The internet was ablaze with images and comments regarding the growing protests in Turkey prior to Mainstream Media getting a handle on the story. Facebook, twitter etc. were quickly showing the shocking images and sharing the stories of the protest while Turkish leader Erdogen cracked down on this grass roots movement. What started as a very small protest against a shopping development which was to be built where a park now exists in Ankara, quickly ratcheted up when the riot police showed up.
Prime Minister Recep Erdogen’s heavy handed, autocratic approach, quickly enflamed supporters – many of which have been enduring the growing control of the Turkish state regarding their civil liberties. While Erdogen reportedly has the support of the majority of the population his strong arm approach has now backfired.
In the beginnning Turkish media decided to ignore the growing protest by continuing to cover only the most banal of topics. But it was inevitable the story would quickly get out – as has happened with growing frequency in light of the power of the crowd intrinsic in social media.
Now the protestors have decided to push the message further by purchasing a full page advertisement in either the New York Times or Washington Post – financed by a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.
The campaign almost immediately achieved its goal of rasing $53,800.00. The total raised stood at over $61,000 as of the last reading.
The crowdfunding organizers have shared a letter from the Turkish people which is posted below;
From the Turkish People to their Government:
The violent response to a peaceful protest to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park symbolizes an autocratic government’s increasing encroachment on the civil rights of the country’s citizens. We hope for new dialogue—one that can restore the trust of Turkish citizens in a government that positioned Turkey as a global economic power, but which is now getting recognition around the world for condoning harsh police retaliation that strikes at the pillars of democracy.
This is not just about a park
Before the park came the the arrests of journalists, elected officials, laws restricting the sale of alcohol, systemic de-secularization of future generations through Islamification of school curricula. The plans to demolish Gezi Park despite public opposition and the subsequent police brutality directed at demonstrators finally sparked the reaction against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decade-long rule. The demonstrators are from different ideological, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. They are young, old, religious, secular, gay, straight, foreign, domestic, fringe, mainstream, anarchist, women in headscarves, women in tank tops, Alevi, Sunni, Jewish, and Christian. This is Turkish Democracy in action.
This would not have happened had it just been the park. Protests are to no avail. In a true democracy, citizens can question and amend government initiatives.
This wouldn’t have happened had the Turkish goverment not used excessive teargas, plastic bullets, tanks, helicopters and physical voilence to crush the peaceful Gezi park protestors. A true democracy allows for protest and does not use excessive violence against its citizens.
This would not have happened had the big Turkish media channels covered the riots from the start. Unfortunately there are strong ties between media outlets and the government. This is why Turkish protestors use social media to seek the attention of foreign media. In a true democracy, media is independent and reports in a balanced way on events happening.
This Statement is Crowdfunded by Concerned Individuals from Around the World
In the most recent update on the crowdfunding campaign, organizers were said to be finalizing the publishing of the full page message on A2 of the New York Times. They expect this to be published within the next two days.
While it appears as if the Turkish government currently has their hands full with the growing movement, the US government has been largely silent. Turkey remains a very important US ally in the region. Turkey has traditionally been touted as a secular example of a country with a largely muslim population. Perhaps with this shift in popular protest that perception will be re-appraised.
The crowdfunding campaign for Turkish Democracy now stands at well over $90,000 raised. This far exceeds the initial amount requested. The organizers of the crowdfunding campaign have now asked the crowd for suggestions as to how they should use the additional funds. They have posted a question on Reddit requesting suggestions. Over 100 comments have already been posted as this campaign continues.