Bianet: Here it was going on, in İzmir and right now – Gamze Kutlukaya

After the first week, the police intervention decreased considerably and Kordon was transformed into a liberated, ‘Police Free Zone.’ Therefore, it was easier to sit and talk.


On the evening of May 31st, I and my parents were at a wedding. Gezi Park was not a significant issue on my agenda. How could it be, anyway? There was nothing extraordinary on television.

When I got up the next morning, a few things started to show up on my Facebook page. I immediately opened my Twitter account. There, it appeared like flowing numbers, as it was in the Matrix movie. Although I did not fully grasp what was going on, I started to feel nervous and excited. I was showing hardly any interest in anything other than my computer screen. I called a friend of mine from Ankara to get a better idea of the situation. They were in Kızılay, they had had their share of gas and water. My friend could not speak much and we shut our phones. Just after that, I have called another friend from İstanbul and my friend said things like, “We are going to İstiklal through Galatasaray, it is terrible here,” and shut the phone. I got that strange feeling. It was unbearable to sit at home so I prepared my bag and headed out.

I had to explain to my parents as to why I was going out as we were together in Urla (a small town 35 km. away from Gündoğdu Square). Thinking, my God, these teenagers, my father had a sarcastic smile on his face while my mother was staring at me and thinking, what it has got to do with our daughter. I walked away and got into my car. Then, I was on the highway.

It was towards evening when I arrived at Alsancak. I parked my car somewhere nearby Plevne Street and started walking. A handsome TOMA welcomed me on Plevne Street. It was spewing water and gas in front of a heap, which couldn’t really be called a barricade, in front of Reyhan Patisserie. It is the place where middle-aged and elderly high society members usually hang out. That day, the residents of İzmir had not learned how to establish a barricade yet. Later on people in the barricades would start to whisper, “Oh boy, these Kurdish guys are experts at this. TOMA can not pass their barricades.” Some people were trying to work out what was going on from their balconies; some were looking around, acting strangely, thinking, “It has turned to ashes in our mouths.”

All I was able to think at that moment was that the Turkish Republican elite, mostly middle aged and elderly population of white Turks, who resided in the very centre of Alsancak, had seen the police turn against them for the first time in their lives and witnessed that nobody was talking about this fatal incident on the TV. Most of them, however, believed that the police were on their side, against burglars. The police were on their side against the annoying presence of the young Kurdish children in the neighborhood. The police were also on their side against sex workers who made them feel suspicious as they came across them in the evenings. And they were privileged; they had never thought that they could face the gas someday. Mixed with a shivering feeling, I was becoming hopeful. There it was going on, here and now.

After getting my own share of gas and becoming refreshed with a lemon-handkerchief in front of Reyhan Patisserie, I crossed the street and went to Kordon. There were a lot of scorpions and riot squad members. I kept walking. A young man gave me a gas mask on the way, I thanked him. I had passed the course: Introduction to Resistance 101, already.

I made friends in a couple of days and I was going to work during the day and hurrying to go to Alsancak straight after work. The jokes like, we are all Tyler Durden, were all around. Meanwhile, I prepared my own activist bag. My gas masks (with extras to give to others if needed), my liquid talcid and water spray, napkins, drinking water, paper and markers (what if I suddenly want to make a placard)… And after a few times of being made fun of, I learned that slogans were being repeated three times.

After a while they started to pitch tents nearby İskele. Most of the time I was with LGBTT people. I found the attitude of the Turkish Communist Party and Worker’s Party, who were willing to fight with the police at every opportunity, repellant. I told them, “Somebody gets hurt each time you fight,” but they were not listening. In my opinion, passive resistance was the first principle. It debased the violence of the riot squad, revealing its absurdity. The balloon of the injustice of violence was becoming bigger and bigger. Of course, being passive did not prevent people from getting hurt… That was the duty of our police!

I took shelter in a friend’s house for two nights. The house was in a central place and there were lots of guests. I don’t even know the names of the people I spent those two nights with. The door was open to everybody who was injured by the gas. The house was not very big, so even the entrance hallway was full of people for a while. The eagerness of the plain-clothes policemen to enter the hallway made it difficult to keep the main door open all the time. So, somebody was watching the street to see if there was anybody coming and another one was opening the door for the people who needed shelter.

Not in the early stages, just after that, the nationalists of İzmir started to dominate the crowd in the squares. The Union of Young Turks was both numerous and able to organize quickly. Although they were independent during the riot, there were many people resisting individually who wore bandanas with the signature of “K. Atatürk” and carried flags showing Atatürk in a calpac in Kordon. I was shouting with my friends, “We shall not kill, we shall not die, we shall become nobody’s soldier,” alongside their slogan of, “We are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers.” Sometimes we were becoming Mustafa Keser’s soldiers. It was shoulder to shoulder against fascism in any case. We were very glad that that did not cause a fight. In total, it was the Republican meetings where people came together against the government and our expectation was not very high in such a city. People became hopeful even at seeing the elderly man from People’s Democratic Congress and the elderly lady wearing a bandana, ‘Founding father, we follow your footsteps,’ as they were dancing the halay together.

After the first week, the police intervention decreased considerably and Kordon was transformed into a liberated, ‘Police Free Zone.’ Therefore, it was easier to sit and talk. Unfortunately, the majority of Turkish leftists handled the issue as a class struggle and lost itself in the proclamations of ‘revolution’ (it was part of the resistance, for sure, but not in the way that they thought). Basmane, where the most intensive police intervention took place in the first couple of days, became the special location of leftists. Nationalists, on the other hand, were gathering in Gündoğdu. So, it was keeping Basmane out of elite’s sight and facilitating the police intervention. Pardon me, but to see scorpions and riot squads in Kordon every night was not something that elderly ladies of Alsancak could deal with!

During those Kordon nights that we spent in tents, the funniest thing was to watch the city lights turning on and off. The most beloved Kordon neighborhood was supporting this type of action with all its heart and soul. However, it was not as easy as it seems because the luxurious lighting system used in their homes was not quickly opened and shut down. These were the lights that shine and fade away slowly. I am still sad that we did not record that scene with our cameras. It would go viral on the internet.

The communication network was quickly established and news were coming from everywhere, including İstanbul, Ankara, Eskişehir, Antakya and many other places. Those İphones, which I used in the discourse of meta fetishism, to look down upon, served us in good stead and became the only source of our safety. I was relying on Mobese cameras since I still did not have one and I was praying to God not to leave my safety in their hands. From İphones, we were hearing the news of people who were killed, injured, and lost. Then, we heard that Medeni Yıldırım was killed. Then, something quite beautiful happened that day. Of course, Medeni’s murder was devastating; but that day a big crowd in İzmir established empathy with Lice for the first time.

And it was also very beautiful to shout, “Resist Lice, the homosexuals are with you,” in İzmir’s first Pride Parade. Yet, everything was not as easy as in fairy tales, of course. After a while, people tended to adopt their previous positions. However, the wall was cracked and the lights were seen from the other side. I would like to trust that light. There are so many things to tell but I guess everybody has similar memories. After all, you are not going to learn how to resist from me. (GK/HK)

Gamze Kutlukaya
10 August 2013

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