Love in the time of revolution – Şirin Öten


We learn all our lives. We learn to do hundreds of things to give meaning to life but especially to make money. Nowadays money has to be part of our lives either as an objective or as a means. “Do we live to make money or do we make money to live?” That is the question. Whatever our profession, the money that we have to earn in order to survive, is Satan’s invention. Relationships we are subjected to in order to make money create enormous holes in our mental frames and emotional worlds. As we have to dilute our systems of values those holes get bigger.

The Gezi Park Resistance entered our lives in the morning of May 31 2013 like an antidote to the feeling of desperation that filled up this vast emptiness. Doctors, nurses, veterinarians, graphic artists, writers, filmmakers, engineers and many other people from diverse occupations tasted the pleasure of engaging in  their profession with love for the first time during this resistance. They didn’t have any material gain except for adhering to some abstract concepts such as love, freedom, solidarity and gathering memories. This resistance is an epic story of people who worked for long hours that no boss could make them work, in very bad conditions with peace and happiness. The definition of an “epic story” may now have negative connotations (because the  Prime Minister described the police intervention as “writing an epic”) but do not worry, History will show who the real heroes are.

Now, I will tell you the story of two people among those hundreds of thousands of beautiful people. We now have so many stories that we could write tens of volumes. All of those stories will be told one day. The protagonists of my story are Nuray and Özgür or “Crazy Nurse” and “the man with green t-shirt.”

When I first met them, I saw two people who were exhausted but happy and peaceful. If I don’t say that they are the most beautiful lovers of the world, it is because today the image of love is corrupted. We live in a world where love means consumption, and I cannot just describe the thing that these two people feel as merely love. The story of Nuray and Özgür is more than a love story; it is the story of an encounter. It is the rendevous of two people who have been waiting for each other for thirty two years.  It is as if a secret hand fixed their first encounter at  Gezi Park.

You should forget all the romance stories that you’ve heard of so far. The story that you are about to read is unique, nothing like any other story. In our story there are birds, flowers, signs, coincidences, blood, tears, sorrow, bad guys and cheerful laughter. You may say that all these are typical ingredients of any love story. Yes, it is true, except, in our story all these sine qua non elements have different, unexpected roles. Anyway, because our heroine and hero are sui generis personalities it is hard to expect that the supporting roles, the setting and the atmosphere be ordinary.

The heroine: Crazy Nurse Nuray  

Our Crazy Nurse stopped working as a nurse because she can’t stand seeing blood and because the doctors treat the nurses as their servants. She’s become an actress instead after studying at the conservatory. Yes, I’ve already warned you that this story is quite unusual. Nuray is a nurse who trembles or even faints when she sees blood. Because she criticized the way the doctors treated the nurses as their servants she had been fired from four different hospitals. Now she is in love with a revolutionary who has committed his life to voluntary doctors. They are going to get married on July 20. Nuray was defying the doctors at the hospitals and will not hesitate to defy her prospective husband at home. And of course, Özgür would not take Nuray as his servant at home, because he is a revolutionary who refused to be a doctor and left the faculty of medicine. He’s a chapuller with a passion for cinema and electronics. I’ll describe Özgür below but there is a detail that we should keep in mind at this point. The fact, that a nurse who refuses to be a nurse falls in love with a chapuller who refuses to be a doctor is a very pleasant coincidence. Besides, one becomes an actress and the other is devoted to cinema. They say they feel as if they complete each other.

Nuray lives 600 meters away from Gezi Park. On the morning of May 31, she woke up, like many other Istanbulites, with the screams in the streets announcing that terrible police intervention, “They are killing people in Gezi Park!” She ran amok hearing that the park which she had just left half an hour ago was raided brutally. She wants to run to the park, but her mother’s worries keep her home. Our Crazy Nurse becomes the first to turn her home into an infirmary. After a day of intense work of first aid at her home, the following day she runs to  Gezi Park, sending her mother to her own home in another city. Even though she is now an actress, she uses all her knowledge and skills from her past as a nurse in the infirmary at the park. She doesn’t remember exactly the moment when she met Özgür. Although she says, “We exchanged a few words while we were helping  the injured people, shoulder to shoulder,” some details give her away. I’ll come back to this later.

Nuray feels so deeply committed to the revolution that these days whatever she does serves the revolution. She is astonished to remember working non-stop with only two hours of sleep a day. There are so many things she did during those early days that surprise her now. She keeps starting her sentences with, “I don’t know what happened to me, but…”, a phrase that signifies the astonishment she feels realizing how she did certain things that normally she wouldn’t venture to do. She keeps saying with pride, “I felt myself doing something useful for the first time in my life”. By the way, helping people with serious traumas and covered with blood without trembling shows how committed she is. She doesn’t feel any physical needs nor see any kind of obstacles to her work. The most important thing is for her to save lives, the rest becomes so insignificant.

