Website Special: Eye witness report from Turkey


From Liz Knight.

Erdogan Tayyip says that the protests aren’t happening outside the big cities, but in the small western coastal town of Ayvalik people are coming out in their hundreds every evenng at 7 pm, co-inciding their demonstrations with those taking place not only in Istanbul and Ankara but in towns and cities across Turkey.

There were meetings taking place already, but the first real demonstration here in the main square, Ataturk Square, was on Saturday – the participants seemed to be mainly from the CHP (Ataturk’s Republican Party) and other opposition parties. On Sunday evening more people gathered – but they seemed to be mainly the ‘usual suspects’ – middle-aged and older veterans of the left and green groups and small parties. The slogans were great: Gezi Park – here! Taksim Square – here! Istanbul – here! Ankara – here! The Amazon – here!… but there were not many people around to hear them.

Then, much later in the evening, young people started gathering. News of the death of a young protester in Istanbul that day was spreading. A long convoy of cars and mopeds started driving up and down the sea-front, people whistling and hanging out of the windows, waving the republican flag.

On Monday there was news of a second fatality, in the south-eastern city of Antakya. At 7 pm – in fact a few hours before – again people started gathering in the square. This time it was truly representative of the town: the lefts, the greens, the opposition parties, but also now the civil and cultural organisations, the trade unions, people of all ages and occupations – but in particular the young of Ayvalik – almost as many young women as young men, and lots of students and schoolchildren. They – we – made a great circle, there was music, singing and again the slogans: Gezi Park – here! Istanbul – here!… were shouted out by hundreds, but now the list was a litany of Turkish cities where demonstrations are happening – and also of the European and world capital cities where supporting actions are taking place: London – here! Paris – here! Athens – here!

There were also Greeks among us – visiting from Mytilini, just over the bay. We breathed the air of real, felt, international solidarity. The uniformed police kept a very low profile, which is usual here, though no doubt civil police were among the crowd.The cafes and restaurants around the square and sea-front were full to bursting.

As nine o’clock struck – the hour chosen across Turkey – an absolute crescendo of sound broke out: cries, clapping, chants, whistles, drums – and in the cafes and restaurants people clapped, thumped tables, stamped feet, banged with their cutlery – and from the kitchens you could hear saucepans clashing. It will all happen again tonight.

If Erdogan Tayyip can’t hear this yet, surely he very soon will.

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