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Solidarity breaks out in Turkey

Erdogan’s peace process is no longer the only one. The real reconciliation has already happened. It's in the streets of Turkey. It's among the people.

Annalena di Giovanni
1 July 2013
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Turks and Kurds on the streets together, the only banners 'Taksim solidarity' and a few national flags.

"No water supply, no sewage and not even a post office: yet there is a radar system and two police stations, one when you enter the town, and one at the other end."  Welcome to Lice, in the Diyarbakir province of Eastern Turkey, where an eighteen-year-old Kurdish youngster, Medeni Yıldırım, was shot dead by the Turkish police last Friday. His crime? To stand unarmed in protest outside the construction site of a military facility he did not want in his town. He was with hundreds of others. Ten were injured. In these Kurdish areas where conflict has been going on for decades, there is nothing at all surprising about this harrowing story.

What was completely unexpected was the reaction in Istanbul. In the immediate aftermath of the shootings the Taksim Solidarity movement simply took to the streets, alongside Kurds. Away from the headlines since being forced out of Gezi Park itself, now sealed off by the police, and Taksim, the movement has been gathering in forums - the neighbourhood assemblies and meetings held every night in city parks across much of the country to discuss both politics and municipal matters. On Saturday they gathered again in Taksim and in Ankara.

From the beginning secular nationalists with their origins in military Kemalism have been an important component part of the protest movement. Once more they joined. But this time while they were waving their Turkish flags they were shouting for justice and repeating the name of a Kurdish boy – a Kurd killed by the very same army that the media ( and almost everybody else) would expect them to support.

That is what two weeks of cohabitation in a common patch of square during the protests for Gezi Park has planted - the most unlikely of all seeds: that of a mobilization of nationalist groups on the side of their one-time arch-foes, the Kurdish people of the South East.

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Carrying a picture of Medeni Yıldırım who was shot in Lice.

It seems that after this month of protest no one is quite the same person that they once were - including their ideas, the roles they play, reference points, enemies and friends.

Whatever promise of a peace process Erdogan comes up with in the months to follow, when he will try to salvage support in every way possible, it is not needed in the same way. He is no longer the only peace-maker on the Turkish side. A fundamental reconciliation has already happened. It's already taken to the streets of Turkey. It's among the people. And it's called solidarity. 

Photos by Tuğrul Paşaoğlu

Is gesture politics hindering progress against racism?

We have all seen a huge explosion around the debate on structural racism in recent weeks.

But that has been accompanied by corporate statements that many activists say are meaningless and will lead to little change.

How true is that? How can the movement against racism deliver long-lasting change instead?

Join us on Thursday 9 July at 5pm UK time/12pm EDT for a free live discussion.

Hear from:

Evadney Campbell Managing director and co-founder of Shiloh PR. A former BBC broadcast journalist, she was awarded an MBE in 1994 for her services to the African and Caribbean communities in Gloucester.

Sunder Katwala Director of British Future, a think-tank on identity and integration

Sayeeda Warsi Member of the House of Lords, pro-vice chancellor at Bolton University and author of ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’.

Chair: Henry Bonsu Broadcaster who has worked on some of the UK's biggest current affairs shows, including BBC Radio 4's Today. He is a regular pundit on Channel 5's Jeremy Vine Show, BBC News Briefing and MSNBC's Joy Reid Show.

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