Our Crazy Nurse who isn’t listening to her body or her bodily needs at the Park would do some small gestures that are like the repressed sounds of a drum that beats in her heart. While she does not care a bit about her own comfort, she develops some reflexes to reassure Özgür’s wellbeing.  “I would wonder if he would like some coffee today, and I’d immediately go and  make him some coffee and place the cup beside him and then continue to deal with the patients. I’d do this without eye contact with him or without waiting for anything in return.” Özgür and Nuray didn’t even realize that they would flirt for days on end in the Park infirmary with two or three-phrase dialogues. They both keep saying with an utmost sincerity that they never thought about love at that time.

When they tell me about their history they keep repeating that although they are in love now at that moment they didn’t realize it at all. They are so sweet that I can’t say to them, “Why do you search for your love in your minds?” As I said before, theirs is an encounter arranged by an invisible hand that has organized everything in detail for 32 years. They will also accept the fact that reason cannot explain what they have experienced .

As Nuray keeps doing her little gestures towards Özgür,  life in the infirmary gets busier. Due to sleeplessness and exhaustion the volunteers feel at the brink of nervous exhaustion. At that moment, this time Özgür does something without thinking and shouts out loud in order to motivate his colleagues in the infirmary;

“Is there anyone who needs anything?”

Nuray, who is exhausted and wasted away, gives the following answer without thinking:

“I need love.”

Özgür and Nuray run to each other at the same moment and hug. They claim this wasn’t a romantic hug between a man and a woman. They add,  “Anyway, this became a tradition in the Park afterwards; everybody started to hug the person next to them.” Although we have some mystical beliefs, because we have grown up with Occidental rationality we tend to rationalize the things that we do without thinking or deciding beforehand. They say that this just happened spontaneously. I think the fact that Nuray and Özgür were the two people who started the tradition of hugging can’t be explained by a simple coincidence. The secret hand sent the first strong sign to this couple-to-be that was unaware of each other for 32 years and of their encounter in Gezi Park.

The hero: Man with green t-shirt, Özgür 

Özgür is an independent revolutionary who came to  Gezi Park  to camp there for a week to save the trees. After that, he was planning to go to Bulgaria. For fifteen years, he’s been a volunteer health worker who has  participated in many revolutions, working in field hospitals, without being attached to any ideology or political organization. At Gezi Park in order to take the injured to the infirmary, he throws himself fearlessly forward under the rain of rubber bullets and pepper gas bombs. He says, “If I died in Lebanon, for instance, it would have been a waste of my life, but here death doesn’t scare me at all.” He’s come to the Park for a week but the atmosphere affects him so much that he says he could stay here even if it lasts for five years. Even if he doesn’t remember exactly the moment when he met Nuray, he remembers the first moment he saw her as if in a frame of a photograph. As we said, this is not a typical encounter. For a long while, he calls Nuray by another name as everybody does in the infirmary because Nuray wears a protective vest that she’s found somewhere with Sinem written on the back. Nuray says, “I let them to call me Sinem thinking that I might hide my real identity from the police in this way but then I couldn’t stand it anymore and told them my real name.”

Özgür has a very particular frame of mind. The way he relates to objects is quite particular too. The green t-shirt that has witnessed all his experiences at  Gezi Park is very precious for him. “It was like my uniform; people would recognize me from that t-shirt.” Özgür’s green t-shirt is like a souvenir recorder that testifies to all the painful and wonderful things he encounters during the Gezi Resistance. That’s why he is never without it; he washes it and then puts it on again and again.

Our story now unfolds with an incredible metaphor created by the secret hand that matched up Nuray and Özgür. As our Crazy Nurse and The Man with the Green T-shirt think of nothing but the revolution and don’t hear the voices in their hearts, the secret hand tries something else to make them realize that they are meant to be with each other.

