Πέμπτη 20 Ιουνίου 2013

Gays in the park: Why a rainbow flag has become one of the primary symbols of Occupy Gezi

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posted by Oray Egin June 14,2013 in

Roughly two weeks ago, in the early stages of the Occupy Gezi protests, gay and lesbian activists were among the first to arrive in Gezi Park in Istanbul. As the ranks of demonstrators swelled and Occupy Gezi morphed from a simple protest to preserve the park into a larger movement against the Turkish government, gay and lesbian groups have found some unlikely allies near Taksim Square, and the rainbow flag has become one of the movement’s most visible symbols.

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Homosexuality is, of course, far from fully accepted in Turkish society — the army still considers being gay a sexual deviancyand gay activists have never been a powerful political force in Turkey. Yet in some ways, it’s not surprising that gays and lesbians would be on the forefront of the Occupy Gezi movement. After all, the park had been their territory — at least at night.

Located just steps away from Taksim Square, the city’s main entertainment hub, the park was once the de facto after-hours spot for gay revelers. “Take a look at every [gay] guidebook in the world, and you’ll find Gezi Park there,” says Barbaros Sansal, a fashion designer and activist who’s been going to the park for more than 50 years. “It’s the most important meeting point and cruising area for gays in Turkey. We all have memories there.”

During the day, of course, the park had a completely different identity. “Families with kids would go here,” says Sansal. “It’s also known as the Janitors Park. On the weekends, it was mainly populated by janitors and their families who live in the basement floors of a luxury building in the neighborhood. It was the only place that they could find some fresh air.”

For gays and lesbians, however, the park scene changed well before the government announced its plans to level it and replace it with a replica of an Ottoman Empire-era barracks. First, the local government in Istanbul destroyed the bushes in the park, so there wouldn’t be blind hook-up spots for gays.

 And starting last year, the police made its presence known, regularly carding whomever passed through. “Even in the morning, if you wanted to just sit and have a coffee on a bench, the police would come and interrogate you,” says Yigit Karaahment, a freelancer writer for Turkish Vogue and GQ. “So gays were gradually kicked out.”
Now, however, gays are back in the park and more visible than ever. “We have created a first-aid area, communicated with doctors, and provided food,” explains Boysan Yakar, an activist for the LGBT Bloc, a gay umbrella organization in Turkey.

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Only this time, there is little cruising going on. “I saw someone checking out his Grindr yesterday,” jokes Karaahmet. “But in reality, most of the time people have no desire or energy to hook up. They are not even sexually charged because of the protests.”
What’s perhaps more surprising is that a different sort of unity is taking place. Indeed, as the protests have continued, gay and lesbian groups have formed alliances with some unlikely friends, such as soccer super-fans and a religious conservative group known as the Anti-Capitalist Muslims. “For years, gays have been treated as an illegal splinter group,” says Kursad Kahramanoglu, a columnist for the leftist Turkish daily, Birgün. “But positive things came out of Gezi.”

When the protests began, for instance, gay and lesbian groups noticed anti-gay graffiti around the park. Some protesters began using the word ibne, a gay slur that can also mean “useless” in their anti-government invective. But soon gay activists began painting over the offensive graffiti and distributed thousands of stickers to raise awareness about homophobia. They also reached out to other groups, asking them not to insult gays, women or sex workers. Most cooperated. And some, including a few members of the Anti-Capitalist Muslims, said they would show support for their homosexual counterparts at the upcoming Gay Pride Week in Istanbul.

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Graffiti depicting Erdogan saying “You are very sweet”

“Erdogan called the protesters marginals, not radicals,” says  Sansal. “Marginal is a word that mostly refers to gays in Turkey. And he picked this word because rainbow flags were everywhere. But who cares? If anything, the Gezi protests played a historic role in our battle with homophobia.”

Θεριεύει το κίνημα «Στάσου Ακίνητος» στην Τουρκία – Ολος ο κόσμος θαυμάζει τη νέα μορφή διαμαρτυρίας [pics&vid]

Jun 19, 2013

Και ξαφνικά, στη μέση του δρόμου, σε πλατεία, οπουδήποτε, εκατοντάδες Τούρκοι, άντρες και γυναίκες σταματούν. Ακίνητοι, με εφημερίδες, βιβλία στα χέρια ή απλά κοιτάζοντας μπροστά διαμαρτύρονται για την ασφυξία που νιώθουν στην Τουρκία. Μάλιστα η τάση  duranadam εμφανίστηκε ήδη και στην Ουάσιγκτον.

Οι «ακίνητοι» έχουν συνήθως μπροστά στα πόδια τους ένα σακίδιο που περιέχει νερό, κάποια μπισκότα, βιβλία ή εφημερίδες ενώ συχνά οι περαστικοί εφοδιάζουν το σακίδιο με τρόφιμα ή ό,τι άλλο μπορεί να είναι χρήσιμο στους εκφραστές αυτής της νέας μορφής διαμαρτυρίας. Ολα ξεκίνησαν από έναν άντρα στην πλατεία Ταξίμ που στάθηκε ακίνητος, χωρίς καμία έκφραση, χωρίς ούτε μια λέξη.

