“May you live in interesting times’ is a quote that kept going through my mind this week as both sides in this Turkish conflict seem to be digging in deeper to what they each hold true. Well, It turns out that this quote is actually considered to be a curse… yikes.
My heart goes out to the people of Turkey who are fighting so courageously for their voices to be heard. Many ex-pats are going to Taksim Square/Gezi Park and discussing how peaceful it is and that there is this utopian community that has sprung up so quickly. This aspect is not surprising as I have generally found Turkish people to be kind, generous, loving, passionate, and always ready with a smile. But this utopian view of the protesters to me seems a bit condescending. I have been there and yes, there is a feeling of community and excitement that fills the air. However, they aren’t there for a party. They are risking everything for basic freedoms that they believe are being taken away from them by the current government.
From my understanding, this country is basically split into two factions: half who voted for the current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the other half who did not. Those that did not vote for him believe that his government has become too conservative. They believe that he is taking Turkey in the opposite direction of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who is the founder of modern day Republic of Turkey. Again, this is only my understanding as I am not an expert on Turkish politics.
Additionally, they believe that the government is slowly taking away many of the freedoms that they hold dear. As an American, I not only expect but demand that my leaders listen to me. I expect them to be able to at least consider my point of view. When this doesn’t seem to be the case in other places, it truly shocks me.
I love this city and I pray for a peaceful resolution, but neither side seems willing to budge at this point. No one knows where this is going.
And this is where I inherently believe that this is not my fight. If this becomes (God forbid) a Turkish Spring, I can leave. I can go back to the States, blanketed under the freedoms which I hold so dear and appreciate today more than I could have ever imagined. But not everyone here has that option. In spite of the tear gas, water cannons, plastic bullets, arrests, and intimidation these brave souls continue to stand up with determination and grace that humbles me.
In the face of a government that is unwilling to listen and quick to punish, would I have that kind of courage?
Francis Ricciardone is the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and this is what he said last week when all of this started happening:
“But if you are asking me about U.S. foreign policy, as you know, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the right to have peaceful protests are fundamentals of a democracy. I am not going to say anything further.”
That about sums it up for me. As I sit in my living room and hear the chanting and singing from Taksim Square, I am reminded about how much I love this city. It frightens me that I don’t know where this is headed and no idea how this will all turn out. I can only hope and pray that the people’s voices are heard. Stay strong and safe Istanbul, stay strong and safe.