The power of space: How Gezi Park became the symbol of an uprising

Gezi Park was not exactly the place where I could take my girlfriend“,

says Cenk, a leftist activist, as we are sitting in a small cafe in one of the many side streets of Istiklal Caddesi. Earlier, Feride, a German-Turkish girl had mentioned the same feelings towards a park that had been used mainly by prostitutes, drug dealers and homeless people:

I had never really been to the park before… because it wasn’t exactly a safe place.“

During my research project on the Gezi Park movement I spent three months in Istanbul in fall 2013 and conducted interviews with people who had been in some way involved in the protests. Almost all of them told me that they had participated for two reasons: the park and its trees as the last green spot in the city; and later the police violence.

But if it is true that noone had actually used that allegedly last natural area of Istanbul, then why would anybody have bothered to protect it?

Gezi Park; Picture taken from http://galeri7.uludagsozluk.com

Gezi Park; Picture taken from http://galeri7.uludagsozluk.com

If the park was not visited by the public anyway, why did young people of all ideological backgrounds feel the need to settle down and build a tent city there?

With these questions in mind I started studying the meaning of space and power and discovered how the mere symbol of a public square can unite a whole generation. Continue reading

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I still remember… the revolution – أنا لسه فاكر… الثورة

A few months ago I went to an Arabic film festival in my hometown in Germany. I saw a movie called „Tahrir 2011 – The Good, the Bad and the Politician“, which pictured the different sides involved in the revolution. Most of the film consisted of images from the protests, powerful videos that showed people praying while being attacked with water canons, the make-shift hospitals where volunteers of all types treated the injured and the mentally exhausted, and, especially, it showed those thousands and millions of voices chanting, chanting, chanting for freedom and peace. When I saw those images I was thrown back into the time of the revolutionary climax and I had such a strong urge to go back to that time of hope, solidarity and excited astonishment at what people were capable of. I thought to myself, that if every Egyptian watched these videos once a week nobody would give in to the resignation in the light of unsatisfying politics and the frustration that befalls a country when the revolution ends and bureaucracy starts.

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So, with this in mind, I decided that I should try to contribute something to reminding people of what they have so incredibly  achieved and what they should not let fade away so quickly. The following series of photos and interviews are the result. Each picture shows one person and their most important memory from the days of the revolution. The title of the series and the beginning of each sentence is: „I still remember…“ Please scroll down to see the larger images (English translation below the picture). Continue reading

Why I am going to boycott the Egyptian presidential run-off elections

This sign from the revolution days just got a whole different meaning…

After the Egyptian parliamentary elections last November, where the Muslim Brotherhood won the majority of votes, I asked my grandmother whether she was going to vote at the Shoura Council elections aswell. She told me that she would not. Why?

„Last time we all went to vote. And now see what happened: the Muslim Brotherhood won anyway.“

At that time I told her: that’s democracy. It happens that the party you support does not win in the end. But resigning and not voting again because of that will make it even worse. Like in the Shoura Council elections, where the Brotherhood was even more successful than before – with a very low turnout of less than 20%.

So, with this in mind, why have I decided not to vote in the run-off for the presidential elections? Continue reading

Freedom through the martyrs – الحرية من الشهداء

ياللى بترمي علينا نار

مهما ضربت و مهما قتلت

العصافير في الهواء أحرار

دم الشهداء على الأسفلت

 Those attacking us with fire,

no matter how much you shoot and kill

in the sky the birds are free

and the martyrs’ blood is on the pavement

From what I learned in history class or books of historical battles, I always understood that he who kills most of his enemy’s men is the one who will be victorious in the end. It seemed to me that victory depended on the ability to diminish the opponent’s army or people, therefore making them too weak to continue fighting.

However, what we have been seeing in the Arab spring’s revolutions suggests quite the opposite. Here we have the aspect of martyrdom, that turns every death from a weakening of the „troops“ into a reason to fight even harder. Continue reading

Islamists are taking over the Arab world

Just kidding. They aren’t. But I am pretty sure that this header will get my blog a lot of views. That’s just about the same technique the Western media have been using in the last few days. Most of the times, when I write something, it’s because I’m angry. And reading the news or listening to people commenting on them has in fact made me very angry. Words like „Sharia“ and „Islamistic party“ are used to cause panic and fear of what comes Large groups of people praying at Tahrir Squareafter the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. These in no way objective pieces of news are causing an „I told you so!“ mentality in the heads of Western so-called democrats, who believe that they have a monopoly on democracy. I hear them talking of the Arab revolution attempts as a ridiculous effort that has hardly any chance of succeeding. Continue reading

And where were you during the revolution?

Never has one been more grateful to have the Russians back in the sea resorts of Egypt. Every foreigner is now more welcome than ever, since the revolution has chased huge amounts of tourists out of the country and created a massive loss for around 20 million people who are directly and indirectly profiting from the tourism industry… a number as large as the whole population of Cairo.

But while the poor tourists had to flee from empty breakfast buffets, the scary view of tanks in the streets and the inaccessibility of sights such as the pyramids, there were Egyptian expats all over the world trying to get into their country. In times where every single person who joins a demonstration contributes to the safety of every other demonstrator many Egyptians abroad were drowning in desperation over not being able to protest, not being there to celebrate, not even being in danger of getting arrested.

„It felt horrible!“, says Bassem, 25, an Egyptian who has lived in Egypt many years, but moved to Kuwait 11 months ago, „History was in the making, my country was being born again and I could only spectate from the outside.“ Continue reading