Isil Karabiyik and Kenan Oziyigit are board members of the Dutch branch of TGB. Turks around the globe protest against Erdogan’s, also in the Netherlands. “In Istanbul you have ‘The Standing Man’ that stands still with his hands in his pockets, looking at Atatürk’s statue on Taksim square. This inspired thousands of people around the globe, including those in Amsterdam.”
Do you think that the Dutch government should take a stand?
“For us it’s most important that we will be able to arrange our own internal affairs. However, we find it important that foreign media cover the situation in Turkey. Western countries only intervene when there is a direct benefit. The political ties between the West and Erdogan are pretty strong, that’s the reason why Western countries keep quiet.”
Footbal fans united by protests
The TGB is very active in the protests against Erdogan, are as widely supported as you make it appear? Erdogan is still very popular.
“We are undivided, and you shouldn’t overestimate Erdogan’s support. A few weeks ago he held a speech in in Kazliçesme (Istanbul) and several media said that over a million people attended that speech. The Bosporus University on the other hand, estimated that only 300.000 people would have fit on the square. It’s also a known that Erdogan brings people from around the country in busses to meetings like that. His support is a lot smaller than many think.”
“At the same time you see how many people participate in the protests, people from all different walks-of-life and ages. You can see supporters from Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Besiktas that normally won’t meet without fighting, protest together against Erdogan. It isn’t a handful of raiders, as Erdogan says.”
“On the opposite, it has become a broad popular movement. There are demonstrations in 75 of the 81 Turkish provinces. It is a really peaceful movement, the image Erdogan draws of drunks and raiders is not true, it’s more like a real community. On Taksim square they even made bookshelves on which protesters could share their books. That gives a more accurate picture of the movement.”
Why did the protest get so big suddenly? Was Gezi the straw that broke the camel’s back?
“That might indeed be the case. Erdogan’s regime is all about suppression. He has a lot of support and therefore doesn’t give a shit about others. The countermovement existed before the protests started in Gezi Park, but the media didn’t report about them.”
“Prime-Minister Erdogan is making more and more thing illegal. On the 19th of May Turkey celebrates the Atatürk Youth and Sports Day. That day in 1919 Mustafa Kemal started the Turkish War of Independence. This is one of the most important days of the year for Turks, but Erdogan made sure that the government no longer commemorates this day. This also led to enormous manifestations.”
Rectors from Erdogan’s inner circle
What is the role of the TGB in the protests?
“We are an organization with a lot of members in Turkey. We aren’t one of the biggest organizations in Turkey, but we are the true architects of the big protests in Istanbul. We easily mobilize over 400.000 people.
Are you as an organization supported by universities?
“When Erdogan was elected, he changed the entire system. He, for example, inaugurated several rectors from his own circles. Via private universities, where is influence is less, he tries to influence decision-making by introducing new financial schemes.”
“This way, Erdogan also controls the media. You sometimes see marginal newspapers full with high-priced advertisements, that’s conspicuous. The reason is that Erdogan called big companies to boycott large, and more critical newspapers. This way he controls everything.”
‘Everywhere we see injustice, we will fight’
What should happen in order to change that?
“What we are doing now is the start of a new freedom movement. It’s like the student protests of May 1968. We would like to see Erdogan renouncing, but we’ll make sure that he can’t normally walk the streets of Istanbul. Of course without any violence. At this time Erdogan can’t no longer enter universities, students no longer tolerate him.”
“Erdogan is dividing the country in two camps, by systematically choosing for one part of the nation over the other and ignoring the others. We are one nation, you shouldn’t try to put us up against one another. The TGB consists of people with all kinds of backgrounds, we have Sunnites, Alevis, Kurds among us. We fight together against what is happening in Turkey at the moment. ‘Everywhere we see injustice, we will fight’, that is our new slogan.”
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