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Taksim Square in Istanbul
Taksim Square in Istanbul
Burak Durgut

ISTANBUL - For days now, people from every social circle are in the streets of cities across Turkey protesting the government’s plans to bulldoze Taksim Gezi Park. Among those I have observed are Kemalist nationalists, conservatives, anti-capitalist Muslims, Peace and Democracy party supporters, the Grey Wolves and other ultra-nationalists, homosexuals, transvestites, elderly people, and leftist groups from many factions.

It is clear that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has committed a fundamental error in judgment in dismissing demonstrators as extremists who don’t represent the mainstream. Once again, he is simply tone deaf. These people are not marginal hoodlums, and they are not soldiers or representatives of pro-military factions. In fact, many have university degrees, and they are decent Turkish citizens.

What they have in common are shared beliefs about how their government and their leaders should function. A detailed list of demands was submitted by protesters Wednesday evening, but here is what they want to say to their government in four simple points:

1. A majority of votes alone does not give an administration the mandate to do whatever it wants. Changes to Taksim Square should not happen without consulting the people who use it. That is among the fundamental principles of a participatory/pluralist democracy. Even if you are going to transform the Taksim Gezi Park into a more beautiful place, the people must be consulted.

2) Because governors are assigned by the state, and not elected, they are not acting in the people’s best interest. This should change. Let governors either be elected, or abolish the governorship institution and give their authorities to mayors.

3) It is a crime in every developed country in the world to spray water and throw gas bombs at peaceful protesters. It should be a crime here too. The police should not practice violence or use batons and armed vehicles against people who are practicing their constitutional right to protest.

4) The prime minister should immediately tone down his rhetoric and adjust his views. He should acknowledge that not every drinker is an alcoholic, not every woman who goes out at night is a whore, not every transsexual is a prostitute, not every Kurd is a terrorist, not every leftist is marginal, not every book reader is a pseudo-intellectual, not every democrat is spineless, and not every liberal is pro-government.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: 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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