This week PEN Atlas returns to Turkey for an update on Gezi Park. Müge İplikçi reflects on recent events and draws parallels between the treatment of protestors and the ongoing stifling of Turkish writers, who work in a system in which profit is the only validationTranslated from the Turkish by Feyza HowellThe Gezi Park movement goes far beyond ‘external provocation’, as it’s persistently termed by the Turkish government. It affects everyone, young and old, and it will continue to do so.A few weeks ago, a younger demonstrator told me that this was not an environmental movement – or at least not yet. But I suspect we both actually want the same things: to live in a country where nature and humans coexist, where an individual’s rights and freedoms are sacrosanct, enshrined in an ethical framework, and where reason prevails, without interference from any hierarchy.After all, the Gezi Park movement is much more than an excuse for environmental activists to flock to the streets. The real impetus has been a general struggle against a stifling atmosphere –  the increasing interference with our homes, our bodies and our independence. This has included a conservative shift in our education system; the censorship of books; a ‘single voice’ imposed on the Press; and a profits-first policy imposed on the Arts under the guise of ‘privatisation’. In all likelihood, the last straw came with the rapid transformation of the country into a property bubble.But something unexpected happened as the panzer tanks raided Gezi Park on the night of June the 15th
. We, the older generation, were well acquainted with state violence in a way that the 90s generation have never been, or needed to be. (I call such violence the official language of the state: a language that feeds on censorship and lies.) This was perhaps the first time the younger generation really understood what minorities had to face. One young person regretted his earlier suspicion of gay people, while another exclaimed, ‘Now I understand why the Kurds fled to the mountains!’Fascinating moments and encounters like these have a new address now. A place that inspires innovative protests and – more crucially – teaches us to overcome our fears. Take the ‘standing man’. One day, a solitary young man stood still for hours in Taksim Square, next to Gezi Park. Others joined him. The following day, there were more. In a few days, people were standing still everywhere. They stood still reading books, in silent protest at police violence. They stood to exercise their rights as citizens.Although the state expelled the protestors from the park on June the 15th
– physically, if not in spirit – the action paradoxically gave rise to hundreds of Gezi Parks. The movement endures, through a variety of initiatives, and as it does it brings about change: both social and political.I won’t deny however that this has all been a terrible ordeal. There’s little need to elaborate on the fug of tear-gas or the police truncheons that we’ve had to face. But for writers, the worst has been on the agenda for years: the relationship between neo-liberal policies and moderate Islam, a relationship with an infinite appetite for expansion.Our work has no real value in such an environment, where profit is the only validation. This has led to yet another type of censorship, one perpetrated by the publishers and the media. All that matters is how your work stands in the marketplace. You are trapped by an undetectable boundary of your visibility, sales and promotion. This is reinforced by a superficial publishing industry and its followers, who place focus on how visible you are. This vicious circle explains why good literature struggles to reach the reader. Over the last decade, good literature has become marginalised before our very eyes, in a process that is now accepted as the norm.For some time, the possibility of breaking free from the vicious circle has been occupying my mind. That is, until very recently. Because now there is a new phenomenon at the heart of the nation: Gezi Park, a resistance that is continuing as I write these words.This movement has the potential for great change, and one whose impact will be felt on the wider literary scene. I don’t necessarily mean writers will gain a wider readership. Rather that there is a chance that readers might think more, and think more deeply – and this in turn might lead to an end to writers’ alienation from their work.I am convinced that this period of deeper thinking will inspire us all, and literature will have its part to play. A nation that can defy its government’s ‘blank cheque’ attitude towards politics might also defy such an attitude coming from other parts of the political and cultural establishment.That is, so long as we writers continue to create, without compromise between integrity and the marketplace. The acclaimed writer Oğuz Atay once said, ‘I am here, Dear Reader! Where are you?’ I am convinced that the reader is there – learning solidarity, learning how to resist the system, developing an awareness of culture. The reader will eventually respond and welcome us.And this might easily mean that everything changes. A paradigm shift in reading would entail a shift in our very perception of life…Could that really be?Recent events have demonstrated that anything is possible.About the AuthorMüge İplikçi was born in Istanbul. A graduate of Istanbul University English Language and Literature Department, İplikci received MA degrees in Women’s Studies from Istanbul University’s Women’s Studies Department and The Ohio State University. İplikci made her mark at a young age, winning the prestigious Yaşar Nabi Nayır Young Author Award in 1996. She has since published four short story collections and three novels, as well as two books of non-fiction. A widely translated short story author, İplikci’s highly creative stories, which are often tinged with, if not doused in, the post-modern, usually revolve around apparently mundane human relationships, and especially the women in them. İplikci has been a member of Writers in Prison Committee (WIPC) of Turkish PEN for 3 years, and has also been the chairperson of the PEN Turkish Women Writers Committee since 2007.About the TranslatorFeyza Howell works as a literary translator as well as serving English PEN as an assessor and a number of public agencies as an interpreter. She has been translating fiction and commercial texts for many years as well as writing copy and non-fiction, including Waste by Hakan Günday and her translation of Madame Atatürk by İpek Çalışlar, which is due for publication by Saqi in the autumn.