Gay Pride and Prejudice – Of Use and Abuse of Minorities


In a region as diverse as Central Europe, minorities have always played a major role. Numerous ethnic, religious, cultural, political, language-defined and more groups have emerged, evolved, survived, some benefiting from power relationships, others being persecuted. The Habsburg Empire basically consisted out of minorities. The history of Austria-Hungary is, if you want to look at it that way, a history of the interaction of small, overlapping clusters of people and their relations towards each other.

Clinging to a hegemonic system of old, not realising how the world turned under their feet, the Habsburg Empire ultimately failed. Nowadays, some of the former national minorities have their own states, but the question of who has a voice and whether it is heard remains acute. It is always a good idea to look at how “the power”, in this case the Hungarian government represented by Fidesz, handles minority issues and ask – have they learned?

So, I joined Budapest’s gay pride parade last weekend. As opposed to the last time I attended such an event, there was no police violence, but there were interesting observations to be made nonetheless.

Homosexuality, like anywhere else in the world, is a topic of ongoing debate in Hungary. Only recently, a court has overturned an older verdict, according to which labelling someone (namely ruling Fidesz party’s top-notch politician Máté Kocsis) as homosexual was to be considered as “defamation of good character”. A logic which only makes sense if A) you assume being homosexual comes with negative personal traits or B) legally speaking, something being offensive solemnly depends on whether or not someone is feeling offended by it – in which case I here and now declare that I feel personally offended by any exam grade that is not the highest grade.

But back to the pride walk.

It was generally an awesome thing. We danced through the streets, it was like a million degrees, very colourful, mainly young people around. It started at Budapest’s heroes square and ended in front of the Kossuth tér in front of the parliament.

Two noteworthy things I want to discuss about the pride walk in respect to my aforementioned question.

First of all, the police did seemingly everything possible to let no-one know about the pride walk. They prohibited anyone to join the march or even access the major streets in on its path anywhere except for at the starting point, hda even these gates closed until roughly half an hour after the march started. In some points, the fences were built 50m away from where the march would pass, and near the parliament, the perimeter was so far off, it was probably impossible to see the event from anywhere outside. Even though it is, according to organisers, dangerous to walk through Budapest with rainbow flags and the likes, this isolation of the march cannot be explained away with security measures.

I personally think that the city fathers (currently, there’s a Fidesz mayor) are somewhat embarrassed about events like this to take place in public spaces such as the Andrássy street, a world heritage site, and on the symbolism heavy Kossuth tér. They probably have use and no understanding for such emancipation movements, so trying to make it invisible – exactly the contrary of what pride walks are about – is the solution.

The other noteworthy observation I made was a Roma minority flag – a wheel on a blue and green background – hung on the main wagon.

Why a Roma flag on a queer pride walk?

In simplified terms, Roma and sexual minorities are enemies of the same ideology, one which advocates homogeneity, cultural hegemony and interprets derivation from the norm as dangerous.

Let me quickly introduce you to the concept of “group-focussed enmity” as researched for example by Bielefeld-based sociologist Andreas Zick: Scientists theorise an „ideology of unequal worth of groups“. As soon as people adopt the assumption that some groups are somewhat more valuable than others, they are prone to transfer this assumption to other groups, which is called group-focussed enmity. In other words:

  1. You assume that one group of people (say “gypsies”) are a homogenous group which is less valuable than “normal” people, hence its members share certain traits (other than the defining ones, whatever that is for gypsies; say you think all gypsies are being notorious thieves).
  2. You now transfer this idea to other groups and also assume that, say, refugees are one homogenous group of lacking worth, which’s members not only all share the defining trait that they seek refuge (which makes them refugees) but also share, for example, a hatred for women.
  3. Obviously, the groups considered of lower worth than your own will be endowed with negative traits. About the order “lower worth -> negative traits” rather than “negative traits -> lower worth”, I will write below.

What Zick and others found out, for example, was that in times of increased enmity against a new group – in their research Moslems in Germany – also enmities against other groups – such as classic antisemitic stereotypes – are on the rise. Even though aspects such as expression of enmity varies for different groups, there appears to be the common basis of an underlying mindset necessary for believing enmity against groups to be justifiable.

