A common expression in Turkey is ‘smoke like a Turk’, since cigarettes are abundantly present in Ankara. Actually, I still need to meet the first Turkish man who is not smoking. An additional expression linked to Turkey can be introduced: demonstrate like a Turk. In the first couple of weeks I was surprised by the number of people discussing politics. However, I soon found out that discussing politics does not require any knowledge of the situation whatsoever.
Even though not everyone has relevant arguments in a debate, the positive side is that the Turkish people are very aware of their right to demonstrate. This can be experienced on a regular weekend in Ankara when several groups are protesting. On the left side of the square a demonstration takes place against Prime Minister Erdoĝan’s proposal to bring all the street dogs to shelters outside the city. In order to make a statement more than a hundred people have gathered and a majority has brought their own dogs to gain sympathy for their cause. Then traditional Turkish music grabs our attention, and we walk towards the centre of the square. It turns out to be a protest against the arrest of several women who are accused of sympathizing with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) – which is regarded as a terroristic organization in Turkey. However, their music is overshadowed by another demonstration which calls upon the United States to abandon their imperialist policies in the Middle East.
Ankara boring? Never, certainly not with three demonstrations on one square, each waving their own colourful flags and chanting their own slogans. And in the meanwhile, several police busses have gathered on the streets near the square and dozens of fully armed policemen are waiting for a possible escalation.
In the light of this, you might think that Turkey ranks high on the Press Freedom List, since every person seems to have a right to express its views. Unfortunately, this is not the reality. Although demonstration on the streets are allowed – at least when you have permission from the municipality – critical newspapers are rare and many journalists are judicially harassed. Reporters without Borders has even entitled Turkey as ‘’the world’s biggest prison for journalists’’.
This experience has certainly strengthened my believe that Turkey is a country full of contradictions…