The Commerce Journal

July 9, 2013

A&M-Commerce student experiences political turmoil in Turkey

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — Texas A&M University-Commerce junior Gizem Baydar was not particularly interested in politics, either here in the United States or in her native Turkey.

But a summer internship with one of the leading Turkish newspapers printed in English, the Hurriyet Daily News during one of the most turbulent times in recent history have changed Gizem’s perception of politics.

“To be honest, I would consider myself as one of the apolitical youth, since I didn’t follow politics much, either in U.S. or in Turkey,” she said. “But I can say that I’m more aware and informed. Almost all of my friends went to the protests and joined the demonstrations against the government. Some of my friends were injured during the clashes with the police.”

The experience has also taught Gizem to write political news quickly, as the Daily News competes with other local newspapers, and to translate Turkish copy into English.

“I started my internship the first day of the incidents,” she wrote via email from Turkey. “I had been keeping up with the news and events happening in Turkey but, of course, it is such a different environment when you are just in the middle of everything doing an internship. The first day even before knowing all my duties or getting to meet with everyone, I wrote  three political articles since those were the busiest days of the rebellions. At first, it was kind of hard for me to get used to the pace because I was not that aware of politics, and I have been trying to grasp what was going on and writing articles about it at the same time. But, over time, I got used to it and, since the incidents are slowly calming down, it is easier to keep it in control.”

The demonstrations began in Istanbul over a proposed shopping mall that would have demolished Taksim Gezi Park and quickly spread throughout the country as a general means of protesting the leadership of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Police have clamped down on the protests, arresting demonstrators and sparking violence that has resulted in deaths on both sides. The protests have made international news headlines for weeks.

“I have been keeping up with the American and international news as well,” Gizem said. “I think they did a better job than the Turkish media [covering the unrest], unfortunately. More than half of the Turkish media agencies and  newspapers are under the control of the government, so they do news supporting the government even though this is not ethical journalism. And, since these demonstrations were against the government, they didn’t cover the news for almost three days, while the low class, uneducated citizens didn’t know what was going on.”

Gizem pointed out that more consistent, accurate news was available via social media than government newspapers.

“Social media, Twitter and Facebook, were the places where you could get the information and the news, which is really sad,” she said. “The media didn’t do their job. CNN and BBC were even in Turkey covering the news in the area, while the Turkish media was playing the three monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil).”

Personally, Gizem has little hope that change will occur in Turkey anytime soon.

“These protests were against the government’s rule and for democracy,” she said. “But I don’t believe that clashing with the police will get you anywhere, and, in the end, it didn’t really change anything. I feel like the political problems of Turkey won’t get any better unless the government is replaced with a democratic party leader. Right now there isn’t a good opposition leader, and I feel like, no matter the protests, the Turkish people will elect the same political party over and over again in the future elections.”

Gizem’s internship will conclude soon and she will return to her studies at A&M-Commerce as a news-editorial major in the fall.