The Hungarian civil society, as almost any other society in Europe, has a long history and tradition of discriminating against Roma. Roma are generally viewed as a very homogenous entity, which is bullocks. Hungary alone has three major Roma groups speaking three major dialects of Romanes, the biggest one being Lovari. Generally, all variants of Romanes are influenced by other languages they came in touch with, hence varying all over Europe. Not even the nomadic aspect usually associated with Roma can be generalized, especially in modern day and age. The truth is; as soon as Roma no longer live up to Roma stereotypes, they are no longer visible as such and “disappear”.

These stereotypes in their negative form, in turn, exist and are nurtured to legitimize the marginalisation of the group. As discrimination studies have shown, what comes first in this process is not the stereotype out of which results a social conflict (“they are filthy, hence we must oppress them”) – but a social conflict out of which stereotypes result to justify social realities and power relationships (“they deserve how they are being treated because, uhm, they are filthy”).

The only thing that’s homogenous about Roma is the stereotype, the gypsy motive. This motive (more accurately the two motives; the mystical wildling and the parasitical thug; both nomads outside of “civilised” society), however, has been very stable and similar all over Europe since a bit more than 200 years.

The discrimination of Roma has been accordingly stout. Not so long ago, for example, thousands of people, most of the Roma, were evicted from their homes in Miskolc on an at best loose legal basis. I listened to the report of an ombudswoman to the Hungarian police about this incident, and it sounded like a pogrom. Reactions by officials to her report were somewhere between vague and ignorant and hence somewhere between sad and not surprising.

Now comes the interesting part: According to the ombudswoman, in this as well as in other incidents, affected Roma who tried to leave the country were stopped from emigrating at the airport. Apparently, the families were picked out from the cues by security in some kind of racial profiling. Why? I can only guess that at some deep level, an understanding of Roma being the doormat of the majority has entrenched itself in the collective police mind.

Ignorance and resentment – is this all Hungary’s current government has for minorities? Definitely not so.

Above Kossuth tér, two flags are hanging from the parliament building. One is, of course, the Hungarian flag, but the other one is the flag of the Székler.


Parade end point at Kossuth tér. The Székler flag is on the parliament building right above the stage.

What are Székler?

These people are a minority speaking a variety of Hungarian and living in Transylvania – yep, the vampire place. Next to featuring the noble undead, this region used to belong to the Hungarian “half” of the Habsburg Empire. After the First World War, the newly emerged Hungary was considered a defeated power and thus stripped of vast lands, many of which were inhabited actually in majority by Hungarians (others not). Ever since, the associated Treaty of Trianon is viewed with grim in Hungary and strongly shapes the national identity and politics up until today.

Nowadays, Transylvania is part of Romania. Which makes sense, given that, even though it’s a very diverse region, the majority of the population and of the regions surrounding it speaks Romanian and considers itself Romanian since Romania exists.

The Treaty of Trianon was signed almost a hundred years and several major historical events ago, including the Second World War, in the wake of which Hungary sided with the Nazis, partially to regain the lost lands. It is unthinkable that Trianon is going to be revoked, and Fidesz doesn’t explicitly demand this. By hanging up the Székler flag on the parliament, the Hungarian government communicates perhaps not the wish to actually change anything about the geographical realities in Central Europe – but they certainly raise the claim of being a “big brother” to Hungarian minorities abroad, which is in turn welcomed by Hungarian nationalists and revisionists.

I tried to research what the Székler think about another country’s unilateral decision on Székler affiliation, but couldn’t find anything. They are probably split in opinion. After all, they have neither been asked, nor does this improve their standing with the Romanians and their government – which is obviously pissed.

For the Hungarian government, however, this is an easy way out. It weakens its ties with a neighbour country, sure, but improves the standing with large parts of its own population, which is taught in schools about how Trianon was the most unfair event of history. Also, big plus in the eyes of a populist: A cause which can never be reached is a useful banner to unite followers behind if all you care about is being the banner carrier. Doesn’t make sense? Look at Britain; the populist leaders reached their goal and now don’t know what to do with it. Every next step they can take will ultimately cost support. Fidesz will never take over the multicultural melting pot that is north-western Romania. Fidesz will just sit there, sulking at the unfairness of history and pretending to be the knight in shining armor to the oppressed.

