An incredible thing is happening in Turkey right now. A peaceful protest to protect a park from being demolished and rebuilt into a shopping mall in the center of Istanbul has devolved into a clash of citizens and government that has seen thousands of people come to join the occupation in solidarity, some injured from police force and others killed amidst the melee. Word blew up on social media before major news agencies could report on it.
A summary via The New Yorker:
Last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Gezi Park would be levelled to make room for a reconstruction of the Halil Pasa Artillery barracks, which had been built there under Sultan Selim III, more than two hundred years ago; the reconstructed barracks would then be converted into a shopping mall. On May 28th, a peaceful demonstration convened in Gezi Park to protest the bulldozing of the first trees. The weather was, and continues to be, beautiful. But over the course of the week, Occupy Gezi transformed from what felt like a festival, with yoga, barbecues, and concerts, into what feels like a war, with barricades, plastic bullets, and gas attacks.
But it’s not all chaos. We have word firsthand that, while things have spiraled out of control in a lot of ways, a peaceful protest continues in the form of human decency, support for one another, a pop-up library and even (of course) yoga.
We received an email from someone in Istanbul who has been involved in the peaceful protest as well as the free yoga classes in Gezi Park. We’ve learned that Cihangir Yoga has started hosting the yoga classes, led in part by visiting teacher Chris Chavez, and they have plans to continue the demonstrations, opening it up to all people wishing to practice yoga together in solidarity.
Me, my friends, and my sister [name removed] are trying to spread some more positive, optimistic news supporting the Gezi Park Resistance. The brutal police attacks, the poor and misleading media coverage and the government’s on going denial about the rapidly grown uprise of the Turkish citizens all over Turkey are very depressing, but are being well documented by a lot of people on social media.
We want heart warming and constructive events to be known and spread as well. The friendly atmosphere we experience there every day, people constantly cleaning the park, offering each other food and health supplies, planting trees, taking care of hurt street animals also need to be acknowledged by the world. Chris’s yoga classes are one such example…supporting a nations claim for their public space, freedom and rights.
Via the Cihangir Yoga facebook page, posted June 3:
Yorulan bedenlerimizi dinlendirmek, bozulan sinirlerimizi sakinleştirmek, biber gazının akciğerlerimizdeki kalıntılarını yok etmek, incinen yerlerimizi tedavi etmek, ağaçlara, bombalardan korkan köpek ve kedi dostlarımıza, birbirimize saygımızı göstermek, köklerimizi daha da derine salmak için 3 Haziran 19.00′da Gezi’de yoga yapıyor olacağız. Program uzun saatler sürecek, geç kaldım diye kaygılanmayın… Matsız bile olsanız üzerinizde rahat giysiler olsun.Not: Güvenlik açısından bir sorun olmadığı sürece her gün 11:00 ve !9:00 dan itibaren Gezi Parkında yoga yapacağız…
Google translation (if you speak Turkish, please make your corrections) UPDATE: Proper Turkish translation, thank you!:
To rest our tired bodies, calm our nerves, clear our lungs of the leftovers from the pepper sprays, and heal ourselves; to show our respect for each other, for trees and for our canine and feline friends scared of the gas bombs; to let our roots delve deeper, we are going to be doing yoga on June 3rd at 7pm. The event will take place for a long time, so you don’t need to worry about being late. Even if you don’t have a mat, it is okay; just dress comfortably. Note: As long as there are no threats to our security, we are going to be meeting every day at 11am and 7pm at Gezi Park.
Chris Chavez via his facebook page:
The Istanbul protest and why it feels SO good: It’s the feeling of coming together.. We lead such isolated lives for the most part, and it feels good to connect and talk with random strangers!! To know that we have more similarities than we do differences!! It’s moments like this that bring the best out of people!!:)) It’s yoga in action!!
We’ve seen yoga join the Occupy movement before. There’s something about the collective positive energy that we hope will spread throughout the park and the nation, and reach more people of Turkey involved in the conflict.
Sending love from NYC and wishes for everyone to remain safe.
More info and ways to help:
- You can help by posting, sharing, tweeting, tumblr-ing news articles, photos and information to draw attention to the cause. The global support is invaluable.
- White House Petition to “Condemn the actions taken against peaceful protesters in Istanbul Turkey.”
- More at Occupy Gezi facebook page.