Everywhere throughout the world, people have taken to the streets, pushing for greater accountability and improved services.
Behind every protest are grievances like illegitimate inequality, feelings of injustice, deprivation, moral indignation etc. Also, according to a research, feeling part of a group you consider deprived is especially important for engaging in protest.
So far, almost every mass protest has ended violently. But, what if there was another more effective, but peaceful way?
Such was the case when thousands of people in Turkey were standing silent and motionless in streets and squares, hoping that this new tactic will prevent police violence.
The police’s response to anti-government protests in Turkey was usually aggressive, resulting in a number of injured and even deaths of some people. Demonstrating for greater civil rights and freedom, people marched on the streets of Istanbul, smearing walls with anti-government graffiti, and calling on the president to step down. They also camped, ate, danced and sang songs in Istanbul’s Gezi Park until the police put an end to this by force.
Thus, people all around the country have found a new way to express their anger and discontent: whistling, beating on pots and pans in the evening, clapping their hands, and switching lights on and off. The police operation may have prevented the chants and marching crowds, but protesters have turned this around by resorting to silence and stillness as a new form of resistance.
Overnight, Erdem Gunduz has encouraged this kind of protest by standing silently and looking at his country’s flag for hours at times. When other demonstrators noticed this solitary figure, they spontaneously followed his example.
While protesters gathered around Gunduz in a peaceful, silent protest, the Turkish police didn’t know how to react. Since demonstrations were banned on Taksim Square, the government announced that all protesters would be treated as terrorists.
Nevertheless, the people were just standing and saying nothing. Eventually, the police scattered the mute crowd and Gunduz was detained, interrogated, and then freed.
Within only a few hours, the news of “duran adam” and his passive resistance movement on Taksim Square spread around the world via Twitter. In fact, many protesters in other Turkish cities followed his lead.
In Istanbul, the silent protest has caught on in other neighborhoods. Demonstrators used social networks to organize times for people to stand still for five minutes. According to one of them, sometimes silence is the best response.
Another believed this was the best way to show that they were smarter and stronger than the police. As police officers beat them and pushed them around, they had to find smarter ways to act. At times they stared police officers for hours, without batting an eyelid.
Others have also lit candles to show respect for those demonstrators who’ve lost their lives during the protest. If they express themselves by making noise, they will face pain, but if they’re quiet they won’t.
Even though plastic bullets hit their hands, they were targeted with tear gas or attacked with water cannons, they will remain standing motionless like many others.
These protests are an outcry and silence will only make their cries louder.