So have those currently in charge in Hungary learnt from the past?

The surprising answer is “yes”.

It would definitely be “no” if the question was asking about if they learnt how to improve the situation of marginalised minorities, strengthen their voice and thus, strengthen democracy and civil society. But I fear that the core question Fidesz strategists ask themselves is rather something along the lines of “How can we use minorities for our own good?”. Which, monarchist romanticism aside, probably was the same question Habsburg leaders and the subordinate aristocracy had foremost in mind. And probably most other leading circles anywhere, anytime. At first comes maintaining power, then making sure said power is used for good.

Final note: The Hungarian parliament building also has, as ornaments inside and on the outer walls, statues of medieval kings of noblemen perceived as Hungarian. Not in the sense of trophies, but as legitimization. Same goes for the Holy Crown of Hungary, also medieval, displayed inside. This building is perhaps the most beautiful structure I ever saw with my own eyes, but it’s also a recourse to a glorified past, designed as the expression of a certain idea of leadership and a romanticised, timeless, frozen Hungarian identity.

Teachers, Students, Governments: Channeling Wild Streams

If you follow the news about Hungary, you will mainly have heard about refugees and fences. However, this isn’t what is actually hottest around here.

A few days ago, Viktor Orbán, Hungarian PM, to everyone’s surprise had a „refugee state of emergency“ announced – a move that is generally assumed to have little to do about actual refugees, but rather to divert attention from and/or prepare legal steps against a demonstration concernding education reforms which is expected to get tens of thousand to go on the streets this Tuesday.

How little politics understands the specific problems of education and teaching can be illustrated by the following example.

In Germany, just about every political actor or commentator demands that migrants, refugees or otherwise, need to integrate into the German society. However, if we look at governmental language integration teachers, we will find overworked and underpaid skilled academicals who, in theory, earn an acceptable hourly wage – only that in reality, since reasonable teachers will almost always spend at least as much time working outside a classroom as inside of one (preparation, corrections, additional commitment), this wage needs to be cut in half per hour. Ultimately, what integration teachers earn is below minimal wage in Germany, for a profession which requires qualification and passion, which is direly needed in the current refugee situation and which everyone agrees on is key in dealing with migration issues. The result is that trained German foreign language teachers move to other, better paid jobs, even though they often would like to do what they studied (teaching is fun!).

The common lack of understanding (if that’s what it is, rather than conscious mismanagement for political gain) is especially problematic because governments have a tendency to centralise education via controversial institutions.

One of these is YÖK, the Turkish high school council. It was founded after a military putsch, or coup d’etat (interestingly, English appears to have no own word for this phenomenon) in 1981. Universities, as seen in the 1960s, are often a breeding pool for political opposition, especially leftist one. To prevent this, YÖK was to take charge of all universities and coordinate them in the sense of the junta. This is called gleichschaltung, another foreign term, coined by the nazis. Sadly for Turkey, YÖK exists until today, being instrumentalised to hinder and align development in Turkish universities according to the behest and political interest of the current government. The leading AKP, for example, used to damn the influence of YÖK when they were opposition, but readily used it for their own means as soon as they assumed charge.

Anti-democratic governments view free education to be their mortal enemy for reasons I will get to later.

Talking of Hungary: Teacher’s protests currently stir up the country, with 20,000 having protested in rain and cold in February and a bigger protest to come this Tuesday, a national holiday in Hungary. The government tries to play down the problems and, in public, implies that the protests would be merely about wages. In fact, however, a number of issues are being addressed, including lacking financial support for schools and teachers, shortages of basic materials such as paper, structural issues such as lacking gyms, too long hours for teachers as well as students, etc.

Too long hours for students?, one might wonder. How can students learn too much?

Well, first of all, if your brain gets stuffed with informations, but you are not given the time to connect and understand what you learned, you might at some point be able to recite the date of any major historical event of your country’s history – but you might never have learned to relate how this is of any importance to your life. A very crass example for this is currently to be found in German media when it comes to the recent success of the right-wing party AfD. Many commentators suggest that, even though it is generally known what happened in Germany in 1933, few people understand how and why it happened and hence, it repeats.

