Text and photographs by Anna Shea, Amnesty International Canada Legal Program Coordinator
I was expecting to have a great vacation in Turkey. I wasn’t expecting to watch history unfold. Fortunately, however, I happened to be in Istanbul between May 26 and June 5. I had rented a room near Taksim Square, and I was in the square or the adjacent Gezi Park for almost 24 hours a day (it’s impossible to stay home when the world seems to be ending…).
For me, the beginning of the protests was the most difficult time, because we all felt forgotten. When I returned to the apartment in the middle of the night on Friday May 31, I anticipated frantic emails and phone messages from my family and friends. But no one had been in touch. This was not surprising, since unless you were directly connected with Turkish protesters on Facebook or Twitter, it was impossible to know what was happening. But the feeling of isolation was nonetheless dreadful. It was such a relief when bloggers and the international media started taking notice. Amnesty – the national office in Turkey and the international secretariat – was one of the first organizations to draw attention to the situation. Simply knowing that people were paying attention – especially people overseas, completely unconnected from the action – was incredibly empowering, much more than I could have imagined.