Taksim Square Book Club

Reading books has become one of the main expressions of dissent in Turkey following the police clampdown on more active forms of protest against the increasingly autocratic government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Taksim Square Book Club, which convenes demonstrators in Istanbul’s Taksim Square to publicly and silently read together, is generating some of the most iconic images of the continuing (passive) resistance, here courtesy of George Henton and Al-Jazeera.

One of the favorite titles at the Book Club is George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” including the Penguin edition with the title erased that I complained about on TeleRead a while ago.

Taksim Square Book Club
A man reads the Turkish book “Resurrection Gallipoli 1915,” written by Turgut Ozakman on the Battle of Gallipoli, while a woman beside him reads George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. (Photo: George Henton/Al Jazeera)

The Taksim Square Book Club may seem a very passive and low-key response to the physical force and aggressive rhetoric deployed against it, but such tactics are in keeping with the latest strategic thought on how to oppose, and eventually topple, authoritarian regimes.

Taksim Square Book Club
Photo: George Henton/Al Jazeera

Gene Sharp, the apostle of non-violent resistance credited with providing the ideas and techniques that led to widespread regime change during the Arab Spring, lists just such demonstrations among his paradigmatic “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action“:  Group lobbying (#15), vigils (#34),  self-exposure to the elements (#158);  stand-in (#163), etc.

Some of his key works are available as downloadable e-books, completely for free.

It’s sobering to reflect that a flashmob of Kindle or Nook readers in Taksim Square would not only have nothing like the impact of the Taksim Square Book Club, but might even encourage the government actions against new media as one of the main instigators of the protest. But at least Turkey’s e-readers can obtain Sharp and Orwell’s work free of charge and free of censorship—for now.

The  situation in Turkey continues to evolve. On Sunday, marchers took to the streets of Istanbul to demand better treatment for Turkey’s L.G.B.T. community. Meanwhile, the Erdogan regime continues to claim that international conspiracies, foreign media, and the “Jewish diaspora” are behind the protests.


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