29th of April 2007 – Opinions and Voices can change history

It was with a certain excitement that I got up in the morning, early, to head for the
protest that everyone has already heard about.
If you’ve been living in a cave, Istanbul has been home to the biggest protest known in the history of our Republic, the Caglayan rally.
People from all over Turkey arrived in Istanbul early on a warm summeresque morning to voice their opinion on the current political affairs.

And voice their opinion they did.

The rally wasn’t suppose to start till 2PM but I figured I wouldn’t be the only one attending, so I decided to go there early. I jumped in a cab at 10.15 and was dropped off close to Sisli at 10.30. The traffic hadn’t started yet but there were a lot of street merchants selling flags to the early birds
there for the protest. Lots of buses arrived early morning from different Turkish cities, bringing over people from all over which is why the traffic was slowly starting to jam up in Mecidiyekoy and it’s surroundings.
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**Please check the extended entry for the rest of this article. Please keep in mind that there are ALOT of pictures so if you have a slow connection it might take some time to load. I tried to minimize them as much as possible in order to keep the load time minimal**

I started walking with a group of people who had just gotten off a bus that arrived from Adana and we walked towards Caglayan. At this point in time I would like to specify that I had previously planned
to attend this event with Erkan. Let’s just say that I would like to call him a sorry drunk and that he didn’t even make it to the end of the protest ;)

While we were walking towards the main meeting point, we had people trying to sell us flags and hats and every other possible thing you could imagine adorned with a Turkish flag or Ataturk’s picture.

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Once we got closer to the meeting point, we got greeted by police men and women who were doing searches, just to make sure that we could rant in complete security.

There were several entry points to the main rally area so there weren’t huge queues to get to that area, not at 10.30 anyway. People weren’t planned to get there for another 3 hours atleast.
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I’m not sure how aggressive they thought we would get but we were also greeted with this little beast that didn’t scare me at all. Honest.
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Once the intensive security groping was over, I entered Caglayan and started watching the different groups arriving. Different social groups and clubs arrived one after the other. One of the main ones
called the “Ataturkcu Dusunce Dernegi” and “Isci partisi” (workers party) arrived with huge signs, pictures and flags.

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At the start, there weren’t many people. There were just enough to make me pat myself on the back because I had decided to get there early. When I got closer to the stage, I found several groups sitting all over the various grass patches found surrounding the main Caglayan. The press was already there but they weren’t very welcome. The first rally that was organized in Ankara on the 14th of April
had been badly covered and belittled by the press. Each time a journalist was spotted they were booed away. Especially the ones related to Dogan Media Conglomerate.
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Most of the policemen that were stationed at the event to ensure that no one gets harmed were spending a very relaxing time before the main groups flowed into the arena.
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Preparations were being made, the 20 odd meter flag was being carried in by volunteers. At the end of the event I had the impression that most of those who carried the long flag in, were the ones who
actually carried it back all the way to Taksim. That’s 7 hours of flag carrying. They must still be in pain.
The signs that were carried in read various slogans against the current governing party and the media. Some of them were regarding the friendship between the prime minister and the USA.
Alot of the slogans accused the ruling party of having sold Turkey to foreigners over and over again.
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This one says “We’re aware of the danger”:
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This one is against the headscarf and the strict rules held against females;
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“Don’t stay silent otherwise it might be your turn soon.”
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The Cumhuriyet newspaper (translates to “The Republic”) was given for free to those there early in the morning. Bagels were sold alongside thousands of bottles of water. Everyone stocked up on survival
food and around 11.30 we were already singing and chanting slogans.
The incredible variety of citizens that was there was amazing. Students, elder people, villagers that came specially for the occasion, veterans..All side by side to defend their opinion.
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It was said that most of the participants were females. I don’t know how they manage to make statistics with a crowd like that but the figure I heard was 75%.
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One of the biggest and main flags, which I also happened to hold for a very long while and which also is the reason why my left shoulder is completely sunburnt was used as a tent by the youngens that couldn’t handle standing up too long.
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A certain concern was voiced regarding the relationship between Abdullah Gul, the European Union and the USA. Concern which gave way to the imagination of certain artists and produced such things as;
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Minutes and hours passed by and speeches were made, songs were sung. Thousands and hundreds of thousands of people became one and revolted against the possibility of an Islamo Fascist near future. They demanded that all other parties become one and fight the AKP. Being in front, I hadn’t noticed the amount of people stacking up behind. At one point, it was impossible to move left or right it was so crowded.
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Once the rally was over, everyone marched towards Taksim, flags in hand, holding their signs high up proudly. The traffic in Mecidiyekoy was still blocked by the time we walked through it on our way to Sisli.
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People were at their balconies, some of them had prepared signs that they stuck to their windows. Those who couldn’t make it to the rally but still supported the cause sat at their balconies and cheered as we happily marched the streets of our beloved city, towards Istiklal.
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Once we arrived in Taksim, we were met there by the Robocop cops. The ones that wear armors and that look way too tough for their own good. You would’ve thought that we were terrorists. We gathered infront of the Ataturk statue in Taksim square and they tried to block the access to the statue.
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We then starting marching towards Istiklal while curious eyes were watching us very intently.
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I love Beyoglu so marching down that street that I adore armed with my attitude and opinion was just blissful. Even though by that time it was already 6pm which had meant that I hadn’t sat down for 8 hours. Exhaustion was close but it was all worth it.
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The protest ended towards Tunnel in Beyoglu around 7pm. There was no violence. No provocation. No threat. It was just a warning.
You can imagine that during the 8 hours there I had the time to take alot of pictures. I didn’t want to overload this page with it so you can check them out through Flickr.

Editors note: I realize some might feel the need to comment negatively regarding the actual rally/protest. This isn’t the medium for it. What you find here is an account of the day. My day. I tried to explain what happened the best I could because it was a historical day for Turkey, it was the biggest rally in the history of this republic and is a day to remember.
If you’re going to go all political and negative on me, please do not bother. Thank you for your attention :)

3 Comments so far

  1. Meral (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 3:35 pm

    Excellent account of your day/last Sunday, İdil:)

    And there were so many witty and ironic signs and banners, but the one “Biz halkız buradayız, say bakalım Lira’dan attığın sıfırlardan az mıyız” made me laugh a lot! (Thanks for that photo-I didn’t see it before…)

    And it is good people booed ‘journalists’, what kind of a journalist could ignore demonstration in Ankara? They did! So they are pseudo-journalists or ‘journalists’ for me… If demonstration where hundreds of thousands people is not news, then I wonder what is…


  2. super hero (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

    the 11th picture has a personal memory for me and my wife. because a woman who we have never seen before and and just coincided in the middle of the crowd asked my wife if she would like to carry the very same sign board, because she was tired. my wife gave the wise answer and said simply “no” while i was still thinking about the possible polite ways to refuse her, because, indeed, we really didnt want to carry an extra sign. also, i remember i saw the very same sign stitched to a tree.

    of course, i assume that there werent a second sign of the same. considering the millions attended, this seems not so possible, but yet very possible anyway.


  3. Teddy (unregistered) on May 3rd, 2007 @ 1:29 am

    Could someone translate that sign, “Biz halkız buradayız, say bakalım Lira’dan attığın sıfırlardan az mıyız” for me?

    I’d love to share in its wittiness.

    I’ve written a bit about the protests over at Where’s Teddy Now?, my travel blog. Some thoughts arising from my visit to Istanbul a couple of years ago.

    I’d love some local comment on what I’ve written.



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