The Turkish Love for Protest

Article published on Nov. 5, 2009
Article published on Nov. 5, 2009

Protests have always been a way for people to pass the time on the weekends and as the rest of Europe adopts less rowdy methods of change, we are comforted in knowing we will always be louder. Turks have been making the most of the last days of sun by spending the past month waking up early, taking to the streets, and screaming until police arrived.

And the past month has pro­vided ample op­por­tu­nity for protest. With the end of com­mu­nism being a cen­tury over­due and Is­rael’s continued ex­is­tence, Turks hardly have to try hard to find a rea­son to step out­side with a card­board sign.

IMF meet­ing in Is­tan­bulpeace with the Kurds

Turkey Against TerrorismMob anger com­bines two pop­u­lar forms of Turk­ish ex­pres­sion : loud so­cia­bil­ity and scar­ing any­one who dis­agrees. Protests have been a sta­ple of Turk­ish daily life, but it is im­por­tant to give credit where credit is due, as protests have long been a part of Eu­ro­pean tra­di­tion as well.

No doubt peo­ple protested long be­fore Eu­rope ex­isted, pos­si­bly over di­nosaur rights, but it was Eu­ro­peans who took it to a whole new level. The Spar­ta­cus riot of 1st cen­tury BC Italy saw over 100,000 peo­ple slaugh­ter le­gion after le­gion and France as a whole ex­pressed dis­ap­proval of both roy­als and cake dur­ing their rev­o­lu­tion in 1789, set­ting the stan­dard for yelling-un­til-peo­ple-change pretty high.

Turks are able to com­bine both a Mid­dle East­erner’s abil­ity to get mad at every­thing with a Eu­ro­pean’s abil­ity to cause se­ri­ous dam­age, and so the past month has wit­nessed enough pas­sion and or­ga­ni­za­tion to not only burn Is­raeli flags and throw shoes at IMF chiefs, but also smash bank win­dows, na­tion­al­ist lynch at­tempts at com­mu­nists and com­mu­nists hang­ing plac­ards from Burger Kings.

But while Eu­ro­peans still dab­ble in vi­o­lent protest, set­ting ho­tels on fire to scare NATO, many have lost the “more blood­shed” men­tal­ity and adopted a more peace­ful method of ac­tive re­sis­tance. Ice­landers now leave pota­toes on par­lia­ment steps, the French wave ba­nanas, Brits toss flour on min­is­ters and milk is dumped on the ground as if it was a protest-flyer. What was once a sym­bol of un­re­strained rage now seems a cel­e­bra­tion of agri­cul­tural sub­si­dies.

But as Eu­rope evolves and shuns blood for gro­ceries, chang­ing the game along the way (an­other Eu­ro­pean tra­di­tion), Turk­ish stu­dents’egging of the Is­raeli Am­bas­sador yes­ter­day is a tes­ta­ment to how com­mit­ted the coun­try is to Eu­ro­pean Union mem­ber­ship.