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Police action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul June 16
Police action during Gezi park protests in Istanbul June 16
Orhan Kemal Cengiz

Op-ed

ISTANBUL - If I were inclined, I could wax all day about the new National Intelligence Agency law. I could opine, for example, that “Even George Orwell could not dream of an intelligence agency that would keep the urine samples of its people.” But that's for another day.

I could also explain how the law about gatherings and demonstrations is wrongly enforced. How the horrible record of human rights violations of recent weeks — the woman in red being gassed in the face, gassing the Divan Hotel and shutting the doors — are perfect examples of abuse within the human rights law. I have plenty to say on this subject too, and maybe soon I'll write that piece. Not today.

There is also the question of how Turkey's status within the international community will be rocked by these recent events. The warnings from the European Parliament are just a small harbinger of the great tsunami to come. These massive human rights embarrassments will slowly return Turkey to the status it held in the 1990s at the United Nations and within the European Council. In the eyes of the European Court of Human Rights, Turkey may well become a country notorious for common indecency toward its people. Of course, this is a matter of grave concern, but it's not my subject for today.

Remember that story?

I could analyze the way foreign capital may slowly retreat from Turkey, and the tragic economic consequences that would follow. Or discuss the global effects of these things. I could deconstruct how democratic retrocession in Turkey would be perceived as fatalistic (“there cannot be a democracy in a Muslim country”) all over the world. I could write that recent events in Turkey may change the trajectory of world history. But neither is this the main issue at hand.

What I want to remind readers of today is actually a timeworn story. Remember the emperor who had no clothers? And no one could tell him the truth?

In my opinion, Turkey is like a car whose brakes aren't working. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the driver's seat having nervous breakdowns, and we are headed for disaster at full speed. Unfortunately, there are some people in the back seat cheering, “drive faster.”

Maybe we would look for other reasons for this incredibly tense atmosphere if we had not seen how the events started in Gezi Park on May 31, if we had not listened to the prime minister’s speeches, which deepened the tension ever more each time, and if we had not seen people being subjected to police brutality.

Since the beginning, I have seen a prime minister who wishes to defeat the protesters, not one who wants to solve the matter with reason and compromise. Erdogan's power is only strengthened when he is allowed to act without challenge and when he ignores or deflects the criticisms directed toward him. That is the point. And it is also the problem.


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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Rules: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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