IHTM: I'm Practicing Yoga At Occupy Gezi In Turkey In A Protest Against Totalitarianism
Being a 19-year-old girl from Istanbul, I had never been a political person. I had never attended a political gathering nor had I ever thought that I would. When protests started to take place at Gezi Park, I was at an exam. I had heard that things were going on in Gezi Park, but I thought it was just a small protest gone wrong.
But I was wrong; it was much more than that.
Things were very simple at the beginning. People gathered at the park to protest the demolishing of trees for a shopping mall. It was a small peaceful protest with people reading books, listening to music and doing normal stuff until the police came. The police started to attack with water cannons to the peaceful youth who were at the park. They set the tents on fire and pepper-sprayed people. This meant that you could not oppose Mr. President's ideas or plans. If you did, you got pepper-sprayed on the face.
With the use of Facebook and Twitter, news started to travel around. With every second, more and more people gathered around the park and the neighboring area to protest not only the demolishment of the park but more so the use of brutal force by police over civilians and to support the civilians who were attacked by police just because they opposed Mr. President's plans.
Just a few hours after that, the number of people gathered reached the thousands. For the following days, these people were pepper-sprayed, hit by water cannons. Unfortunately, what made me say "this is enough" was having two young people killed by the police. Remember, the people getting sprayed, getting hit, getting killed were not terrorists or thieves, they were just people who wanted to end the violence of the police. They were normal people with normal lives, some of them my friends, some acquaintances who had enough with Mr. President's totalitarianism. They were people who wanted a true democracy.
I have to admit, in the first two days I was too scared to go to any of these protest areas. But I was at home, joining thousands of other people who were protesting the president with making sounds from kitchen utensils, turning on and off their lights.
Now take a deep breath, because I am about to tell you one of the most shocking things about OccupyGezi.
Think about it, you are at your home watching TV on a Saturday afternoon, and you can see from Facebook and Twitter that the city centre looks like this:
And you turn on the TV and all you see is this:
On Facebook you see videos of thousands of people shouting, getting pepper-sprayed and there is a documentary about PENGUINS on TV.
Why? Because this is a totalitarian country. Because Mr. President doesn't allow them to broadcast real news. He doesn't want people to see how innocent citizens are being treated. This is how bad our media is, if you didn't get it already. However after a couple of days, they realized that their shares in the stock market were going bad so they started to show some news.
The protests are still going on. People from all cities keep getting pepper-sprayed. We are shouting, demanding democracy while Mr. President is in Morocco doing something very important I guess.
But sometimes like today at noon, I was at Gezi Park, not shouting but doing yoga.
From the day that things started, I wanted to do it. Being an avid yoga practitioner who has just completed a teacher training, I thought the police and Mr. President could learn a bit more about non-violence, and when I saw an event on Facebook about practicing yoga at the park, I joined it immediately.
Of course there are some problems with doing yoga at a public park in a predominantly Muslim country.
Even though Turkey has a secular Turkish population, another outlook still remains. And well, we all know how yoga pants are.
But at the park as soon as we laid our mats and started to practice with the leading of our fabulous teachers, I felt good about being there and doing it. Of course it took a little while to get used to having about 100 people look and take photos while we did forward bends and backbends. The weather also didn't really help us on Tuesday, since it was very hot.
However, with all its difficulties, all of us felt great about it.
So in two days, it sort of became a tradition. Just as I type this, I am thinking about today's session while making plans for tomorrow's. We are meeting at noon tomorrow at the park. If any of you want to join, please come!
It feels good to practice yoga. It feels even better to practice yoga against violence and totalitarianism.
Two weeks ago, I would have never thought that I would see my pictures on OccupyWallStreet's Facebook page or would catch a glimpse of myself on TV; but things in Turkey are changing.
We are no longer silent. We demand freedom and democracy. However, I am also afraid.
Dangerously afraid, and this is why I am "anonymous." Unfortunately, I live in a country where people get arrested because of their tweets so this article could hurt me very bad. With all my apologies, I keep my name secret.
I really hope that we finally get to live in a democratic country. And I want to thank everyone who fights for democracy and freedom, to my yogi friends and to our teachers, and to you, too, for reading this.