News / Europe

    Turkish Protesters Take to Country's Parks

    A man tends to a makeshift memorial for the victims of clashes between protesters and riot police at the Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey, July 12, 2013.
    A man tends to a makeshift memorial for the victims of clashes between protesters and riot police at the Gezi Park in Istanbul, Turkey, July 12, 2013.
    Dorian Jones
    Anti-government protesters have turned to local parks to continue their struggle. On a nightly basis, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people attend so-called "park forums" to discuss politics and the country's future.
     
    Every night in public parks across Istanbul, hundreds and even thousands of anti-government protesters gather for what are called “park forums.” The forums were set up after security forces drove protestors out of Istanbul’s Gezi Park last month. It was the government’s plans to redevelop the park that sparked weeks of anti-government demonstrations.

    Zeynep, who only wanted to give her first name for fear of prosecution, is an organizer of the forums. She said that, along with discussing the latest action against the government, the forums are also about building democracy and tolerance.
     
    "In every park there are forums and talks and speeches, there are many many democratic issues they are trying to address," she said. "These are the very beginning of democracy; in ancient Greece people used to come into the forums or places like this to discuss their issues and find a common solution. In these parks, you can have Turks and Kurds, and fundamentalists, or pro-Kemalists are only discussing, not fighting, this is very important," said Zeynep.

    The main speaker at tonight’s forum discussed animal rights. Other issues debated included abortion rights and the role of religion in society. People from all walks of life attend, including women wearing religious headscarves; the vast majority of participants are young. One of those in attendance said he saw the forums as ending one of the last remaining legacies of military rule.

    Some of those attending park forums have been attacked by unidentified groups of men wielding sticks and knives, and the state appointed city governor has condemned the forums as subversive. But, for now, the police have not intervened, although those attending the forums claim undercover police frequently monitor the meetings.  

    Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University believes the forums signal that an important change is occurring in Turkey.
     
    "It’s a different, a new type [of] political action, that exists everywhere in the developed countries. It’s a participatory democracy, something that Turkey is discovering - very quickly, by the way. People speaking [...] their minds, getting organized, and challenging these unilateral decisions by the authorities will be a permanent feature in the months and years to come," he said.

    The forums are already looking beyond the anti-government protests, to the local and presidential elections set for next year, according to forum organizer Zeynep.
     
    "From these parks, people are being given some tasks: observing in the elections points (polling stations), making sure that this government is not doing anymore tricks. We are getting more and more organized," said Zeynep. "Actually, our idea is not is do a revolution; the idea is to [participate in] the election and make sure this government is not elected again."

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already started campaigning, organizing political rallies and meetings across the country. Observers claim those gatherings are likely only to strengthen the resolve of the protesters, which means that Istanbul’s parks and many others across the country are likely to remain centers for politics and political dissent.

    You May Like

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora