History is written at Gezi Park in İstanbul, in an unexpected way, at an unexpected moment and by unexpected people.
And after the use of disproportionate force, the violence snowballed and spread to many cities and neighborhoods. Unbelievable things have happened. Unbelievable cases of violence took place. But what for? Wouldn’t it be nice if everything went as smooth as in Brazil? Wouldn’t it be better if they were not called as ‘looters’, if plastic bullets, tear gas wasn’t used? If young people could peacefully protest in their own way. They couldn’t. We are left with an obligation to collect stories which are both sad and hopeful.
I wish the had shot me in the foot, not in my eye
- Mahir .
How old are you?
- 22. I’m studying at the Faculty of Agriculture in Aydın. I came to İstanbul for a few days. My friend Serkan told me that he would go to Gezi and I told him that I wanted to join him. I didn’t want to leave him alone. So we went there together.
You were in the park?
- Yes. It was crowded and very lively. In a festive mood really. We were searchingfor a friend of ours. We had our goggles on, in case we might need them. We were 30m away from Gezi Park. There was quite a big group right in front of us. People seemed very happy and cheerful. All of a sudden, the police rushed out from one of the streets. As we were behind, the group couldn’t really figure out what was happening. It was moment of great panic, everyone started to run and flee in confusion. We were left under an attack of plastic bullets and tear gas. So I put on my goggles.
Where was Serkan?
- Right in front of me. Then I heard a crackling sound and something hit my goggles and broke it into pieces. I felt some sort of a cutting pain in some part of my body but couldn’t say where. Blood started pouring down on my face. People around me were terrified. My only wish was to stay alive. I was running around in panic.
-Did you see the police officer who shot you?
- I couldn’t see his face but I saw him firing from quite close range. Together with Serkan we started to run away to escape from this volley fire. We jumped over the barricade.
- How could you do that in such a state?
- You can do it when your life is at stake. You only focus on staying alive. At one point I noticed that my t-shirt was covered with blood. There was a stretcher right behind the barricade, they put me on it at once. They hurried me to the ambulance, shouting ‘injury, injury!’. At that moment, the police attacked Gezi one more time. And Serkan’s asthma flared up. While they were trying to get me onto the ambulance, people escaping the attack started running towards us. Then I found myself at Taksim İlk Yardım (Emergency) Hospital.
What did they do at the hospital?
- They cleaned my face. Directing light towards my eye, they asked if I could see. I answered ‘No’. Brain tomography and a lung x-ray were taken. Then, since there wasn’t much they could do, they sent me to the Beyoğlu Eye Hospital. A young doctor examined me and said ‘You won’t be able to see again’, as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. Thank god I’m a calm person. I never want to pull down anyone. Besides, Serkan passed out, lying next to me with intravenous injection.
When they told you that ‘you lost your eye’, what was the first thing that crossed your mind?
- How am I going to tell this to my parents? I was sure that they would be extremely sorry. But there’s no way of telling this without making people feel sorry. Serkan called my father and he came to pick me up. But they haven’t been able to pull themselves together ever since.
Did you have an operation?
- Yes, there at the Beyoğlu Eye Hospital. That doctor was a very understanding person. He told me that I might even have the chance to see, after a second operation. Since there are people who lost their lives, I can consider myself lucky in a way. the only thing I can say about this is, I wish they shot my foot, not my eye.
I was going to pay my electricity bill
- Selim .
- 23 .
What did you go through?
- It’s a bit wierd. Last Monday, while I was out to pay my electricity bill, I was taken into custody.
How do you mean?
- I didn’t know the place. I was with two friends. We were told that it was somewhere behind the Haberturk building. I saw some people and asked where Bedaş was. They said; ‘what are you going to do?’ in reply. I told them that I was going to pay a bill. All of a sudden one of them said: ‘Show me your IDs!’. They were civil police. We showed the IDs. We had nothing suspicious on us; no gas masks, nothing.
They took you under custody! Based on what?
- I had a LGBT card in my pocket. They took me because we had a stand at Gezi Park.
Didn’t you ask ‘what’s that got to do with it’?
- I asked, but who’s to listen. Anyone who stepped out, even to buy bread, was taken into custody. We were surprised and didn’t know what to do. They also harassed my friend, hit him on the back of his neck.
- Because he said ‘We are not members of any organization, we are LGBT’. They jumped onto him saying ‘how could you live such an undignified life?’. Then they took the three of us to the police department on Vatan Avenue. Then they asked again ‘Which organization?’ we replied: ‘It’s not an organization, not a political party, it’s LGBT’. The officer asked ‘What is LGBT?’ I answered: ‘it’s a solidarity formed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans individuals’. He got mad and asked ‘aren’t you a man? How can you be inclined to a man?’ They put us into separate lockup rooms claiming that we might have intercourse as homosexuals. It was really insulting. Custody period shouldn’t exceed 24 hours but they kept us in for 36 hours. Without food and water. They treated us as if we were terrorists. They assaulted us psychologically. They let us go when our lawyers arrived. Now I ask myself, what did I do wrong? I just wanted to go and pay my bill.
