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A Youth Protester Speaks From Turkey

As the international media reports live events out of Turkey, there have been pleas from Turks for attention to be drawn to their stories. Frustration is evident on the streets of Turkey, but what do Turks have to say about what is going on? One young Turk is not afraid to speak, and wants the world to know his perspective. The young Turk's name is Okan.

"It's the biggest one I've ever seen, since I was born. It's like a revolution."

Okan and his family have joined their fellow citizens in nonviolent resistance from the start. For the past few days, there have been mounting protests in Turkey against the government, causing speculation if the not so distant Arab spring will be mirrored throughout Turkish society.

"We want our freedom, our human rights."

Okan, like many of his countrymen, feel that their voices are repressed by their government and have had enough. The uprising of citizens is reportedly provoked by a government proposed shopping mall that would replace one of the few green spaces left in Istanbul, despite the outcry of the public.

The issue is not just the park, but a laundry list of government impositions that many Turks perceive as stifling to social liberty. Some examples of recent hot-seat issues over the past few years are Turkey's alcohol law, the controversy of women wearing hijab and human rights abuses noted by the international community for its practices in developing hydroelectric plants and dams.

"The government is increasingly getting more conservative in Islamic views. We do not want a theocracy."

Okan says that Turks protest because they want to have a participatory government. The push for a development plan in Gezi park that blatantly ignores the people is the catalyst to a long desired stand-off for justice.

But justice by way of peaceful protest has been met with violent police crackdown from the start. Okan reports that some protesters have been subjected to live bullet rounds, tear gas and water cannons. It has even been rumored that some protesters have been attacked with agent orange. The police response to protesters confirms for Okan that the tensions that have been brewing in Turkey have systemic roots.

Okan wants the kind of country that respects democratic values. Specific grievances Okan has with his government stem from his perception that the current party wants to have Turkey run under authoritarian rule and conservative Islamic values. Okan feels that his government should not dictate Turkish values based on strict ideas of Islam. To him, the party in power is conservative and seeks to introduce Islamic rule more under the guise of diversity. It is a slippery slope, one that Okan sees reflected in the actions of a government that decides it does not need to answer to the people.

"We want a democracy. We want to take our freedoms back."

Protesting is a duty that Okan believes is held dear by elders and youth alike. From where he stands, the movement is not youth focused, but inter-generational.

"Lots of people are in the streets, youth and elderly, regardless of their physical condition. They are raising their flags."

Time will tell how things will move forward in Turkey. For Okan, he just wants his voice heard and concrete change that assures him of a secular society free of Islamic rule.

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