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Turkish “Standing Man” Inspires Protesters

Submitted by on June 19, 2013 – 9:35 amNo Comment

A Turkish performance artist has captured the imaginations of his countrymen and the world, just by standing still. The man’s silent vigil has spread quickly on social media, breathing new life into the movement as demonstrations and crackdowns drag on.

On Monday, Erdem Gunduz stood for eight hours in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. Gunduz silently faced a giant portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern secular Turkey, which hangs on the Ataturk Cultural Center. Police moved in at 2am to remove Gunduz and the roughly 300 people who had joined him. Ten people were detained.

In a Turkish TV interview, Gunduz said he hopes “the media and the people will learn something” and “feel some empathy” after seeing his vigil.

On Twitter, #duranadam (“standing man”) dominated the Turkish-facing site.

Reuters reports that similar protests popped up all over the country, in Izmir and the capital Ankara. Demonstrators appeared in places connected to controversy and criticism of the government- in Istanbul, at the site of a reporter’s 2007 assassination, and in the city of Sivas, at a former hotel where dozens were killed during a Islamist protest in 1993.

The protests began in May, in Gezi Park, which is adjacent to Taksim Square. Demonstrators were objecting to a plan to demolish the city’s last green space, and replace it with a shopping mall designed to look like a 19th century Ottoman barracks. But the movement quickly gained momentum, as environmentalists were joined by a coalition of middle class and secular citizens who feel that democratically-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has developed the country at the cost of civil liberties and increasing Islamist influence.

Erdogan has backed away from any slight offers of compromise he made to the protesters, denouncing them as terrorists and suggesting heavy foreign influence.

[via BBC; image by Vassil Donev / EPA]


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