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What began as a peaceful demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey against tearing up the city’s Gezi Park, has transformed into a national protest against the Turkish government. The protests are a surprise to many in Washington, who considered Turkey more democratic than it was a decade ago and an “excellent model” or “model partner.”

What's Happening in Turkey

 

An article in Foreign Policy stated, “There is a certain amount of truth to these assertions, though the latter, which is repeated ad nauseum, misrepresents the complex and often contradictory political processes underway in Turkey.”

 

Turkey protest

 

Tens of thousands of citizens have begun to protest what they believe has turned into an authoritarian government under Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s command. The protest is against plans to raze Gezi Park and replace it with a shopping center; however, underlying tensions emerged after Turkish police responded with tear gas and truncheons. The Gezi protests are the culmination of growing popular discontent over the recent direction of Turkish politics.

Many people around the world are unaware of why this demonstration is occurring; but thanks to social media, Turkish citizens are getting past the barriers of restricted information.

The Istanbul protesters have supporters in the United States. Supporters in New York are raising money online for a full-page ad to be placed in either the New York Times or the Washington Post. In the New York Times, a full-page ad for causes and appeals in the international section run between $140,000 and $153,000. After one day, the crowdfunding campaign’s already raised $35,000 in pledges- their goal is to reach $53,800 before the deadline, which is one month away.

The ad calls for “the world’s support.” The copy of the ad reads, “This is not just about a park. Before the park was the closure of an Ottoman pastry shop, the arrests of journalists, laws on alcohol sales, constantly changing school curricula. Gezi Park and the subsequent police violence on demonstrators were just the latest examples of a fundamental shift away from basic civil rights.”

The protest in Turkey has turned into the biggest protest to occur during Erdoğan’s term, which has lasted over a decade. Over the course of the 11 years of AKP governance, Turkey has achieved unprecedented economic success, transforming a crisis-hit economy into a quickly growing one fuelled by trade and foreign investment. However, it appears Erdoğan has grown a big head, and made remarks about his party’s legitimacy and the fact that it won 50 percent of the votes in 2011 elections. The Prime Minister has referred to himself as “the servant of the nation” following the economic and environmental success of the government.

 

Turkey Protests
Protestors have been using Facebook and Twitter on their mobile phones to inform the world of the latest news during the demonstration against the demolition of the park in Istanbul.

 

Though much of the information has been limited, international social media, blogs, and articles have helped to spread the word and demonstrate the power of the Internet as a tool for uprising. We are able to see for ourselves the bravery of the Turkish citizens standing up against their government. An article revealed that Turkish police have detained at least 25 Twitter users; social media activists have been accused of using Twitter to “instigate public hatred and animosity.”

“There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” Erdogan said on Sunday, dismissing the protests as being organized by extreme elements. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” Is it a menace for revealing the reality of Erdoğan’s regime?

Through Vimeo, a similar social media tool to YouTube, a video was released of a helicopter view of the protestors in Gezi Park. Check it out:

http://vimeo.com/67803369

Not only is social media serving as a tool to inform the rest of the world about the protests in Turkey, but it also serves as a tool to bring people from various cultures together. A handful of people throughout the United States is now helping the Turkish citizens by expressing their support, creating a virtual bond across the world. They may not know each other personally, or understand one another’s lives, but social media generates a way for human connections to form.

We can juxtapose this with how social media creates mutually beneficial relationships between businesses and their customers. Businesses constantly communicate with their clients on Facebook, send updates on Twitter, or blog to provide detailed facts about the company to show their customers that they are there to serve them.

Who knew a protest across the world that isn’t being publicized enough would go viral through social media?

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This article was written by Lianne McCluskey, intern Online Marketing Strategist at Dream Local Digital. Based in our Rockland office, Lianne has spent the summers home in midcoast Maine interning with Dream Local Digital since 2012. A student at La Salle University in Philadelphia, she is a Communication major with a concentration in Journalism and English. Lianne is a member of the La Salle Women’s Swimming & Diving team, having been competitively swimming since she was five-years-old. She is also a member of La Salle’s Lambda Phi Eta Honor Society, the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and works for the La Salle University Annual Fund. She has written feature stories for the La Salle Collegian and NewsWorks, powered by WHYY in Philadelphia. She enjoys having the opportunity to help local businesses learn how to use social media to reach their audiences and build mutually beneficial relationships with the people they serve, strengthening her writing skills along the way. You can reach Lianne at lmccluskey0@gmail.com or connect with her online at http://leeleecogitoergosum.wordpress.com/.