Yup, Istanbul is up in arms against its government. Turkish protesters took to the streets in June. What began as a small protest in Gezi Park has turned into much more than that. Blame it on the foolishness of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the violent suppression by the Turkish police. Calling the protesters çapulcu which literally means “bums” or “marauders” has been turned and twisted around by the protestors. What will eventually emerge from the uprising in Turkey will be a new nation, one that has matured and will emerge on this side of the 21st century. No doubt, from this turmoil in the streets of Istanbul, art and culture will be born from within. Oh these turbulent times!
This story first appeared in the Guardian news media site:
“When demonstrators first took to the streets to protest against the Turkish prime minister he branded them çapulcu, or looters. The word also means marauders or bums.
But Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s attempt to demean his opponents has backfired. Protesters in Istanbul and other cities have embraced the word as their own, labelling themselves proud çapulcu and even coining an English verb, capuling.
Pronounced chapulling, with the emphasis on the second syllable, it has become synonymous with the alternative, youth-driven anti-Erdoğan movement. Students sleeping under the plane trees in Gezi Park, Istanbul, have dubbed their makeshift camp Capulistan, with many mounting cardboard signs next to their dwellings that read “Capul residence”. Meanwhile, the city’s must-have fashion accessory is a white T-shirt with the slogan: “Every day I’m capuling”.
“Erdoğan called us çapulcu. It’s an insult. It means you’re a useless person, without a job, nobody,” Kiraz Deniz Gurel, 30, a local musicologist, said. “But we’re not losers. We really have good, good reasons for being here. We are young people and old people.”
Gurel purchased the T-shirt for 7.5 Turkish lira – £2.50 and wore it for the first time on Monday. “Turkish people are very humorous. They love making jokes. It was John Lennon who said: ‘When you give violence, you get back violence.’ It’s easy to respond with violence but humour is the better way. It means we are still alive, we are still human,” she added.
The word has exploded across social media, which played a vital role in spreading news of the protests after state media failed to report them. Twitter users have adopted it as their own, adding the prefix çapulcu to their accounts. For example, “ilhan” becomes “çapulcu ilhan”. The meme gained leverage after Erdoğan denounced the microblogging site as a curse and menace to society.
And those whose job it is to explain this citizens’ revolt have used the phrase as well. The Zaman newspaper described the protests as “Turkey’s ‘capuling’ movement”. Its columnist, Arzu Kaya Uranli, noted: “The whole world is witnessing something exceptional for Turkish history. The Gezi Park protests have become an amazing civil movement in Turkey … rather than rejecting the humiliating and hurtful label of looters, protesters embraced it in an artistic way and applied it to their activism.”
She defined capuling as “to act in a peaceful and humorous manner to remind governments why they exist”.
The park and next-door Taksim Square have their own Capul art gallery – paintings by protesters hung on concrete walls. There is also an impressive Capul peace tree made from bits of fencing and stumps ripped up by government bulldozers after teargas-wielding riot police moved in. Istanbul residents have stuck hundreds of wishes on the tree, calling for anything from world peace to Erdoğan’s resignation.“