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The anti-capitalist iftar

Rights & dissent This article is part of the series Food

Istiklal Iftar - Gregory Dziedzic

Sermayenin lüks otel iftarları: KAPİTALİZM

Egemenlerin iftar çadırları: SÖMÜRÜ

Halkın yeryüzü sofraları: ÖZGÜRLÜKTÜR

Iftar held in the luxury hotels of Capital: CAPITALISM

Iftar tents erected by the oppressors: EXPLOITATION

The earth tables of the People: FREEDOM.

This appeal was published on the online several days ago by the groups the Anti-Capitalist Muslims (Antikapitalist Müsülmanlar) and the Revolutionary Muslims (Devrimci Müslümanlar), and was quickly shared on social media by numerous people who support the Occupy Gezi movement.

The date given for the first “People’s Iftar” or “Earth Table” of Ramadan 2013 in Turkey was Tuesday July 9 at 8:00 pm, in front of Galatasaray High School, in the middle of Istiklal Avenue. Any and all can come and share the meal – this is the founding principle of the “Earth Table”. These communal meals were introduced in 2011 by another organisation called Emek ve Adalet (Bread and Justice) in front of a luxury hotel, to protest a capitalist approach to Ramadan. Today it has evolved into a means for continuing the struggle against the government and a way to reclaim public space.

Istiklal Iftar - Gregory Dziedzic

Throughout the evening, people continue to arrive. They spread out newspapers or, more rarely, a tablecloth on the cobblestones and then take a seat side-by-side on the ground. The table, which initially was a few dozen metres long, seems to grow exponentially. The goal is to reach Gezi Park, where the iftar organised by the local Beyoğlu governorship has been set up with pomp and ceremony. But at the end of the street, some 600 metres from the Galatasaray High School, the beautiful chain of people, plates and shared morsels of bread runs into an imposing security device. A big TOMA (an armoured police vehicle equipped with a water cannon) surrounded by police officers blocks access to Taksim Square. All night, the participants wonder whether it will attack them or not. Between bites, the slogans of the Gezi movement are repeated over and over: the classic Her Yer Taksim, Her Yer Direniş (“Taksim is everywhere, the resistance is everywhere”), the playful Sık bakalım (“Go ahead and teargas us”) directed at the police officers, and the untranslatable: Hüloooooğğğ.

At 8.47 pm, the meal begins. There are now several thousands seated on the ground: people who were there during the demonstrations and now have found themselves at this iftar. There are Muslims, Christians and non-believers; there are Turks, Kurds, Socialists, Kemalists and Liberals, young and old, all reflecting the diversity of the Gezi movement.

Following the success of the first “People’s Iftar”, others have been organised in different neighbourhoods in Istanbul and other Turkish cities, and even in New York. The last such event on Istiklal Street was attacked by the police. To learn more about these iftars, you can follow the hashtag #yeryüzüiftarı on Twitter.

Mashallah News spoke to a few people at the July 9 iftar, all Istanbulites united behind their cause:

Hadiye Yolcu

Hadiye Yolcu, 30, activist with the Revolutionary Muslims

How was the idea for this iftar born? 

During the month of Ramadan, the city council sets up enormous iftar tents, but it’s obvious that they’re doing this for publicity only. Ramadan is about the spirit of equality. People, whether they have food or not, can come to the same table. There’s no difference. We want people to have solidarity with one another. We shared the struggle for Gezi, now let’s share food!

What do you want to say to the government today?

First and foremost, we must “thank” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for uniting us all in this struggle. Because it’s in the face of his discriminatory, provocative and divisive discourse that people have banded together.

Is there anyone within your circle who criticises you?

Yes. Within my circle, certain people are against our opposition to the government. Some of them ask me why I’m in the opposition even though I wear a veil. But veiled or not, Muslim or not, doesn’t matter. Today, power is wielded in a way that is really inequitable and oppressive, silencing those who want to protect their rights. There’s no freedom of expression left.

How do you envision the future of the Gezi movement?

In the parks, the forums continue. The youth are there, and that gives us a lot of hope.  They’re organising, they’re thinking of their future. Nobody knows what will happen, but at least the youth have been asking themselves important questions.

Istiklal Iftar - Gregory Dziedzic

Mine Tekman, 35, computer engineer

Why did you come to this iftar?

