During Occupy Gezi events in Istanbul, many artists took place in demonstrations which were held first to protest the demolishing of a public park near Taksim Square, but then elevated to a civil disobedience event throughout the country. (1)
Memet Ali Alabora, prominent Turkish artist of stage and screen fame and a unionist, was among these artists. He participated in peaceful Occupy Gezi events and demonstrations from the start on May 31st. He gave an impromptu interview to Christian Amanpour and Ivan Watson of CNN International while protestors were being gassed by the police in the background at Taksim. (2)
Active in unionization of artists and politically vocal, Memet Ali Alabora immediately became the target of Prime Minister and AKP head Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he and his mini-me Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek started attacking and targeting him in their public speeches. Erdoğan even called Alabora out and made the crowds boo him repeatedly in an AKP rally. Gökçek said “the state will persecute Memet Ali Alabora with God’s permission, and I’ll see him behind bars.”
Erdoğan’s followers in high places in the Turkish state mechanism deem his words an order when he raises his voice during a public speech. This time he shouted his orders very precisely: Memet Ali Alabora was the target of the state for openly criticizing the government’s actions during Occupy Gezi movement. Alabora’s fate is in judiciary’s hands now. There was no historical precedent for the way in which an artist was specifically pointed out as a target. The whole play is to silence the intellectuals like the government silenced the press with oppression in Turkey.
Levent Kazak, renowned writer and artist, started a petition to Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey, to protect all artists in the name of Memet Ali Alabora from state oppression. The petition has over 50,000 signatures already. Kazak writes:
memet ali is my friend.
I had the chance to know him better when we worked as colleagues
I’m very clear in saying
I’ll sign on everything he does with his conscience and common sense
this is a norm, and that norm will always work with memet ali
there is not a single crime nor an accusation against him but there is an ugly lynching campaign
this is the only crime
this could cost a man his life, his future
in this provocative scene where all turn into his own judge
it may become a crime against humanity which we could never redeem.
memet ali might have been someone else
it could easily have been me
I could have played a role in theater depicting fascism
I could have been by my computer on the night of May 31st
when sleeping kids were being gassed, their tents being burned
when those kids were facing disproportional force,
and getting crazy by the “penguin” silence of the media,
I could have written that tweet on the Internet.
“it’s no longer about Gezi park, they suffocate kids here mate, burning tents”
I could have yelled, without knowing what’s really going on.
yes, this is not about memet ali
it could have been me
it could have been you
and finally we all are.
if the media was not silent on the night of May 31st
with correct news or not, that does not matter now
if there was one single news report on Gezi
maybe the kids would still be hurt
but it would be over as it always were before.
the resistance at the park would never start.
that’s what no one sees, or wants to see
a huge explosion of a pressure cooker caused by the media silence.
This campaign is of utmost value for the future of human rights in Turkey. It is not possible to breathe the air in the 21st Century in an environment where the most basic human freedoms are rationed by an authoritarian leader on a merit basis.
We have to sign the petition, scream and make it known that there are voices in Turkey that refuse to be silenced without a fight.