ISTANBUL - During the 1970s it was common to hear news on the radio about a group of anarchists being arrested.
Those anarchists, however, were not like today’s anarchists in Greece or other places in the world. They were mainly communist university students and the word anarchist was not used because of its ideological meaning, but merely to mark their opposition to the existing social order. Anarchism was a long way from defending itself as a political stance for the highly politicized youth of the 70s.
Today, however, supporting their anarchist brothers and sisters in Greece, anarchism has started to rise in Turkey as an ideology. There are several anarchist groups in Turkey, such as Istanbul Ahali, meaning mass or community, which is one of the most widespread anarchist organizations with branches in Ankara, Eskişehir, İzmit and Mersin.
Accelerating after the 1990s, the anarchist movement made a name for itself with the military conscientious objection movement. In 2000, the invasion of Iraq and the anti-war movement was another point at which anarchists came forward in Turkey.
They strove to tell society the right way to progress without becoming marginalized or falling into the trap of existing clichs. The ecology and anti-nuclear movements are also political arenas featuring anarchists.
Members of Ahali agreed to talk to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on the condition that only their first names are used.
"It is difficult to be an anarchist. You should not become marginalized, you should keep in contact with people and tell them who you are. In your daily life you should watch and intervene in any power dynamics," said Serkan, a 30-year-old anarchist from Istanbul Ahali, who works as a receptionist in a hostel.
People who live a nihilist life and call themselves an anarchist make it difficult for true anarchists, he said.
Some people who are merely against one thing call themselves anarchists, said Gürşat, a 28-year-old.
One of the most striking protests by the Istanbul Ahali was against increases in the price of natural gas. "We went to İstiklal Street, lit a stove and burned natural gas bills with banners that read ’Whoa!’" said Berk, a 19-year-old university student.
"It was not us, but elderly men and women who talked to the press during the protest.
Confronting power teaches anarchy
They owned the protest and burned their natural gas bills as well," Serkan said. Another issue Ahali works on is strengthening rights for grinded-jeans workers who have contracted Silicosis, a fatal lung disease.
Founding the kottaslama.org Web site to show solidarity with the workers, Ahali calls on people to boycott wearing grinded jeans.
Almost every member of the group had a specific moment in their life where they confronted power, which led them to become an anarchist.
"When we were in high school, three of us shaved our heads. The school director called for us and asked whether we were anarchists and what we were against," Serdar, a 23-year-old university student, said when asked how he became an anarchist.
Berk said he became an anarchist because of his critical views of power relations within leftist parties and his experiences as a member of one.
Supporting the protests in Greece
Ahali is following the protests in Greece closely. When asked why people in Turkey did not react to police killings and what the difference was between Turkey and Greece on this issue, the anarchists said a rebellion culture and the ongoing conflict in southeastern Anatolia meant people had become desensitized to violence.
The anarchist spirit in Greece is much more organized and rooted, said Özgür, a 22-year-old university student. The anarchists said the anarchist communes in Greece were widespread and had organized their daily lives in a way to create spaces that were free of state rule and power.
Riots had begun in Greece earlied this month when two officers shot 15-year-old Alexander Grigoropoulos on the night of December 6th.