I personally think that there are fundamental differences between then and now and rather draw a line to the anti-migrants pogroms carried out in the early 90s in Eastern Germany, when many people felt left-behind by the development of their time. However, the problem is there; almost everyone in Germany will agree that racism is bad, but few can give you a spontanous explanation of why exactly it is bad for them as white people. „I’m not racist, but [instert racist comment]“ is a dictum in Germany.

This is, however, partially a problem of „how to teach“ rather than „how much to teach“. My real issue here is that, given that a kid needs to focus on school issues for 10 hours a day, there will be no time or energy left to develop own interests and skills and becoming what is generally refered to as a responsible adult. More precisely; children (and adults) learn empathy and pick up on social norms through reading, to a lesser extent through video games, through a much much lesser extent through watching TV. We built our personality, thus gain security, through the hobbies we have as children, be it in the form of which books I’ve read, which sport I practised, which personal traits I mastered, etc. Of course, formal education cannot be replaced by the pursuit of individual interests – in fact, it should help to reflect on these, produce the skills, knowledge and intellectual horizont to harness the free time. But neither can formal education replace individual development.

Having said that, good teachers are tremendously important for a society to function. Our socialisation is what makes almost all of the difference between modern human and cave person, and many teachers play a part in most of our socialisations.

Values and knowledge that are core to understand the world we live in are communicated through literature, through media – and through schools. One can hardly expect that the majority of a population would agree on vaguely the same norms without somewhat coordinated education. Neither is it likely that the broad masses would acquire knowledge and skills necessary in democratic participation via home schooling. Especially for anyone who is not rich, that would be quite a lot to ask. But these factors, as contemporary big-heads such as Steven Pinker claim, bring peace to our world. On a side note, Chomsky argues that the reason why companies are likely to seek cheap labour in Central and Eastern Europe is (next to racism) that the work force here is cheap, but educated. Now, you don’t need a PhD to built a car – but being able to adjust to new hard- and software, as well as new working techniques, pick up on new languages, etc. is kinda helpful.

As seen in the example of YÖK, but also censorship and gleichschaltung in general, governments have long understood how controling teachers can mean shaping the future of a society. And not only them – in the 90s, the PKK in its prime killed Turkish teachers in Kurdish regions to prevent Turkification, and left a generation of Kurds sometimes not even with the ability to read and write, hence without the chance to participate in (Turkish) politics, hence strenghtening the ethnic divide and feudal structures still in existance in some areas in eastern Turkey until today. Also other terrorist organisation such as the Taliban frequently target schools, while in Bangladesh, by controlling the religious Madrassha schools, Islamic scholars gain a vast influence on the society. In the US, home schooling is endorsed by those communities that are afraid of liberal government indoctrination (same, but less successful, goes for „folkish“ nazi groups in Germany), etc.

Which brings me back to Hungary: One of the key issues teachers (and parents) here have with the education reforms of 2010 is the decrease in autonomy and the increased power of KLIK, a government agency that introduced several controversial control measures which saw critics by both major teacher’s unions as well as local teachers, parents etc.

Now, it would be easy to reduce the trouble almost every country has in the education sector on the power hunger of the government. Even though this is clearly a big issue, especially when we talk about centralisation, it is more complicated then that.

On one hand, teachers are kind of an easy group to target and an unlikely bunch to coordinate. They rarely have powerful unions; they often become teachers because they enjoy their profession or to be able to work in their local community, but are very diverse apart of that; they can deal with relatively low wages (relative in comparison to other jobs you could go for with an academical degree) because the work in itself is very rewarding; they don’t produce any physical goods you could sell and hence their value for the economy is very longterm, limiting their support by stronger lobbies, and so on.

Also, what governments fail to see, and this is visible in just about any place in the world, is that (good) teachers are more than textbooks on legs – and likewise, students are not sponges that suck up any liquid ideology you toss them into.

Memorising is not the same as learning. Inspiring teachers, those who have an impact on children and spawn mature citizens, ought to have a certain degree of autonomy in their own education as well as in the way they handle their classroom. Also, at best, they should to be charismatic, intelligent and confident individuals if students are to accept them as role models. Those teachers who seem not to exist outside of the textbook are the least likely to leave a mark.

