I am concerned about the state of free speech and human rights in Turkey right now. My friend, Jeremy Kaplan, alerted me to the severity of the situation, which he has been following closely because his girlfriend is in Turkey at the moment. Turkey has been one of the more progressive countries in the Middle East for years, but seems to be moving in a more oppressive direction recently. A few years ago I made an image of Ataturk at the request of a Turkish friend. Ataturk was a champion of Turkish Democracy and secular government. I am offering a free download of my Ataturk image as a symbol of democracy and free speech. Please feel free to share that or the JPEG of Ataturk. Please read what my friend Jeremy has to say about the situation in Turkey and check out the links for more info. Thanks for caring.-Shepard Fairey
The overall issue is that the current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government have come too far towards authoritarianism, dictatorship and fascism, and farther away from Ataturk’s founding and modern society’s democratic and secular principles. Including plans to demolish Ataturk Cultural Centre. It is not a political or religious movement, it is a human rights movement representing all corners of their society. After days of being attacked by the police, including gassing tens of thousands of peaceful protesters about a few hours ago, they have stayed largely non violent (a small population people throwing bricks, and returning gas canisters, lighting fires etc) , and have cleaned up the damages. They are intending on remaining peaceful and are asking people around the world to share their story in the face of a prime minister that has called social media and twitter ” a menace to all society”.
The hundreds of thousands of protesters currently in the streets Turkey, and the millions of people around the world supporting them are not extremists. They are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers that love their country, are proud of it’s history and the principles their forefathers fought for to live freely in a pluralist democracy. They are the people from all walks of life and layers of society, people from all religions, lifestyles and political views. The deeply rooted fans and hooligans from different soccer clubs who are normally sworn enemies are in Taksim Square, and Gezi Park, and in other places around the country together with their flags waving alongside the LGBT’s protesting peacefully. There are women in headscarves who initially backed the party in power, the AKP for supporting them, who are now protesting for freedom of speech, and free press for others. This is not Turkish spring, it is not a revolt against Islamism. They are by and large protesting peacefully and have not taken arms. Do not let the media paint this as anything else. This is a resistance for human rights. The physical gathering of people began in the park but this is not about a few trees. The initial goal was to preserve the small park from plans to re-build an a military barracks building from the Ottoman Era that was demolished in 1940 to be used for commercial purposes. This is not about preserving green, or preserving history. It is about a society that less than a hundred years ago fought to gain their freedom. The people want to live as a the modern society and pluralist democracy but the government has slowly been chipping away at their free speech and civil liberties. Plans to build an old Sultan’s barracks slash mall was just the last obvious example of looking like a tyrant, and the people have had enough. The always highly trafficked pedestrian shopping street that leads into Taksim Square is named Istiklal, meaning Independence. There has been some destruction and damage, some done probably by anarchists, some done possibly by people with ulterior motives of purporting a dialogue for the media. Undeniably the street was lined with tear gas bomb casings from the police and the blood of unarmed civilians, and the protesters returned to clean it up, and will keep returning to protect their freedom. Media Censorship is one of the many reasons why people are in the streets of Turkey, and it is the same reason why we can all help. Please take whatever opportunities you have to inform yourself and spread the word. -Jeremy Kaplan