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Istanbul Protests Through the Eyes of a Ukrainian Journalist

Turkey has long been a popular vacation and business travel destination for hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, but few of these visitors can boast much knowledge of the Turkish politics. Now, however, as the anti-government protests and police brutality in Turkey are making top headlines globally, many Ukrainians have started to follow the situation there with much interest, expressing support and admiration for the peaceful protesters, noting similarities with the 2004 Orange Revolution as well as with more recent events in Ukraine, and wishing for the political awakening of the Ukrainian people.

Tear gas used by the police against the protesters in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by George Haddad, copyright © Demotix (01/06/13).

Tear gas used by the police against the protesters in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by George Haddad, copyright © Demotix (01/06/13).

On Facebook, one of the primary sources of updates, photos and insight from Istanbul has been Osman Pashayev [ru, uk, tr], a Ukrainian journalist of Crimean-Tatar descent, the Istanbul bureau chief of the Crimean Tatar ATR TV channel. As journalist Kristina Berdinskikh wrote [ru],

The best news agency of the past few days is Osman Pashayev.

And Facebook user Iryna Panchenko wrote this [uk]:

It's good that Osman Pashayev is in Istanbul – we have access to relevant information on the events there, without having to wait for international news [outlets to wake up] and for [Ukrainian news outlets] to copy – and, possibly, distort – [the reports of their international colleagues].

Below are some of Pashayev's recent posts [ru, uk, tr].

Friday, May 31, 20136:50 PM (Istanbul time):

I've seen the crackdown on [left-wing activists] during the 2009 IMF summit in Istanbul, I've seen rallies of the opposition in Tbilisi [the capital of Georgia], a crackdown on the Arab protestors in Jerusalem, an anti-terrorist operation in northern Iraq, but I've never seen such a savage treatment of peaceful protesters before. I cannot get to [Taksim Square] – 100 meters, gas that [irritates] the eyes is everywhere. I bought two lemons and poured [juice] over myself and one Turkish girl. Eyes are itchy from lemon, but at least it makes breathing easier after a couple minutes. Many here are 18-25 years old. The police are waging a war against citizens.

7:24 PM:

Our country – Ukraine – even under [the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych] is almost an exemplary democracy. Today's Turkey resembles Russia a lot more, though not yet Belarus [...].

Saturday, June 1, 201312:07 AM:

Do not pity Turkey. It is wonderful. And [PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is like a virus in quantities sufficient for the immune system to finally start working. [...]

2:28 AM:

I'm teaching the Turks some of the rules of the Orange Revolution – to chant “Police are with the people” [one of the popular slogans in Ukraine in 2004]. A few more resignations by police officers and the generals will stop giving antihuman orders.

4:02 AM:

First aid points to the injured on [Istiklal Avenue]. Hotels are letting the protesters inside, shop owners are giving out water for free and administering first aid. Cab drivers are transporting those with serious injuries for free. It resembles the unity in Kyiv [during the 2004 Orange Revolution].

4:52 AM:

A heartrending tweet [Pashayev's quick translation into Russian; the Turkish-language original, by Aykut Gürlemez/@aykutgurlemez, is here]. “Dear Prime Minister, you have no idea how grateful I am to you today. You have no idea what a good deed you've done for the country today. Today, for the first time, I've seen a fan of [Istanbul's Fenerbahçe football club] was helping a [rival Galatasaray] fan to get up from the ground after the police order “to kill” came about. Today, Turks and Kurds were sharing water and bread. Today, women you call prostitutes, walked out of the brothels to wash the wounds of the injured in their cheap hotel rooms in [Tarlabaşı]. Lawyers and medical doctors were distributing their phone numbers, offering help. Today, [stores and coffee houses located on ground floors] turned off their Wifi passwards, and hotel owners were letting the tired and the beaten ones in. Today, our eyes are filled with tears not because of your pepper gas, but because of our pride for our Turkey.” [...]

5:27 AM:

In Turkey, 7.5 million users are watching the #TürkiyemDireniyor hashtag (“my Turkey resists”). Will Erdoğan have the guts to arrest them all? )))

5:51 AM:

[Fans of football clubs Beşiktaş], Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray. In the Ukrainian translation this will be “East and West together” [another popular slogan of the 2004 protests in Ukraine, referring to the political and cultural divide between eastern and western parts of Ukraine].

10:05 AM:

With great pleasure I've blocked everyone on Facebook who are being ironic about the violence taking place in Turkey. [...] A whole bunch of wisecracks who point out that I've just arrived here and don't understand something ))). Maybe I don't understand anything at all, but I do understand that violence against peaceful people is evil. And I've seen it with my own eyes. I've worked [as a TV journalist] in Turkey dozens of times since 2002, and for the first time now I've seen police officers lowering their gaze, ashamed. If cops are feeling ashamed, it means they are indeed doing something that's not very good.

8:20 PM:

The most amusing pictures are of Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray holding hands. Hard for us to understand, but it's almost as if [Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the far-right Ukrainian VO Svoboda party] showed up at a gay pride parade wearing [a Jewish kippah cap].

Sunday, June 2, 20134:21 AM:

No more than 2,000 people remain at Taksim. Everyone is moving to [the Beşiktaş area], where clashes with police continue. The [Turkish] opposition is toothless and not interesting. Young people and non-political groups are much brighter. [photos]

8:30 PM:

If Erdoğan and other officials are being sincere, if they are telling the world that the protesters are part of a junta, the military's fans and other marginal scum, then why are the city's web cameras are turned off only at Taksim, while the rest are working? Let the Turks and the world see for themselves the faces of the protesters, their numbers, and their eyes. The real pictures says much more than a thousand words ))))

Pashayev continues posting his update on Facebook and filing his stories on the protests in Turkey for Ukrainian TV channels. Another Ukrainian journalist, Mustafa Nayyem [ru], has now joined him in Istanbul and is also posting reports, videos and photos (here and here) on his Facebook page.

Roman Shrike, the founder of a popular Ukrainian durdom.in.ua website, wrote this [ru] on his Ukrainska Pravda blog, linking to one of Pashayev's posts and re-posting some of the photos of the Istanbul protest:

A good revolution always begins suddenly.

In Istanbul, the police violently cracked down on the defenders of a park. No big deal, you'd think… But the last straw usually happens to be nothing but a very tiny straw. [...]

Ukrainian politician and former journalist Volodymyr Ariev re-posted the photo of thousands of Istanbul residents crossing the Bosphorus Bridge early on Saturday on their way to Taksim, and wrote [uk]:

This is how people should defend their rights and freedoms from infringements of transitory authoritarian rulers. Way to go, Turkey!

Ukrainian activist Oleksandr Danylyuk wrote [uk]:

What do the events in Istanbul tell us? That it's enough for the Kyiv residents to drag their behinds off their couches for just a few days, and Yanukovych & Co. will come to them on their knees, bringing a capitulation document signed with their snot. But the majority [of Ukrainians] keep crying as they keep getting stung by this cactus they keep eating.

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