Meet Serkan. He’s a 25 year old chartered accountant that enjoys the guitar and playing World of Warcraft. He also lives in Istanbul, Turkey.
I ran into him by chance today – I was chatting with a guildmate about geopolitics and he joined in on the conversation. It wasn’t long before we discovered that Serkan was Turkish and that he had been involved in the protests gripping the country.
Serkan told us many things this afternoon, about how the situation in his country is still very dire. The media blackout inside Turkey continues, and police have been taking people using social media to coordinate protests into custody. There are even packs of anti-insurgents physically attacking anyone who dares to stand against the Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) or Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s rule.
Serkan says that despite what the Prime Minister says, the protesters want nothing but peace and an end to the AKP’s regime. For years the ruling party has sought to fracture and balkanize Turkish society by dismantling the Turkish Army and driving wedges between Turks, Kurds, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and any other ethnic or cultural sub-groups in an attempt to exert control over the country, but people have instead set aside their differences in Turkey and have united: “Christian and Jew, rich and poor, gay and straight, Kurdish, Turkish, all of us” have banded together, despite the physical dangers.
And the dangers are quite real. Serkan linked me a YouTube video of one of the counter-insurgents caught on video, wielding a machete and attacking people in a crowd. He slashes at the legs of one woman and then kicks her viciously in the back. This is that video:
This occurred two days ago, Serkan said. “I felt terrible. No one should ever do that to another.”
Serkan is right of course – no one should inflict that sort of violence on someone else, regardless of their sectarian or political ideology. It’s cruel, vindictive, and designed to elicit terror in the hearts of those that would otherwise stand against tyranny. Yet Serkan declared that he will not be swayed by these tactics. He will also not sink to that level of violence. “We are not barbarians,” he told me. “Even as theyattacked us, I played guitar.” It was only the civilized thing to do, he said.
Serkan was attacked by one of the roving gangs of axe-wielding men that have been trying to disrupt peaceful protests. Serkan confronted these men alongside a large group of protesters. He told me that he and his companions pulled their shirts off and bared their chests to the anti-insurgents, declaring that the only way they would leave would be if they were struck down. “Do what you must,” Serkan said. “We know you are not animals.” The group backed down.
I asked him why he would he do such a thing. Why risk his life in the face of such violence? Wouldn’t it be safer to simply back down? “I’ll stand,” Says Serkan. “Even if it means my death I’ll never give in until I see the end of this, even as living or after. If I don’t stand – as millions of people do at the moment – who will ever stand?”