Lately in Istanbul: Istanbul erupts (recommended reading)


I don’t know how many of you will have seen foreign news coverage of the protests that have engulfed Istanbul and many other large Turkish cities over the last two days. My Twitter feed is abuzz with minute-by-minute developments: footage of shocking police brutality, rumours about the use of strange chemicals against protesters (still unconfirmed, I think), and moving stories of courage and solidarity as local businesses and volunteers help those gassed and beaten by security services.

What started as a small protest about urban development has, because of massive police overreaction and government indifference in the face of brutality, erupted into a broad-based anti-government protest that is about so much more than trees.

It breaks my heart to see what’s happening in this city that I love, and it’s gut-wrenchingly frustrating that I had to fly back to the UK on Thursday. I wish so much that I could be there and show my support for the protesters (although I reckon my parents are pretty thankful for this fortuitous timing).

While I’ve been following the developments closely I’m no expert, so in case anyone is curious to know more, I’ve compiled a little selection of some of the best coverage and analysis I’ve read yet (note that little of this is from Turkish media sources – apparently there’s an almost total media blackout inside Turkey about the protests, with CNN Turkey showing cooking shows and wildlife programmes while CNN International reports on the protests). Also, please do share anything else you’ve read that’s interesting!

  • Is there a social-media-fueled protest style? An analysis from #jan25 to #geziparki, by Zeynep Tufekci. The best analysis of what’s happening right now in Istanbul I’ve read yet, including a scathing analysis of the cowed Turkish media’s reaction to the protests. Also fascinating analysis of the protests as a social movement and the role that social media is playing (totally fascinating if you’re a social-change geek like me!)
  • Erdogan remains defiant as Istanbul protest widens, by Yavuz Baydar. In-depth analysis of the Erdogan government’s arrogant and authoritarian “attempts to micromanage and smother people’s lifestyles”, including by introducing laws to ban drinking in public. Baydar describes the protest as a “remarkable urban uprising on the issues related to cultures and subcultures, and individual choices.”
  • Who are Turkey’s protesters? The view from Taksim Square, by Amberin Zaman. A great piece that shows vividly the diversity, across the lines nature of this movement. Also helpful reminder that this isn’t Turkey on the brink of revolution, Erdogan isn’t a dictator (although he may behave a bit like one), and this isn’t likely to topple the government.
  • Unrest in Turkey shows cracks in AKP’s vision, by Yavuz Baydar. An excellent article setting out the political background behind the protests, and what this means for the Turkish government. V interesting insight into the government’s policies towards Turkey’s Alevi minority, and their growing resentment.

(Apologies for this off-topic blog post. This is an issue really close to my heart, and I very much needed an outlet. Normal service will resume shortly!)