Two banners, two presences — the first inspiring, the second prescient — above crowds gathered in Gezi Park, Istanbul, earlier this months.
The banner at the top bears the face of long-exiled Turkish communist poet Nazim Hikmet (b.1902, Salonica; d. 1963,Moscow). It also contains the best-known lines from his famous poem “The Walnut Tree” (click here for full text in English-language translation), about his own experience hiding from the police amongst the walnut trees in Istanbul’s Gülhane Park.
The banner below is headed “Addicted to Pepper Gas/Gezi.” The anarchist sign in place of the “e” and the addition of the letter “I” puns “Gas” with “Gezi.” Gezi Park was cleared of occupiers last Saturday night at 9:00pm by police indiscriminately firing round after round of tear gas into crowds of peaceful occupiers and visitors, children and elderly included. I watch scores of victims, some unconscious and some badly burned, being hand carried to a nearby hospital or conveyed by shuttling ambulances. An “addiction” overdose indeed!