group named Anti-capitalist Muslims declared that they will visit Gezi Park and pray there together with the resisters on Mi’rac Night. In the following days, these prayers led by Anti-capitalist Muslims continued with the participation of religious individuals among the protesters. On 8th and 14th of June, Friday Prayers were held successively in Gezi Park. At that time, the park was under constant police threat, therefore the socialist groups organized a security cordon around the prayers to protect them. These moments were important because of their symbolic connotations. Throughout the history of class struggles in Turkey, the ruling class has used the Islam as a barrier against socialism and there were various examples where the religious sentiments of the people were provoked against Alevis or communists that ended up with massacres and lynches. Moreover, the Kemalist nationalists, whose secular ideology considered the Islamists as a reactionary force, also had some unsettled accounts with them, making it difficult to imagine those groups standing together. Therefore, the atmosphere of unity created by this encounter was one of the rare historical moments.

The holy month of the Muslims, Ramadan, began in July when the protests started to calm down. But a call by the Anti-capitalist Muslims gave a new momentum to it: Everybody was invited to Istiklal Street for the first İftar of Ramadan on 9th July. A hundreds of meters-long dinner table would be prepared for those who want to break their fasts. Anti-capitalist Muslims said that this organization would be called as “Earth Meals” against the expensive and ostentatious Iftars of the rich people. Religious or not, people were very keen to be a part of anything that was against the government. The first Earth Meal received enormous public attention. Thousands of people crowded Istiklal Street and dined together under the shadow of the security forces and their armoured vehicles. People’s narrations were full of enthusiastic remarks about the event: Atheists, LGBT individuals, religious women and men had sat at the same dinner table; everybody had been sharing their food and all the prejudices had been overcome.

Thanks to the positive feelings fostered by such kind of intersections, the people’s confidence in the unifying features of the resistance grew. More and more people were convinced that when the artificial hostilities were left aside, they could become more and more powerful. The physical aspects of the resistance were important as the basis of the unity and solidarity between different components of the Uprising. However, they were always accompanied by a constant activity of ideological and symbolic production that tried to construct a common identity, common goals and a culture of resistance for the Uprising.

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