Came with the rain

It rains in Gezi Park. It rains over the tents, over the people and the trees. For Özgür, the most important thing at that moment is to save the medications from getting wet. He feels that if the medications get wet and the infirmary becomes dysfunctional everything will come to an end. If the people become worried about their health they will leave the park, he says to himself. The only way for the  Gezi Park inhabitants to feel  safe is to keep the infirmary functional. They trust the infirmary staff so much that they go there even for the treatment of chronic diseases. People with high blood pressure or asthma want to do their regular examinations in the Gezi infirmary because it is safer and the staff is much more caring there. Özgür doesn’t want to allow this feeling of trust to be damaged because of the rain. He does whatever he can to save the medications, the tools and the stretchers. “I was struggling to keep them dry with an almost supernatural effort because at that moment nothing else mattered.” Do you find the term “supernatural” a bit exaggerated? Then let’s continue our story and you can decide whether this is exaggerated or not. When the rain intensifies, Özgür worries about the electrical cables. Because he is also an electric-geek he anticipates that the naked electrical cables can electrocute tens of  the heavy rain. Without thinking for a second he plucks the cables. At that moment nobody realizes this detail, but now it is clear that Özgür could have been electrocuted plucking the electrical cables in the rain. Well, with this supernatural effort the infirmary was saved with only minor damage. Of course, during all this time, Özgür was wearing his green t-shirt.

This victory against the rain is very important for Özgür. He has already avoided many attempts of sabotage directed to the Gezi infirmary. Medications laced with rat poison, pizzas with laxatives and fake doctors are a few examples of sabotage attempts that have been warded off thanks to the utmost attention of Özgür and his team. Özgür says, “They did their best to shake the trust that people had for the infirmary. If we had an epidemic  or an unfortunate death nobody would stay at the Park, and they knew this very well.” That’s why the infirmary is like the fortress for him. He tries to protect the infirmary at his own risk against the dark forces as well as against the rain and nature. But  nature helps him with its miracles because nature’s justice is always flawless and infallible.

When finally the rain stops, Özgür and the Green T-shirt are in a terrible shape. Özgür would never think of taking the soaked t-shirt off but Crazy Nurse orders, “Take that shirt off right now; you don’t have the right to get ill!”

Upon this irresistible order Özgür is obliged to take off his t-shirt and give it to Nuray but he remembers saying, “Look, this t-shirt is very precious to me.” And the Crazy Nurse’s answer is unforgettable: “Then you will have to learn to trust me because this t-shirt is in my hands now!” It is important to note that this dialogue takes place in a few seconds just after the rainfall and they have tons of things to do. Crazy Nurse and the Man with Green T-shirt resume their  work. However, Özgür never forgets his Green T-shirt. The police interventions and the flow of injured people have already made him forget their dialogue but he keeps looking for his t-shirt and wonders where it may be now. He never thinks of asking Crazy Nurse. And the metaphor of the Green T-shirt becomes the most important sign indicating the love of Nuray and Özgür destined by a secret hand.

This reminds me of the Green Road movie. Isn’t Özgür like the green giant that sucks through his supernatural powers the pain of hundreds of people? Well, this is the story of the giant Özgür who reaches his other half by following the green t-shirt.

We are now on that sorrowful day when thousands of people are brutally evacuated from the Park. On that day, Özgür and Nuray continue to do their work up until the last minute thinking that the captains should be the last to leave the sinking ship. When they realize that the police are determined to chase everybody out, they decide to save as much of the equipment and materials as they can with the view of continuing their work outside the Park. They fill up their bags fearlessly despite the imminent  police raid. While Özgür puts in his bag all the medical supplies found in his tent Nuray reports the police’s latest location every 30 minutes. As Nuray says that the police are really close, Özgür replies with a determined and firm tone;

“You run away, now! I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Nuray is now astonished why she just obeyed that order without questioning it:  “He told me to run away and I did.” Why doesn’t Özgür run away as well? It is because he’s determined not to leave the Green T-shirt to the garbage collectors. But where is this Green T-shirt? As he now almost collides with the police he has to give up,  with a broken heart, the thought of finding his t-shirt. But if you think that he will run away from park, you are wrong. Because he knows that there are injured people outside of the park, he tries to take a stretcher with him. While he attaches the folding stretcher to his arm the heart rendering scene he witnesses gives him more power. First he sees a 10-year-old kid inside a heavy cloud of pepper gas screaming to find his father. And then he sees the police firing pepper gas up into the 10-year-old kid’s face. Özgür is infuriated. With the big bag on his back and the heavy stretcher on his arm, he shouts all the curses he knows at the police. Instead of running for his life, Özgür shouts at the top of his lungs, curses  the pepper gas fired in the face of a little kid and the father’s pitiful, helpless look. He receives wooden  baton blows and punches in return for his curses but the only thing he thinks is to keep the stretcher on his arm. And he manages to take the stretcher out  while the police turn their attention on somebody else. He longs to go home and recover a bit so that he can come out and help the injured outside  the Park.

