For weeks the world has been gripped by violent developments on and around the Taksim Square in Istanbul. Pictures of blood-stained protestors and footage of attacks with tear gas and water cannons are eagerly shared via Twitter and Facebook. Not only by the Turks themselves, but also by journalists, artists and activists of other nationalities. Yes, even by people you would not expect to care for, well, for anything… follow this news.
The continuing rain of rubber bullets almost makes us forget that at the Beursplein (square) in Amsterdam dozens of Turkish Dutch gather every day to support their brothers and sisters in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities. Their first gathering was briefly noted in the media, but since then the peaceful Turks on the Beursplein have been almost forgotten.
Yet, every time I pass by the same young boy stands out. Big dab of gel in his hair, neat shirt, warm expression. He draws my attention because he is much younger than the rest of the Turks on the Beursplein. I decide to talk to him hoping he can explain why for God’s sake they are still there, each and every night. Other media haven’t been asking that question.
Loyally, Ulusal (20) bikes every evening around seven from Amsterdam-West to the Beursplein. He belongs to the hard core of twenty to thirty protesters who do not miss a day. Usually, Ulusal carries posters and flyers which he hands out to passersby. “I try to tell the Dutch, tourists and also Turks what is going on. Many Turks in the Netherlands know nothing; they only watch the state television and listen to Erdogan’s lies.
Ulusal’s parents come from Hatay, a province in southern Turkey. He was born in the Netherlands and lives with his mother. His father went back to Turkey after their divorce. Ululal hasn’t had a very religious upbringing, but feels Muslim nonetheless. He works part-time in an eatery and plays the piano. Next year he hopes to take the entrance exam for the conservatory. He did not inherit political commitment from home. So, Ulusal demonstrates alone, without family or friends.
“I don’t want anyone to join,” says Ulusal. “I do this of my own motion, for others.” He was moved by the excessive police violence against the demonstrators in Gezi Park who only made music, taught yoga classes or organized other peaceful activities. According to him, Gezi Park formed a short-lived small utopia in which capitalism did not exist. “By now I have seen so many images of violence and injuries. That really touches me deeply.”
PICTURE [Several protesters at the Beursplein, including Ulusal, imitate the protest of the Standing Man, who for eight hours stood standing still, staring at the portrait of Kemal Atatürk]
Ulusal can’t think of anything else anymore and follows the developments night and day. “When Taksim Square was forcibly cleared, I stayed up all night.” I was watching three channels at the same time and constantly checked Twitter and Facebook.” Because in the Netherlands he has access to all possible sources, Ulusal has a better idea of what is happening in Istanbul than the demonstrators over there. He is so focused on Turkey that the more recent (but comparable) protests in Brazil have completely escaped his attention.
Of course Ulusal has considered getting on the first plane to Istanbul. “But the people there tell me it’s better for me to stay here and inform the Dutch about the dictatorship that Turkey is becoming.” For now ending his protest is out of the question. Calling it quits hasn’t been heard at the Beursplein. As long as nothing changes in Turkey and the number of casualties continues to rise, the protest over there will continue. And so will I.
Translated by Jorrit Jelle
22 June 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish