The ‘chapulling’ revolution of Turkey

Turan Altuner
Senior Consultant, Master of International Business Administration, Economist, Intercultural Trainer & Coach

Turkey Protests 400 x 300Istanbul is the biggest city of Turkey with 15 Millions of inhabitants.  A city which has no more than just a few small green domains, despite its huge population. The Gezi park is the only area that still exists in central Istanbul, where the residents enjoy greenery around them.  In the Government’s point of view, the only green space is commercially too worthy, to let it be in its current condition. The contradictory expectations between residents and commercial utilization incited the biggest and heaviest clashes in Turkey’s history.

This is Turkey’s first widespread environmentalist upheaval against government’s policy of removing a green park and building a mall on the same ground. It turned to a national crisis, not just over environmental issues but also against authoritarian one man policy, imposing an Islamic kind of life. Corruption, corrupted justice system, and inequality, shortly, against everything that went wrong since 2002 as Erdogan’s government came into the power.

At the beginning of the protests, the prime minister of Turkey accused the protesters as the “chapuller”. It is a wide used expression in Turkey’s daily life to describe someone roughly as looters. A usually negative term turned into a positive one and has been reapproriated by the protesters, who quickly identified themselves as chapuller. The term became a new funny, attractive meaning. Almost all kind of people from the top CEOs of biggest banks & companies, politicians, students, elderly, youth to the housewives, through all political colors labeled themselves  joyfully as “Chapuller” resp. as looters in a different association.

The accusation of Prime Minister caused the most creative, the funniest and most intelligent uprising the world has ever witnessed, and a type of new political activism.

Unable to handle such unexpected, surprising unorganized and unstructured protests, the Turkish Government and its members were literally lost. Events shifted to a nationwide uprising and solidarity with the defenders of Gezi Park at Taksim Square. The government mobilized thousands of security forces to crack down and failured. The attacks of police forces carried much more crowds in motion than ever before. The more attacks, the more waves of peaceful demonstrations have occurred.

Prime Minister Erdogan realized  too late that using force is absolutely useless and counterproductive. The peaceful nature of the protests, political humor and the social media on which the events spontaneously have been coordinated put the government in panic. In his first speech during the protests Prime Minister Erdogan designated the Twitter as the worst demon that a society faces. As a reaction to his speech tens of thousands replaced their profile pictures on Twitter and Facebook etc. with revolutionary pictures. Tens of thousands acted suddenly as news editors, sharing live streaming and their opinions, while the mainstream media were totally absent. Many journos resigned in order to express their inconvenience against the censorship of the government. The so called “chapulling revolution” created its own powerful media and became the only reliable source of news and information.

As I am writing this article the government has broken the agreement that has been achieved the day before. The deal mediated by the intellectuals and artists included the condition not to use any force to remove any trees and protesters from the  Gezi Park. The security forces started to attack Gezi Park with teargas and water cannons, where thousands of people are residing since the beginning of the demonstrations. Reportedly too many protesters are wounded. Doctors are not allowed to access the Gezi Park to provide medical treatment. Live broadcasts from and around the Gezi Park shows pictures that resembles to the pictures of the wars, which can be seen in Syria and everywhere where civil wars are taking place.

It seems that Prime Minister Erdogan is resoluted to turn this most innocent, most peaceful, humorous and most creative revolution to a bloody crackdown. Hoping and praying remains.









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