Democracy is a fraudulent contract, José Saramago once remarked; from the moment you cast your vote, you have abandoned power until the next election. This may be the way democratic elections work, but it is not how democracies should.
I would like to chart a slightly different course, instead exploring some of the geopolitical and historical imaginaries woven into the government response to the protests. I do so because those imaginaries—particularly those that frame democracy and human rights as universal values—are paradoxical: the visibility of the protests in Taksim in particular has both attracted wide international media coverage and enabled many government supporters to discredit the protests as a minor incident organized and orchestrated by foreign powers bent on meddling in Turkey’s domestic issues.
I do not want to colonize the events by interpreting them as nothing more than confirmation of theoretical arguments I have made previously. But I also want to say that it is possible to see in those events—at times, and here and there—a strong resonance with democracy as I understand it. To do that, I begin by affirming that there are multiple desires, agendas, forces, and people involved in shaping the events in Turkey.
Gezi revolt represents a movement in which the stability and the certainty of Erdogan’s authoritarian rule became yesterday’s bad memory. Taksim Square, the heart of Istanbul’s entertainment district known for its restaurants, shops and cafes, makes a powerful setting for struggle.