Going from Gray to a Rainbow in Istanbul
As you may know, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has over the past few years been instituting policies that restrict civil liberties in Turkey, that prevent the Turkish people from freely assembling to air their grievances, and that have thereby fomented further resistance by free-minded people there.
Over the past year in Turkey, anti-authoritarian protesters have used the areas of Taksim Square and Istiklal Street as staging areas. Some of the protesters’ acts take the form of marches. Some of their acts are vigils. But as I saw when I visited Istanbul earlier this year, much of their resistance takes the form of street art:
In response, the authorities in Istanbul at times have their guns drawn at the ready:
But much more often government reaction comes in the form of a bucket of gray paint, designed to obliterate protest messages:
At some places on Istiklal Street, the gray paint stretches in great widths:
And so the gray paint has come to be interpreted as the symbol of government movement against freedom of expression. In turn, color has come to be seen as a threat to public order. When Istanbul retiree Huseyin Cetinel painted steps leading up to Istiklal Street in the colors of the rainbow at the end of the summer, Istanbul authorities saw this as dangerous agitation and promptly responded by repainting the steps a state-approved gray.
To this point, my story is a gray story, but it doesn’t end with gray. Watch the video below to see how people across Turkey responded.
My rough translation of that final phrase, “Gri Boyaniz Bitene Kadar,” is a sardonic “Gray paint until the end!”