I am the ‘most’ other
- Kaya .
- I am a graduate of medical school. I’m a general practitioner. I work as a family physician at Taksim.
How and when did you get involved in the demonstrations?
- I was there from the beginning. I live very close to the Park. I heard about trees being cut down. I started to go there everyday after work. Then the violent events which everyone knows well, began taking place. I received my share of tear gas on 31 May. I have chronic bronchitis as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I had my first experience with gas around Talimhane. Suddenly, I felt breathless, as if I was going to die. I took shelter somewhere so that I could save myself. Until that day, I was just part of ‘solidarity’ but after it, I became a ‘resister’.
When did you decide to support the protests as a doctor?
- When I saw people really helpless against the use of disproportionate violence from the police. There was a clinic that I used to work in, at Talimhane. I said to the owner ‘Many people are being injured and they need help. We need to help them, will you let us use the clinic?’ He was positive about it and let me attend to those who were trapped in that area.
Who were they?
- For instance there was a woman in her 50′s with asthma. She was exposed to excessive tear gas and was about to suffocate. I carried her to the clinic and gave her an oxygen mask. Then there were people injured with plastic bullets. I ad to stitch an earlobe that was ruptured. It was bleeding into the ear canal, I immediately sent the patient to a hospital. I helped people whom the police had fired direct tear gas at, from a very close range. They were hardly breathing and were unable to open their eyes. There were many young people with burns, fractures or respiratory problems. Then there were others with fractures and some others who lost their eyes. I felt obliged to attend to anyone, without discriminating against religion, language, race, gender, political position. I was going to help even the police if I had to. And I did actually….
Did you expect such violence?
- Of course not.
How would you describe the ambiance at Gezi?
- It was extraordinary. Everyone was there with his or her own color. People were there with their own, different identities. I stood next to groups which I thought I would never empathize with.
- For instance, nationalists. I would not believe, even in my dreams, that we would tolerate and understand each other. But it happened. I am a Kurd, homosexual and Christian. In other words, I am the ‘most’ other of all. In the beginning, being next to nationalists annoyed me. But later on, as we got closer, I saw that they were not that bad at all. We listened to each other, had conversations. As LGBT individuals, the sympathy we caused there was important. People came to notice that homosexuals were not just ‘sexual’ beings. Gezi was an educational process for all of us. It improved our senses of community, solidarity and our sensitivities about environment. I really find this to be very important. There was such a level of sharing which I had never witnessed before in my life.
Was that some sort of a ‘revolution of consciousness’ ?
- Yes. It’s something different than a ‘revolution’ in the classical sense, which communists and socialists used to talk about. ‘Revolution’ doesn’t necessarily mean overthrowing political power. Actually, to awaken political power is a kind of revolution. That was what we were trying to do. We had a very simple message: ‘Please open up your ears and listen to us! Hear us, accept our existence. You keep pushing us away and oppressing us through your policies. Stop it now!’
How about last Saturday?
- It was the same scenario once again. No one was expecting any aggression after the Taksim Solidarity group met with the Prime Minister at around 3:00 am and relayed their message. “We had a meeting with the government. As a result of the meeting we were informed that there won’t be any intervention at Gezi before the Higher Court declares its opinion, or the result of a referendum is received.” Due to the relaxation caused by this message, people even disposed the material they used for protection. This was the reason why so many people were injured during this tear gas attack. They were completely unprepared. If they could have waited for another two hours, it could be all over. Banners and flags were taken down and there was a festive mood. And at that moment they attacked.
What did you do?
- I got my bag but couldn’t take my oxygen bottle. Didn’t find the chance as they directly entered into the tents. We were right in the middle of the park. They attacked from both sides. It was impossible to see around. There were people who didn’t wear masks. There was a stampede and people could run over each other. Thank god, most of the people were experienced and for 20 days they learned how to act during a gas attack. Everybody warned each other. “Do not run, be calm!” There was another aggression at the exit of the Park. It was extremely crowded. We took shelter at a hotel. First they took us in. But they later told us that we needed to go out. They said “We talked to the police, there won’t be any intervention”. If you’re accepting us in, why are you trying to get us out? I helped many people there. Then we had to leave the hotel. We walked a bit and then came under another tear gas firing. From Elmadağ all the way to Şişli, they fired so much gas that thousands of people were really miserable. We had to take shelter in a friend’s house at Harbiye. All night long they kept firing gas in the side streets.
