Monday, May 07, 2007

Turkey fieldwork notes: secularist protest

At 11.30pm on the 29th of April 2007, I wrote that:
I learned of the protest today and nearly didn't go at all after an Associated Press (AP) report (massively underestimating numbers and) said it had already finished, hours before it even started. I left my flat and went to the kiosk in Taksim Square; I asked for directions and was just told to go to the metro.

As soon as I got to the station, I was able to folow the people dressed i red-and-white and bearing Turkish flags. I smiled when one of the first people I saw at the protest was wearing an England number six football shirt (like Bobby Moore wore in the 1966 World Cup).

I saw a placard reading, 'ne İran, ne Arabistan, ne Amerikalı...', 'neither Iran, nor Arabia, nor American...'. Then, I saw the armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and other vehicles with weapons mounted on them, one of the automatic weapons tracking back and forth across the crowd, ever-ready.

Lots of people had some form of sign with some variation of, 'ne şeriat, ne darbe, demokratik Türkiye', 'neither shariah, nor coup, democratic Turkey', on it.

One of the parks near the rally seemed to be off-limits, only accessible to security forces. In the area overlooking the rally where the media were based, one person was stood behing another getting interviewed holding a placard reading, 'hainlikte son aşama ama/ana okulunda İngilizce', although I can't now recall the translation.

There was one damaged, discarded banner that referenced the protests following Hrant Dink's murder and his funeral procession, reading, 'hepimiz Atatürküz', 'we are all Ataturk'.

The group Alınteri, 'Work' or 'Struggle', had put up posters for the 1st of May, crying out, 'kahrolsun ücretli kölelik düzeni!', 'down with the system of salaried slavery!' and demanding, 'herkese iş, sağlık, eğitim güvencisi için', which means soemthing like, 'work, health, education for all, for security'. Someone or some group had tried to peel them off the wall, but only damaged two before they left, for one reason or another.

On my way home there was graffiti saying, 'ya hepsin, ya hiç, ya Türksün, ya piç', which I think translates as, 'either all or nothing, you're either Turk or bastard', possibly signed with a tag by 'Türk-o', with the 'ü' i their name formed by a star-and-crescent. Amongst others, Bolu Şubesi branch of the Atatürkcü Düşünce Derneği was in attendance. A couple of Roma were busking.

One banner stuck over a road sign read, 'kafası Arap aşığı, gövdesi Amerikan uşağı istemiyoruz', with someone else having inserted 'cumhurbaşkanı' before '... istemiyoruz'; there's something about the love of Arabs and the servnts of America, but I can't quite work out what.

People started haranguing Istanbul Radio (İstanbul Radyosu); one old man had a sign that I think read something like, 'Greeks into the Aegean'.

There seemed to be more people there thanat Hrant Dink's funeral, but nowhere near the highest estimates, which all seem to have come from state sources.

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