A lone, silent standing man has become an icon of sorts in the growing movement of anti-government protests in Turkey, as protesters remain defiant against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “creeping infringement on their rights in a secular society.”
A man stood silently in Istanbul’s Taksim Square for hours Monday night, defying police who had broken up weekend anti-government protests with tear gas and water cannon and drawing hundreds of others to emulate his vigil.
For more than five hours, he appeared to stare at a portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state, on the side of the Ataturk Cultural Center. Police eventually moved in to arrest many of those who had joined him, but it was unclear Tuesday whether Erdem Gunduz — a performance artist quickly dubbed the “standing man” — was in custody.
“I’m standing against all violence,” said Koray Konuk, one of those arrested. “I’m standing there so that the events that we’ve been witnessing and the events taking place over the last two to three weeks can come to a standstill.”
Konuk, 45, told CNN that police put him on a bus with up to 20 other people who had joined Gunduz, but that Gunduz was not among them.
“I was just standing. They arrested a man who was just standing,” he said. “That is absurd.”
Other protesters followed Gunduz’s lead, joining in to stand in silence. Despite their tranquil nature, many were led away in police vans.
Meanwhile, dozens more were arrested by anti-terrorism units across the country. It’s difficult to know how many of those were members of actual terror groups, as the Turkish government has taken to broadly labeling much of the opposition as “terrorists.”
From the NY Times:
The semiofficial Anatolian news agency said 84 people were arrested in the sweeps aimed at “members of terror organizations who destroyed public property, incited the public and attacked the police.” The names of the detainees, or the specific charges against them, were not released.
Lawyers for the detainees said they believed the total number of protesters in custody has now reached at least 176 people, and that the vast majority of the arrests were on charges of illegal gathering and had nothing to do with terrorism.
As police have cracked down on the protests, government officials are said to be preparing new regulations to clamp down on social media use. The other week, dozens were arrested for their postings on social media, and authorities now want to monitor Facebook and Twitter for posts “inciting people or coordinating and directing events that would cause social incidents or endanger material and physical public safety through manipulative, false news,” according to the NY Times.
What started out as a small group of environmentalists opposed to the government’s plans to redevelop an area of Gezi Park in Taksim Square has swelled into a larger and broader movement, highly critical of its government.
Images of the “standing man” went viral online, and for many it seems, represent the fight against a government that intends to silence dissent even when that dissent is silent.
Update by WAJ:
— Mustafa Akyol (@AkyolinEnglish) June 18, 2013