Weren’t you scared at all?
- Of course I was scared. But there was an injured person down in the middle of the street. He was lying there. On his calf, he had burns and a cut. Whatever I could find at my friend’s house, antibiotic cream, some pieces of cloth, I took with me and went down. I cleaned his wound and wrapped it with some cloth. I helped him to get up and carried him to a safer spot.
Apart from the demonstrators, they say there were also some provocateurs?
-Members of pro-violent organizations could sneak in such big social uprisings and especially if there is such violent police aggression. Because it’s open to all. Neither us nor the police could prevent this. But until the police started attacking, there was no sign of violence. It’s the police who created violence and aggression. If they didn’t intervene, things wouldn’t escalate. They still talk about “internal focal points” or “external focal points”. As a person who was involved from the start I can say this is all empty talk. They gave us certain promises. They said “We are there for your safety”, “We want to be there and lay on the grass with you etc.” People experienced a crisis of trust as they started firing gas after telling such things. It turned into a matter of persistence. Violence increased. People automatically transformed into resisters from members of solidarity.
As if we were in a war
My name is Ferda. Ferda means ‘tomorrow’ or ‘future’. So I was one of the resisters at Gezi. For beautiful days, a bright tommorow and a future of freedom. In the past 17 days, we had great time there, in the tent my brother set up. My brother Mehmet, is a medical student. He was working at the Gezi infirmary. On June 11th, I kept calling my brother, but he wouldn’t answer his phone.As I was about to leave work and head to Taksim, he sent a message sayin “I’m OK, but things are not so good here. Don’t come here. There are injured people” Is it possible for me not to go? I left work and went directlyto Gezi. Right in front of the Divan Hotel, the police were literally battling a group of young people! There were at least 2000 people chanting slogans in front of Divan. The entrance of Gezi, across Divan Hotel was being continuously fired at, with gas bombs, a car was set on fire. It was all gas and smoke. I went to get a mask and goggles. I entered Gezi and walked right to the infirmary. My brother was attending a patient with a respiratory bottle. He was a bit mad at me, but he soon forgot that. There were many people waiting to be attended. “They brought a young boy in the morning. His name was Evren and he had many fractures on his skull. He had a badge on his neck. It was saying that he donated his organs. I did the first medical treatment and they took him to hospital. I hope he gets well, it was really serious.” He was about to cry. Right in front of me there was a girl whose head was slit open, a boy whose leg was being sutured, one other had burns by the chemical water fired from the TOMA. Then, as I used to volunteer at an infirmary, with my slight knowledge about certain medicine, I started to assist my brother. “Bring the cooler, prepare Talcid solution!” At that moment my mum called. She said “We are watching Halk TV, bombs are being fired at the square, police entering Gezi. They disarranged the library. Where are you? Just get out of the Park and come home”. I said “we are OK mum, we are at the infirmary”. She asked “Didn’t they just fire gas at the infirmary?”. Then I shut down. People were shouting “Stretcher, stretcher!”. Many injured were arriving. “Anyone to do a suture?” “Bring oxygen. Lay a mat on the floor. No vacant beds. Torniquet. Neck collar.” These were the words I kept hearing. Really as if we were in a battle! Then comes a young men, around my age, holding his arms open on sides. He says “Don’t touch. I’m burning”. They cut to take off his t-shirt and apply cold spray and cream. He is still in pain, all of his body is burning. They take him in and he takes off his shorts, all naked. Major burn is under his waist. We call an ambulance, his friend take him, wrapping a light cloth over his body. Gas firing goes on, nonstop. My brother is removing a plastic bullet from a young man’s leg. He is from Çarşı group. Again blood everywhere. His head is slit open as well but he doesn’t seem aware of it. My brother is confused, where to begin suturing. People are confused and surprised; police, PM, ministers, the governor who told that there won’t be an intervention and then turned the park into a battle ground.We trusted him, but what he’s done? My anger is bigger than their chairs, money and world! Because they made me, made thousands of people suffer. Because they made my mum cry on the phone. Because of Ethem, Evren, those who lost their lives, those who were injured. Around midnight Gezi was still resisting, and humanity was dead. On the other side, the material in the infirmary is being transported from hand to hand, to the new infirmary set up in front of Divan Hotel. Songs, slogans, applause are accompanying the work. They still fire gas but no one cares anymore. We resisted all night long; injured people, ambulances. I saw doctors in tears. I also cried for my beloved country, my future. Then I stood up straight and said “If you want freedom, a free future keep on resisting!”, “My name is Ferda; I am the future, we are the future.”
23 June 2013
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