I personally experienced again and again how my students would take me more serious when they realised that I have experienced things in life and possess considered opinions – even when they disagree with them. (Critically reflecting on authority is a key feature of learning in both memorising as well as application of knowledge, by the way.)

Few doubt that quality standards and a – to an extent – standardised canon should be the core of institutional education. I think they should be. But in reality, we rarely have a situation that there would be too little standardisation (differences in federal curriculae in Germany could be discussed under that aspect). On the other hand, taking autonomy away from teachers and students and replacing it with a long list of things to know can result in many things – but it doesn’t support democratic development, nor does it create empowered individuals.

War on Schleusers

While I'm save in Mardin, Turkey, somewhere in the mist lies what used to be Syria.

While I’m save in Mardin, Turkey, somewhere in the mist lies what used to be Syria.

Studies reveal that terror organisations barely ever reach their goals – but are experts in lengthening conflicts into the infinite. So if you really want to get what you are striving for, the last thing you want to do is grab a gun.

But despite their chronically lack of success, how can terror groups be so die-hard at the same time? The implication is that, since getting closer to the official aim is obviously not what’s most important, something else is. So while you waste your time (and, possibly, limbs), some warlord is getting rich and powerful on your effort. I would take any bet that both the most high-ranked PKK or AKP leaders own much more cars than the average drone fighting for them ever drove.

Sadly, fueling pointless conflicts for the sake of stabilising the own powerhold is something both autocratic and elected governments can excel in.

Very interesting from a linguistic perspective in this aspect, but also useful to show how rhetorics is actively used to influence the perception of the public eye, is declaring a “War on” something. This figure of speech associates an often peaceful, subtle development to the most dramatic and brutal motive common language knows, which is war.

It apparently all began with US President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” in 1964. What he back then described wasn’t as much going into slums with armored vehicles and assault rifles to kill people who paid the wrong bribes (that’s Brazil), but increasing welfare benefits and so on. By calling it the “War on Poverty”, Johnson could A) making something rather technical sound as if only a decisive President McManly could have the balls to bring it on and B) pretend that the rapid decline in poverty, a development that started five years earlier, was due to his initiative.*

The next time “War on” rhetorics were used is probably the most interesting. The “War on Drugs”, declared by Nixon in 1971, lasts until today, with the Obama administration no longer using this term and heavily revising the approach. It’s getting kinda complicated from here, and many things I read sounded like conspiracy theories to me only a few years ago. Apparently, if you ask any expert who’s not working for the US government or FOX news (who aren’t experts in the first place), the War on Drugs’ true intention is something between keeping certain social groups in the US down, and maintaining a sort of post-colonial control over South America, having it plagued by narco mafias against which ISIS seems humanist. (Sources, sources, sources, or just google “chomsky war on drugs”, “drugs cia”, “latina america drug war”, etc.).

All the blood-drenched consequences of the War on Drugs aside, let’s look at the intention behind the rhetorics.

There is a social phenomena – drugs – which has been around since, like, ever. Imagine that there are poor kids who get serious diseases because they don’t know how to use leisure substances most adults use without much consequence. Now, you’re tasked to find ways to help them, what would come to your mind? Perhaps educational programs and age restriction would be what most people would say. You wouldn’t think of guns, racial profiling and fortress-like border posts to deal with children binge-drinking beer, would you?**

But now it’s called a war, so all those things kinda seem normal. Plus, nice side effect, when there’s a war, there’s an enemy. So now you as a policy maker can blame the traffickers rather than the shitty handling of the situation in the past years, which would include dealing with circumstances you actually profit from – such as war-torn countries abroad buying your weapons.

For my generation, the most famous outburst of “War on” rhetorics is about actual wars. As we know, the War on Terror is a story of unlimited success – if read backwards. The organisation which took Al-Qaedas place now controls a vast territory and shitloads of natural resources. They are no-longer dependant on foreign investment, something Al-Qaeda never achieved.

However, by declaring a War on Terror, rather than a war on certain countries and leaders, the US could – and does – justify bombing any given place that could host terrorists. Also, there’s this alleged higher cause to it. The Bush administration didn’t only fight Bin Laden and his bros, no! It fought terrorism as a whole. Deep shit.

