Talking to Kids About Tear Gas.

Everyone who follows the news in countries with better media than ours will know that we have had a very interesting week. The resistance against the destruction of Gezi Park is over 10 days old and the barricades blocking off Taksim Square and Gezi Park are large and numerous. Very quickly, once the police brutality ceased, Gezi Park turned into a well organised festival of protest.

This week I had to explain to Anton that the windows needed to remain shut because of the gas in the air designed to hurt people so they run away. Matti's head was quickly filled with anthems and shouted slogans and slightly understood notions of civil war, military coup and revolution. While Beşiktaş, where we live, was at its worst, I kept the kids inside, only going to the playground across the street. One afternoon we were playing there when a march passed loudly on the road that separated us from the house. Anton asked me with a serious expression whether they were coming to get his farts! Oh the wisdom imparted by big brothers.

A few days in, when it seemed calm, I took the kids to see what had happened to Dolmabahçe Caddesi and  we admired the glitter of the broken billboards. Then we sat and watched as municipal workers battled to paint over anti-government graffiti, only for the paint to serve as fresh canvas. We saw that where, a couple of days earlier, there had been pavements, there was only sand. Bricks and stones all over the centre of the city have been used to reinforce the barricades.

Amidst all this, on Wednesday, Başak got married and we went to Yildiz Park to take some pictures. The park was full of exhausted policemen, bused in from other cities to work long horrific shifts, drinking tea or trying to sleep.

I haven't been keen to take the kids to Gezi Park, though I know that for the moment it is reasonably safe, and there are many children there during the day. Just before the last elections I was returning from a very rare moment without Anton when my tram stopped between stations and everyone began running out. It took me half a second to realise that I needed to cover my mouth and eyes which was long enough to feel the tear gas that had filled the street burn my throat, nose and eyes. When I got home I sobbed with relief that, the then baby, Anton hadn't been with me. I am determined that none of the children will feel the terror and confusion of pain that comes in the air till they are old enough to choose and prepare.

On Thursday, while the kids were safe at home, I walked with Ville to work as his route goes past Gezi Park and across Taksim Square. I was shocked by the number of buses used as barricades and how quickly the entire landscape had been written on. Seeing the park I felt so proud and protective of the protesters, many of whom were still sleeping. I sat in the park and watched people get moving, stretch, even skip. It was great to see that those in need could also get fed thanks to the abundance of food donated by and for the protesters. Then on Saturday Sophie, Ville and I joined the throngs using the weekend to offer support and see history in the making with their own eyes.

While I have nothing but admiration for the majority of the protesters my feelings about this time are not straightforward. Ville and I have spent the past week with knots in our stomachs trying to unravel right from wrong in the midst of so much passion and rumour. The violence that has hit, here and in many cities in Turkey, is incredibly upsetting. We are also cautious. We are only here so that we can be part of Matti's everyday, and our residence permits are shortly up for renewal. Thank you so much to everyone who wrote to us this week to send their thoughts and check how we were. It has meant a great deal. Tomorrow my birthday camera is arriving from England with my Mum so my spirits are high. I hope I will be able to use it to record new peace and pluralism over the coming months.



Painted over graffiti on billboard.

Eye addition to paint obscuring graffiti on Dolmabahçe Caddesi.

Paint obscuring graffiti on shattered billboard.

Paint obscuring graffiti on shattered billboard.

Anton fascinated by the shattered billboards.

Washing machine advertisement under shattered glass.

Fresh paint hiding anti-government graffiti.

Fighting a losing battle.

Police patrolling Dolmabahçe Caddesi.

Anton bemused by pavements that have dissapeared over night and been built into barricades.

Pavements taken apart to be used in building barricades.

Başak and Volkan in Yildiz Park.

Başak and Volkan in Yildiz Park.

Başak and Neve.

Barricade.

Me looking at the damage.

Pools of broken glass.

Bus barricade.

Sleeping protester.

Sleeping protesters.

Protesters skipping for morning exercise, Gezi Park.

Marauding everyday!!

There for the donated food, a wonderful side effect.

Ville reading slogans on a barricade.

Ville and Sophie in Taksim Square.


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7 thoughts on “Talking to Kids About Tear Gas.

  1. Julia, wow. Firstly, my heart aches to think of having to explain to MY kids about tear gas and needing to keep them safe from it. Really brings it home the reality going on for so many ppl right now. Thank you for sharing this so eloquently - just heartbreaking to hear of all that is happening and I am sooooo glad you and yours are safe. But very sad and scary to hear of the brutality. The images you captured are just incredible - they show the reality of what is happening and it is amazing to see that insiders view so we can understand better what its really like. Keep safe x

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  2. Wow indeed. I had read about what is happening in your hometown this week and your words and photos have really given insight into how destructive and frightening this week would have been for you. Like Kate said I can't imagine having to explain tear gas to a child :( It sounds like your honesty was appreciated by Anton (I do love that he was concerned about the safety of his farts - kids!)
    Your photos this week are amazing.
    I hope that things settle down and you start to feel say in your surroundings again. xx

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  3. Wow Julia. Life sounds very full on. Your captures are beautiful and really tell a story. When does your new camera arrive. I bet your excited :)

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  4. Your words and photos are so full of feeling and depth, thank you for sharing both. I hope things get better there soon, and am glad that you were all able to stay safe!

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  5. I can only imagine how it has been with the kids in the midst of it all! Your photos are fantastic and I wish I were there to document it too. Stay safe and keep taking photos! :-)

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  6. Julia, your personal account of this conflict has brought tears to my eyes in a way that the news articles have not. I'm glad that you and yours are staying safe. Your photos are wonderful, broken glass makes for some beautiful shots, and to see the pretty wedding photos in the middle of it all is a lovely reminder that life goes on, even in the midst of chaos. As always, the window you provide into another world is fascinating, so glad I get to see in. Much love, peace and safety to you.

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  7. Oh Julia, I am so glad that you are safe in the midst of all that upheaval! Scary and unsettling for sure. It is so fascinating to see your pictures and to hear you tell the story of what is going on in your part of the world right now. What beautiful images you have captured in the midst of it all. Proof that beauty can be found even in difficult circumstances. And the wedding pictures are absolutely beautiful! Well done, my friend! can't wait to see what you'll do with your new camera! :) So happy for you! I'll pray for your continued safety and for wisdom as you make decisions regarding visa renewal and what is best for your family as a whole. Such difficult choices!

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