Η τάση έχει διεθνή απήχηση ενώ υπάρχουν και ειδικά hashtags στα μέσα κοινωνικής δικτύωσης: #duranadam ή #standingman. Αυτή η μορφή διαμαρτυρίας έχει αφήσει πραγματικά αμήχανους τους αστυνομικούς που δεν ξέρουν πώς να αντιδράσουν.

Μάλιστα η τάση επεκτάθηκε και στην Ουάσιγκτον όπως δείχνει η επόμενη φωτογραφία έξω από την τουρκική πρεσβεία.

LGBT BLOCK - An account of our three weeks resistance

What began as a protest against the construction of a shopping mall in Gezi Park in Taksim Square, turned into a resistance movement against the oppressive politics of Turkish government that has been ongoing since May 27th 2013.

As an LGBT block, we have been an integral part of this movement which started as a peaceful civil disobedience and continues to protect its peaceful nature. As a group of people threatened to be removed from city centers due to urban reconstruction projects, we walked out into the streets to defend our neighborhoods against capital accumulating investment deals. 

At the end of the 20th day of occupation at the park, on Saturday June 15th police with the help of the military police, entered Gezi Park by force, violently dispersing the crowd with tear gas. They then proceeded to intervene with pressurized water laced with chemicals and tear gas to the hotels, infirmaries and hospitals, including indoor areas in which many people sought medical help and security. These interventions continued onto the following day, Sunday June 16th. Again, during the day on Sunday police and military police attacked the public, who were trying to get to Taksim Square to practice their democratic right to peaceful assembly, with tear gas and chemically enhanced pressurized water. People were beaten and taken into custody by the police. Pro-government fascist groups were also seen attacking people with knives and bats on the streets. (Visit the following link to see what happened on the 15th June www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2Zz5kPBt40

These attacks came the day after Prime Minister Erdogan met with members of the Taksim Solidarity group which represents Gezi Park resistance. At the time of the attack, along with its residents in tents set up all over, the park had visitors including children enjoying the weather and the festival like atmosphere created by the people organizing at the park for over two weeks. There were concerts, art workshops for children and other social activities in different locations in the park including deliberations about the anti-democratic actions of the government between people of different identities and ideologies. The Gezi Park occupation itself became a hub for cultural activities, a platform of communication and a sharing of a public eager to generate life, forming a unity around the principle of freedom.

Moreover, during this attack police forcibly kept all journalists outside of the park. At the end of 21 days many journalists were beaten and taken under police custody. Many mainstream media channels did not report openly out of fear of censorship and the government fined others who did.

Since the beginning of the spread of resistance over all of Anatolia, May 31st until June 18th, according to Turkish Doctors’ Union (TTB) report, there are a total of 4 deaths (one of whom is a police officer), 59 heavily injured, 6 of whom are at life risk. 91 people have suffered head traumas from tear gas canisters, 11 lost one eye and the total of people who have reported to the infirmaries set up around resistance sites and hospitals with injuries reached to 7,822. One of the head trauma victims is a 14 year old still fighting for his life.

We also observed signs of the use of plastic bullets on the bodies of the wounded and unknown people beat many who were taken into police custody. Since June 15th, there are several video and photographic evidence collected showing the police entering apartments without warrants, kicking apartment doors, and shooting tear gas into the hotels around Gezi Park. (http://delilimvar.tumblr.com/archive, http://showdiscontent.com/archive/gezi-parki/)

Over the weekend, during planned police operations and violent attacks several citizens including lawyers, doctors and journalists were taken into custody. According to the explanations by Contemporary Lawyers Association, currently in Istanbul, there are 169 in custody waiting to give their statements and 450 who have been reported to the crisis centers, however have not yet been taken to police stations (www.bianet.org/english/human-rights/147672-450-missing-169-detained-in-istanbul). We are terribly concerned about the risk of being lost while under police custody.

Among those in police custody there are several doctors who had been providing first aid to the wounded and injured on their own initiative. The temporary infirmaries were destroyed; the police collected the medical resources which were donated by the public. Moreover, the explanations and reports given by the governor on the events conflict with those coming from the Bar and non-governmental organizations follow the events. Speeches from the government officials target the protestors, as “terrorists” and the silence and selective reporting of the mainstream media are evidences of the use of disinformation. The current government is actively trying to hide the police violence and violation of the democratic rights of the people in Turkey. We contend that these actions of the government are what caused the increase of police brutality in Turkey.

In Ankara, the funeral convoy for Ethem Sarısülük who was shot in the head by a police officer was stopped and the funeral service had to change locations after the police intervention.

As one of the active constituents of Taksim Solidarity Platform, LGBT Block, we are concerned for our well being during the 4th Annual Trans Pride March on June 23rd and 11th Annual LGBT Pride March. We are afraid that we may experience severe police brutality during our marches, taking away our primary democratic right to peaceful assembly.

Additionally, during its 11 year service, the AKP government has not taken into consideration the demands of equality by LGBT groups. In both the parliament and in front of the public, they have declared LGBT existence as a sickness, a social deterioration, an imitation and an immorality. AKP deputies have stated that they will never support adding sexual orientation protections against discriminations to the constitution.


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