Young people in Turkey came together through technology to begin a revolution.
Since the summer of 2013, after deaths of protesters, violent police intervention, and people standing together, the first local elections in Turkey will be held on March 30, 2014.
“It’s going to be brutal; that’s what we’re expecting,” Ferris Social Sciences Department Chair and Professor of Psychology Dr. Meral Topcu said.
Topcu presented “Islam and Democracy: Turkish Revolution, Summer 2013” on Thursday, March 20 in IRC 120.
Topcu was born and raised in Turkey and came to the United States when she was 28 years old. She was in Turkey when the Revolution started and said that after 10 years of oppression, the revolution sparked hope.
“Young people [in Turkey] don’t have much of a future to find a job if they are not religious or with the party,” Topcu said. “That’s really what ignited this whole thing.”
According to Topcu, the Turkish Revolution started with small, subtle government changes. Republic Day, a national holiday, is very important in Turkey. Slowly, the prime minister and president began to cancel these events in 2012. People went out into the streets with flags in their hands to celebrate even though the government was not celebrating.
The words “Turkish Republic” began coming off of government buildings. People began asking what was going on.
In May 2013, there was a ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 p.m. and public display of affection was criticized, Topcu said. After this, over 1,000 people went out on the streets and kissed.
The government wanted to cut down trees and build commercial places in Gezi Park in Istanbul.
“Gezi Park is like the Times Square of Turkey,” Topcu said. “Some people got together and basically tied themselves to the trees.”
This was on May 31. The opposition party met on June 1 in Gezi Park.
“Suddenly people are getting together,” Topcu said. “People started to live in the park. They had a library, slept there, and made makeshift [gas] masks. People started to leave food for each other. Cafes opened up Wi-Fi so that the people could use it: Technology.”
All while this was happening, police brutality rose as they began shooting pepper gas and water cannons directly at people instead of in the air, Topcu said.
This resulted in some deaths. People began writing their blood types on their arms and shouting their names as they were shot by police.
The hashtag, #occupygezi, took to twitter in mass amounts. The government did not show anything on the television, so people used social media to report current situations.
“We used Facebook to tell people where to go if they get injured,” Topcu said. “They couldn’t go to hospitals, because they were getting arrested there.”
The next step for Turkey is the election, Topcu said. Some higher level people have to resign, but the prime minister is not.
“Young people, your generation, know how to use technology,” Topcu said. “[You all] are making changes in the world.”
Ferris junior criminal justice major Anna Mater and Ferris senior social work major Sarah McLaughlin both went to the event and said that prior to the event, they didn’t know what was happening in Turkey.
“We’re so focused in on our own lives; we need to actually go on websites, go on the news, and actually pay attention to what’s going on in the world,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said that we need to pay attention in order to help.
“A lot of people like us don’t know what’s going on in the world,” Mater said. “We can’t help if we don’t know. [Learning] opens more doors.”