It’s a beautiful idea. It’s set up for the people and everyone can come and participate, so it has more meaning than the iftars organised by luxury hotels or the city council.

What dishes did you bring this evening?

I was only able to bring some zucchini.

What is the meaning of Ramadan for you?

Love, brotherhood, unity, solidarity, tolerance. All of these values.

What is the significance of Gezi for Turkey?

It’s a movement that took the entire world by surprise and in my opinion, it’s significant for everyone. A month and a half ago I was very pessimistic, but now I’m optimistic for the entire earth, not just for Turkey.

Onur Sinasi

Şinasi Onur, 44, shipbroker

Which dishes did you bring this evening?

I just made some sandwiches to break the fast with my friends. But they brought olives, cheese and other dishes. The main objective is being together.

Did you participate in the demonstrations?

Yes, mostly in Beşiktaş, next to the group of Çarşı supporters, but I went to Gezi too. In my bag I carry two gas masks. We got gassed a lot during the demonstrations, we got used to it.

Aren’t you afraid?

No. Fear is dead. We buried it in the cemetery.

Why is the Gezi movement important?

It’s a pacifist movement. Here, nobody supports violence except the police. We only want democracy.

What do you want to say to the government today?

For them to stop the violence, that’s it.

Burak, 19, student

What dishes did you bring this evening?

We didn’t bring anything special, just cheese, pide (Ramadan bread), tomatoes and ayran.

What do you think is the meaning of Ramadan?

To our community, it’s synonymous with sharing and tolerance.

What is the meaning of the Gezi movement within Turkey?

As the Prime Minister said, it may have started with three trees. But the deeper causes are the prohibitions and the oppressive politics of the government. This movement is concerned with everything the government has done for the last ten to twelve years. Every single person’s life has been affected, and society was ready to explode. So everyone took to the streets.

What do you want to say to the government today?

(laughs) Don’t be too self-assured. The people are stronger than you.

Gülhan Özceylan

Gülhan Özceylan, 34, customer relations manager

Which dishes did you bring?

Köfte, salad, soup and desserts.

Why did you come to the iftar organised by the Anti-Capitalist Muslims?

They supported us and stayed by our side, so we wanted to be with them today.

What is the significance of this movement within Turkey now?

It’s a struggle for individual freedoms, for the power to freely express ourselves.

What do you want to say to the government today?

They have to ensure the same rights also for those who don’t think like they do. I only want for them to realise that people need to be free, I don’t want their resignation or anything else.

Yilmaz

Yılmaz, 58, printer

Why did you come here this evening?

I came to offer a helping hand. There are two kinds of iftars: there’s the iftar of the rich and the iftar of the poor. The real meaning of Ramadan is that which the iftar of the poor symbolises.

Were you involved since the beginning of the demonstrations?

Yes.

Why?

We want to tell the AKP that we too live here. The country is not yours only: there’s a huge diversity among Turkey’s Muslims and there are also people who are not Muslims. I’m not Muslim; I’m an atheist. We have to coexist, Jews, Muslims, Alevis, Sunnis – everyone together.

What steps are you waiting for the government to take?

The government must be changed. They started chopping down trees for the rich. Now there have already been five dead and over a dozen people who have lost an eye.

Fatma Kurcan Dogan

Fatma Kurcan Doğan, 30, schoolteacher and activist with the Anti-Capitalist Muslims

Did you participate in the Gezi demonstrations?

Yes, every day. For 20 days, we stayed in a tent where we slept overnight with friends.

How did it go with the other protestors?

Very well, we made quite a few new friends.

Do some people hold prejudices against you?

On an individual level, no. But power has prejudices of its own, which insist on marginalising and polarising people. During the demonstrations, we had discussions with Kemalists, and we have Leftist and Kurdish friends. Within Anti-Capitalist Muslims there are different people: deists, Armenians, Alevis and Kurds. So diversity is something that we’ve already experienced for two years.

What would you like to say to the government today?

A lot (laughs)! For a month now we have endured atrocities; we have had to breathe huge amounts of teargas; we have been insulted. They are now making others endure the same kind of oppression that they have experienced for years. I cannot understand that.

Gülhan Özceylan

Translated from French by Angela Häkkilä.

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