I have studied that area and its history for most of my life, and it was an incredible gift to be there and to enjoy putting the reality to the stories.
I also really loved meeting the Turks, getting to know about their modern history, and hearing their pride in what I considered a 'healthy Nationalism", if I can coin a phrase.
So, I've been following what's going on in Istanbul - it's not a surprise, although the violence is disappointing. One of the Turks we got to know, who spoke freely, talked about the blatant corruptness of the current administration and their tactics of suppression and intimidation. He felt that this was not long in the coming - I'm sorry he was so right.
Here's a hopeful story - one among many, I'm sure. This is what I'd be doing, if I was there - so thanks and praise to my fellow yogi and supporter of the Turks: a shared story for your consideration.
Posted by YD × June 4, 2013 at 12:48 pm Taksim Square Istanbul on Sunday, June 2. via CNN.com
An incredible thing is happening in Turkey right now. A peaceful protest to protect a park from being demolished and rebuilt into a shopping mall in the center of Istanbul has devolved into a clash of citizens and government that has seen thousands of people come to join the occupation in solidarity, some injured from police force and others killed amidst the melee. Word blew up on social media before major news agencies could report on it.
A summary via The New Yorker:
Last year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Gezi Park would be leveled to make room for a reconstruction of the Halil Pasa Artillery barracks, which had been built there under Sultan Selim III, more than two hundred years ago; the reconstructed barracks would then be converted into a shopping mall.
On May 28th, a peaceful demonstration convened in Gezi Park to protest the bulldozing of the first trees. The weather was, and continues to be, beautiful. But over the course of the week, Occupy Gezi transformed from what felt like a festival, with yoga, barbecues, and concerts, into what feels like a war, with barricades, plastic bullets, and gas attacks.
But it’s not all chaos. We have word firsthand that, while things have spiraled out of control in a lot of ways, a peaceful protest continues in the form of human decency, support for one another, a pop-up library and even (of course) yoga.
We received an email from someone in Istanbul who has been involved in the peaceful protest as well as the free yoga classes in Gezi Park. We’ve learned that Cihangir Yoga has started hosting the yoga classes, led in part by visiting teacher Chris Chavez, and they have plans to continue the demonstrations, opening it up to all people wishing to practice yoga together in solidarity.
Me, my friends, and my sister are trying to spread some more positive, optimistic news supporting the Gezi Park Resistance. The brutal police attacks, the poor and misleading media coverage and the government’s on going denial about the rapidly grown uprise of the Turkish citizens all over Turkey are very depressing, but are being well documented by a lot of people on social media.
We want heart warming and constructive events to be known and spread as well. The friendly atmosphere we experience there every day, people constantly cleaning the park, offering each other food and health supplies, planting trees, taking care of hurt street animals also need to be acknowledged by the world. Chris’s yoga classes are one such example…supporting a nations claim for their public space, freedom and rights.
Chris Chavez via his facebook page:
The Istanbul protest and why it feels SO good: It’s the feeling of coming together.. We lead such isolated lives for the most part, and it feels good to connect and talk with random strangers!! To know that we have more similarities than we do differences!! It’s moments like this that bring the best out of people!!:)) It’s yoga in action!!
So, my brother in bandhas, Chris Chavez, work on, take your yoga in action and serve!
I find this inspiring; a country full of folks determined to make democracy real and transparent, and a healing art serving the community in times of turmoil.
Our activism should be to bring folks together, not create more separation. I'm proud to see one of ours working in that intention.
Give thanks and praise!