At that moment Nuray thinks about Özgür. She’s now angry with herself for having obeyed that “you run away” order. She cannot find peace now without seeing him safe and sound. If you think that she’s suffering the remorse of leaving a comrade behind while sitting comfortably in her couch, sipping her coffee, you are wrong. Nuray, at her home/infirmary resumes her duty. Between two patients she keeps calling Özgür and leaving voice messages on his mobile phone:

“I have to see with my own eyes that you are safe and sound!”

Özgür, on the other hand, after resting for five minutes at home,  rushes to the Ramada Hotel. He picks up the injured and takes them to the hotel under the bombardment of rubber bullets until the next morning. The other protestors think that Özgür must have lost his mind when they see him throwing himself in the middle of the rubber bullet raids without even wearing a helmet. There are even those who think that he wants to commit suicide. But Özgür gets even braver when he sees the ambulances that carry pepper gas shells instead of the injured or the police watching the injured taken out of the ambulances onto the road bleeding to death. “I am a human being; I cannot leave other human beings to die in the middle of the streets!”

Crazy Nurse’s home/infirmary has already been tagged by the police and the landlord tells her to evacuate the apartment.  But Nuray is stubborn, “Özgür will come here! I won’t go anywhere until I see him safe and sound!”, she says.

It is again  nature that decides the moment of encounter for these two beings that struggle in two different places to save lives. This time the rain clouds mobilize so that Özgür can get some rest.

When finally the police retreat because of the rainfall, calm is restored, Özgür knows where to go. He knocks on Nuray’s door. Our Crazy Nurse takes a deep breath seeing Özgür in one piece. For these two, this is still nothing to do with love that they try to find with their Reasons. But our secret hand has not yet dealt the last blow. Our two lovers resume their tasks for the revolution. They make phone calls and tend the injured. And when Özgür receives a call and needs some privacy to answer it, he finds himself in Nuray’s bedroom.

“Yes, I’m home now. Yeah, I am okay, my brother. I have to go now; I’ll call you later.”

Hanging up the phone, Özgür keeps staring at  Nuray’s bed. It is not difficult to guess what h

e’s staring at. The Green T-shirt, washed and ironed, lying on the bed. At that moment, Özgür feels that he’s just found his other half. He calls Nuray to the bedroom with an excuse;

“Nuray, the view from your balcony is so beautiful.”

“What are you talking about? You should see the view upstairs.”

“No, the most beautiful view is here just before my eyes!”

I am afraid those who want to read some romantic moments and compliments will be disappointed again. That Nuray and Özgür finally recognize their love doesn’t mean they give up the revolution. The apartment is full of injured people and in the kitchen there are as many things to do as there are at the barricades. That night, Özgür curls up next to Nuray because there isn’t enough room in the apartment. They get the most completed sleep of their 32 years of life. When they wake up in the morning, they ask each other the same question at the same time;

“Where you been for 32 years?”

On that day, at that moment, they decide not ever to be parted anymore. When these two beautiful human beings who haven’t realized for days that they are in love announce their decision to friends, instead of good wishes they get this reaction: “What? Weren’t you lovers anyway? The whole Park thought you were madly in love with each other!”

These two hearts committed to the revolution are now preparing their wedding to be as beautiful as the revolution. The organizers of their wedding are tens of chapullers. The venue of the wedding? It is the very place where this love is sparked:  Gezi Park.

They are concerned at being taken as doing something to be sensational but it is not possible to give up having the wedding at Gezi Park.

Their wedding can only be meaningful with the presence of the eighty-year-old lady who goes to  Gezi Park every morning with two loaves of bread and a dozen eggs to distribute to anyone she sees there. This wedding should be  under the canopy of the trees that these two revolutionary lovers have saved with the birds as their wedding witnesses.  Gezi Park carries the talisman of a kid who sends from the U.S. his favorite toy to the protesters’ kids at the Park, with a note saying, “I cannot come to you because I am only thirteen years old but please accept my toy.” Isn’t it just right to get married in that Park every inch of which is impregnated by the good wishes of children who sent by postcards and letters? Could it be a real wedding unless the Çarşı Group greets the young lovers with torchlights? This wedding cannot be without the spirits of Ethem, Mehmet, Abdullah and Ali. Besides, when all the chapullers are invited to this wedding, where can we find a place to hold all the guests?

On July 20 2013, all the chapullers will be at Gezi Park where our lives have crisscrossed in order to witness the union of these two brave people. We’re going to celebrate the most crowded wedding all together. For Nuray and Özgür, for Freedom, for testifying that the best thing we know is to love, we’re going to get together once again with all the chapullers.

The wedding will take place in Gezi Park on July 20 at 19:30 … 

Şirin Öten
11 July 2013

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