A picture postcard from a Liberal Democrat in Gezi Park

I’m leafing through the 2,077 photos I’ve taken so far of Turkey’s protests. Having sat down to shed a ‘liberal’ light on what’s happening here, I realize I may make a further claim to your attention: I am seeing, as it were, both sides of the coin.

Watching protests in Beşiktaş, Taksim & Gezi Park, marching to the outskirts of Istanbul & being pepper-sprayed is one side. Working in a conservative, pro-government school where colleagues refer to protestors as “terrorists” and tut gruffly every time Taksim gets mentioned is the other.

A Tale of Two Turkeys 

This is a tale of two Turkeys. One Turkey – pro Prime Minister Erdoğan, who leads the governing AKP (Justice and Development) party, backward-looking & zealous – is either in denial about the existence and scale of the protests, or angry that “a few terrorists”, “extremists” and “looters” are misbehaving at the expense of the tourist trade.

And yes – Erdoğan’s government has brought stability to Turkey and turned around the economy. Now, though, they are creating an air of authoritarian nationalism. Government-sponsored schools are pushing an ever-more Islamic education on children. More journalists are in prison than in any other country on the planet. Alcohol advertising has just been banned. Peaceful protests are routinely attacked with water cannon, pepper gas and rubber bullets.

The other Turkey is proud of Atatürk’s secular republic and sees their government’s behavior (and rhetoric) as a threat to resist. It is a Turkish schism: Erdoğan’s Turkey vs. Atatürk’s Turkey. You could say that half the country is looking east and the other half is looking west.

“Looters and Terrorists?”

Regardless, I have been spending some time with these looters and terrorists. They seem quite nice…

cropped sam lawes 1

Define ‘a few’: protestors took a stand against armed police the other night 

 cropped sam lawes 2

The bare face of extremism: the police must have been terrified

 cropped sam lawes 3

 And just look how troublesome the ‘looters’ look: Gezi Park, last week

cropped sam lawes 4

Don’t be deceived – they’re vicious…

 cropped sam lawes 5

 …when they’re not causing havoc in Taksim, they’re brawling over football.

 cropped sam lawes 6


Definitely up to something: the level of good English seemed oddly high in Gezi Park. Probably from all the plotting they get up to.

 cropped sam lawes 7

 Still smiling. 

Mr. Erdoğan Loses Patience 

I hope these photographs – while grainy and badly taken –  go some way to clarifying an important point: there are hundreds of thousands of people protesting, if not millions. 99% are not extremists, looters or terrorists.

The protesters are of all ages; some are devout; some come with children (a few with rocks) but all are coexisting peacefully in Gezi Park. Turkey’s media is failing in its most basic duty and enabling Erdoğan to flat-out lie to his people about the protests. ‘His’ Turkey accepts his charge of “terrorists… extremists… looters!” without question.

The other Turkey is in need of another Atatürk.

Hopefully, in next year’s elections, ‘liberal’ Turkey will succeed in offering some such viable alternative to Erdoğan’s administration. Until they do, these protests are incremental to voicing their opposition. It’s an uphill struggle against a willingly blind media and I, for one, intend to show my support for that struggle by making as much noise as possible.

For more badly-taken photographs, I have uploaded dozens here.

To show your support, you can Tweet using #GeziPark, #Taksim or other hastags; share this article or photos on your Facebook page or even – of course – talk about it.

* Sam Lawes is a member of Liberal Youth who is currently working in Turkey.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and Op-eds.


  • Helen Dudden 16th Jun '13 - 8:50am

    At an FPC Meeting recently in the House, I supported the right to human rights in this country.

    I also wish that the problems can be resolved and they are accepted within the EU. I would like the EU to survive, and move to better things for all those who are suffering at present.

  • Great job Sam. Keep it up. I am forwarding your excellent pictures.

    NB. Lived in Turkey (Ankara for almost 6 years … know Gezi Park and Taksim very well.

  • It all seems like Turkey is bursting with HR promise to join the EU, as long as the government get out of the way…

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