Oh, and then there’s this Republican invention called “War on Religion”/”War on Christianity”, which is just too obvious to go into. It’s to the other rhetorics a bit like “50 Shades of Grey” to “Twilight”; jumping on a running train and blending in with the stupid.

So, what on earth is a “Schleuser” anyways and why did I put it into my title? Schleuser is the German word for human trafficker. It’s being used by German politicians and media so excessively that I begin to assume that it no-longer describes actual people, but an abstract imagery of the bad guys responsible for all the refugees we’re getting.

If you watched news recently, you will find that many EU policy makers rather talk about fighting human traffickers (not “human trafficking”, but explicitly “human traffickers”), which is the symptom of a symptom.

Meanwhile, the actual human traffickers get richer as getting into Europe becomes harder. I’m no longer talking about the guys who drive the trucks and commandeer the boats. I’m talking about the guys above, coordinating and controlling said henchmen. Just like drug lords.

Now, “War on” rhetorics appear to be something exclusively American, but I fear – and am hopefully wrong so – that European politicians use comparable diversion tactics. It’s hard to fight the causes of displacement, it’s hard to even fathom the topic in its complexity. But it is relatively easy to identify a group of humans as responsible for our moral misery. Humans who are weak and can’t expect protection from their indifferent governments, nor from the cartels who use them, and likely threaten them into obedience.

Despite this helplessness and – hopefully indirect – cooperation with mob bosses, I personally still have trust in the EU nonetheless. As a reason why, I will use an example that’s actually a failure.

Dublin II*** is the name of the agreement that, in the past, organised how refugees are distributed within European borders, and it sums up to settling down on the status quo. According to Dublin II, Asylum seekers have to stay in the country they were first registered in. It’s a bit as if the European Union, including its awesome ideas on personal freedom, wouldn’t exist. It’s also obvious that the concept would eventually fall, starting with Sweden and Germany becoming more soft on it. By the time this is published, Germany might have already abandoned Dublin II.

So how does this pointless agreement in any way speak in favour of the EU? Because without international coordination, it could never have been met. And now that our leaders finally notice that it sucks, they will, under the watchful eye of the public, be forced to come up with something better. Maybe something fairer. Maybe they will even agree on Europe-wide shelter, integration and language projects. You see, that’s a lot of maybes, but in a world of nations brooding about their own problems, none of this would even be an option. In that case, we would be stuck with Dublin II forever, without having a name for it, which would suck balls for southern Europe at first, and for the rest of us in the long run.

To summarise; I don’t support the European Union because our current politics (or politicians) are so great. They are not specifically ideal. But I do support the European Union because working together across borders is the key to peace and stability. Organised crime and inhuman business interests will always collaborate internationally. They could never be handled on a national basis. They also try to hijack democratic projects, which only means that civil societies must be empathic and vigilant beyond national interest.

In another note, Syria no longer exists. There are almost 10 million Syrians on the run who need homes now or very soon. That is equal to less than 2% of the current population of the EU, assuming that they would all want to live in what Noam Chomsky thinks to be the most racist continent ever.

It’s also not as if population increase would be something terribly bad for states. Historically speaking, it rather seems to go along with economic growth and golden eras. Integrating the millions of displaced from Asia and Africa will not be easy, but it can work. With combined and coordinated effort.

* However, I know waaay to little about this topic to judge the success of the actual program.

** Alcohol is arguably more or equally dangerous than most hard drugs: Source, source, with a chart showing the finding of the study here. Hey, did you ever try booze in a country where it’s forbidden? I didn’t. And I won’t. Because, since it’s illegal, there are no regulations to keep the stuff somewhat safe.

*** Also known as “Fuck you, Spain, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria”.

Baton-Charged: A report of the attack on Istanbul’s pride parade (Part 3/3)

I have this credo: Judge the institution, not the individual. We are children of our environment, slaves to circumstance. The young policemen had humanity drilled out of them to a large extent. Even before that, they might have been subjected to a black-and-white narrative in which power is law by definition, activists are always foreign agents, Kurds are traitors and so on. Never having learned to think critically doesn’t liberate from personal responsibility, nor is it an excuse to become the henchmen of power mongers. It is, however, a reason to become exactly that.

