Istanbul Rising

Dear Dad,
In Gezi Park, just a five minute walk from your old house in Cihangir, something incredible is happening. It’s been occupied by peaceful protesters who gathered there to prevent the park being bulldozed to build a shopping mall. There is a tent city there now, and the park is festooned with posters, art, and graffiti expressing a full spectrum of ideas. The protestors are standing up for their right to express these ideas, remaining steadfast in the face of intimidation and attack. And I mean real attacks, with tear gas and water cannons (and I know you’ve seen what the police can do with a baton).
That this nucleus of peace can remain in spite of it all has made these protests into a beacon of hope. Suddenly, it seems, there is a vision to carry us into the future. It is an idea that dares to look beyond economic growth and grasps for something deeper for us all. And most of all it is the protestors’ integrity – that alignment between belief and action – that is so hard to ignore. The actions of all those who are taking a stand has rippled through the country and has given rise to urgent conversations – over the phone, over coffee, late at night while kids sleep, or in sporadic bursts on the internet.
It makes me wish I could go to your house in Cihangir, and find you on the top floor in your creaky rocking chair. I’d flop out on the sofa and stare at the carpets hanging on the ceiling while we talked about all that is going on while the chair popped and creaked.
The energy and creativity that has come out of all this is so exhilarating that it is unbearable to think of the protests being crushed, of these brave voices being silenced. So we gather what news we can and hope that the protestors will stay safe. I stay up late after the boys have fallen asleep and try to make out what is happening in the square.
Last night, there was a piano in Taksim, I read, and protesters sang songs together. Tonight I read that a group of mothers joined hands to make a protective chain between protestors and the police after PM Erdogan urged parents to bring their children home from the square so they would be safe.
It is hard to know how things will turn out, but I have no doubt that the mark of Occupy Gezi is indelible. The boys will ask me about it one day, I am sure – this feels like a defining moment. I wish you were here to share it.

8 thoughts on “Istanbul Rising

    1. There have been so many amazing photos coming out of Taksim lately, and it is true — they run the whole spectrum of emotions. We are waiting anxiously to see how this will all play out.

  1. What an amazing and heartfelt letter. Have been following the news in Turkey from here, but with the spin given by the American press, it’s hard to know what the feeling on the ground is like. Thank you, Siobhan for the perspective!

  2. A moving, hopeful letter, Siobhan. Friends and I were just discussing the recent events in Istanbul. The 3 of us have visited that beautiful city and share a hope that things will be resolved peacefully. May calmer heads prevail…

  3. Matt Opatrny

    Hey Siobhan,
    Thanks for all your blogging. This one brought back such amazing memories of that room with your dad and the sound of that chair. Every time I sit in a rocking chair his rhythm is with me. Listening to him changed me, and sticks with me.
    The Gazi Occupation reminds me of the days and weeks after 9/11/2001 when hundreds (sometimes thousands) of us gathered in Union Square Park to sit, to think, to call for a rational and peaceful response. I’m not sure much news got out about that gathering. I’m glad this one is being heard.

    1. That sounds like it must have been a pretty powerful experience, not to mention a good way to respond – I found the events of that time to be quite isolating in addition to everything else (a product of being overseas, perhaps). The problem of Gezi Park is that the park itself was an incredible nucleus of peace and creativity, but it drew a storm of violence and suddenly there seems to be no other way forward. We would no doubt have had to get my dad out of Istanbul (friends in the neighbourhood say the tear gas reaches well into Cihangir) but I would have loved to talk to him about all of this.

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