"The rise of a global youth culture in recent decades suggests greater convergence of the experiences of young people in global cities. In Turkey, mass-based youth subcultures with links to the diaspora are emerging, paralleling the fragmentation of Turkish society…Turkish youth are torn between hopes of constructing a more participatory public sphere and disillusionment with the nation-state as the embodiment of modernity…" (Neyzi, 2001, 412).
At no time in the recent past has the world been able to see the raging protests of Turkish youth like what has been viewed over the past few days and weeks. However, many citizens with television sets in Turkey did not see the mass demonstrations by youthful protesters in Istanbul because journalists were afraid to show the live clashes with police on television. According to journalist Barak Ravid, "…many Turkish television channels hesitated to report on the protests for many long hours" (Ravid, 2013). Why are journalists afraid to show the truth about student uprisings? That's because Prime Minister Erdogan has put many journalists in prison for speaking out about his repressive strategies.
"…Over the last five years, Erdogan's Turkey has become a prison for journalists," Ravid explains. The "Freedom House" nonprofit, which advocates for journalistic freedom throughout the world, reports that "…Turkey is the national that has arrested the highest number of journalists in the world over articles that they have written and published" (Ravid).
The current demonstrations began with just a few hundred youthful activists, who were attempting to halt a "…greedy real estate project in Istanbul's Gezi Park," Ravid explains. But after the police over-reacted and used violent tactics against the youth demonstrators, many more were "…prompted thousands of people to take to the streets in protest" (Ravid). So, what began as a peaceful demonstration based on environmental concerns (the Gezi Park is a favorite place for relaxation in a busy city like Istanbul) "…quickly turned into a political demonstration against Erdogan and his party" (Ravid).
On June 1, 2013, the demonstrations continued in Istanbul, with students and others chanting "Not About Trees Anymore" as law enforcement authorities used high-pressure water cannons to attempt to disburse the crowds. Students have printed and distributed posters that show "…dramatic photos of blood-soaked protesters at the hands of Turkish security forces via social media sites like Tumblr and Twitter" (Queally, 2013). Protestors also chanted slogans "…against the ruling Justice and Development Party and Prime Minister Erdogan, calling on the government to resign" (Queally). While all this was going on, Erdogan stubbornly refused to back down and insisted that "…police would break down protests" and that the government would "…press ahead with redevelopment plans that sparked the demonstrations" (Queally).
On May 13, Turkish students clashed with police in Ankara as they voiced their disapproval of Erdogan's policies of "…funding and supporting foreign-backed militants" currently fighting in Syria (Press TV, 2013). Earlier, on May 11, "…dozens of people marched in the streets and chanted slogans" that criticized Erdogan and his government for becoming involved in Syria's civil war (Press TV).
In conclusion, the brutal repression Turkish students have encountered while attempting to express their disapproval of Erdogan's undemocratic government has been seen on television and has been shared with youth worldwide through Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and other social media. Although the thrust of this paper zeros in on how youthful Turkish viewpoints are at odds with the hardliners in government, and how they are taking to the streets to protest, the other message this paper conveys is that there are communication tools available to young people and those tools are vital in the face of a government that jails journalists and uses repression rather than accommodation and compromise.
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Queally, J. (2013). "Not About Trees Anymore" as Turkey Protests Intensify What started as a Bid to safe public land has escalated as youth face riot police with calls of revolution.
Common Dreams, Retrieved June 1, 2013, from http://www.commondreams.org.