Turkey isn’t exactly the best place to learn self-reflection. The education system is problematic to say the least and media in general don’t even try to be objective. If I were born into another crib, who knows what kind of fanatic I would have become. Besides, declaring the institution your enemy rather than the individual opens up much more ground for communication.

We were almost at the bend in the centre of the Istiklal, in front of Galatasaray Lisesi, when suddenly and out of the blue for the thin column of pride walkers, there was another attack. My memory of the next couple of seconds is somewhat blurry. For instance, I’m not sure how the initial attack from behind us, along the Istiklal, occurred. It could have been tear gas, or it could have been policemen going rampage. Either way, there was panic, there was running. I told to myself not to panic and not to run, but when everybody around you does, your brain switches off for a second. We fled into Meşrutiyet street, the one with the new Hard Rock Café, which was when the actual attack happened. I held back a woman in front of me whom I thought to have pushed and didn’t want to fall, as the people running before us screamed. I specifically remember a policeman, charging towards us from the direction of the English embassy, hitting out with his bat to random civilians. The crowd panicked more, turned around and took to their heels. I recalled what I had told myself seconds before and reduced my speed, which resulted in being followed up by a policeman. His baton hit me on the knee. I was lucky. These things can break your bones, but I merely got a blue mark. Maybe he didn’t hit hard, maybe I dodged. Thanks to all the hormones boiling up in my body, I didn’t even feel it the first two hours.

At this point in time, I no-longer smiled or made jokes as I had before. One woman tripped in the middle of Istiklal. From what I could see, most of the others had gathered down the Yeni Çarşı street, in the direction of the Goethe Institute. Another woman was shouting angrily at the police for obviously luring us into a trap, and I had lost Ayla.

It was a pretty terrible situation. The last thing you remember is being attacked by shouting, berserking policemen. These guys are trained to switch from happy mood to relentless assault instantly, and then kind of sink back into indifference. Then you stand in the middle of Istiklal. There are people, but they creep along the sides of the streets. You shout a friend’s name. The tear gas is getting thicker every second.

I’m not sure if it actually turned foggy or if my vision was impaired thanks to heavy loads of adrenaline. Either way, the woman who had tripped was carried into the entrance of Galatasaray Lisesi (by civilians, obviously). I remained on the street, shouting and holding up my poster until the tear gas got my eye lids flickering and I felt I could no longer breathe. Tear gas has this way to eradicate any rational from your mind and get you running.

I asked another pedestrian for his phone, called Ayla and discovered she was safe. I couldn’t find the shop she hid in, so I met the testosterone-driven decision to walk to the Tünel by myself. I was angry. I was alone, too. Just me and my poster, walking on the tracks in the middle of the Istiklal. Random people and, given from their equipment, freelance journalists made pictures and filmed me. One guy with an awesome camera walked a few metres in front of me, backwards and at my pace, attempting the perfect shot. I played along, and despite the sincerity of the situation, I hope it was a cool picture.

After returning to Kadiköy. The poster was barely in one piece. It's going to be framed up and hang on Ayla's wall from now on.

After returning to Kadiköy. The poster was barely in one piece. It’s going to be framed up and hang on Ayla’s wall from now on.

There was another police barricade, but I got around it through a shopping mall. Eventually, I did reach the end of the Istiklal. It took me two hours and twenty minutes. There were other pride walkers, there was as much police, and this time, there actually was an announcement made via microphone from an armored vehicle that we were to disperse and this was an illegal gathering. I lifted up my poster a few times, partially so that people I know could find me. Inevitably, the police was bound to attack here sooner or later, too. I figured things finally dripped into Gezi revival enough for me to leave, and so I did.

While aimlessly walking through Cihangir, I came back to Firüzağa mosque, were hours before people had taken pictures with me and my worn poster. By now, only a bunch of activists walked around, obviously in the same nervous party mood as before. From a café, I got something to drink and WiFi, made sure everyone was save, then headed home. In Moda, I talked to a boy selling Dürüm who had heard about Communist terrorists provoking the police. I was amazed how fast excuses would be out. I didn’t see a single red flag and the police was the obvious aggressor, but a lie does fine without investigations.

That day was bad. It was – or should be – an embarrassment for a force that barley has a right to call itself police in my eyes. It was the executive seeking revenge for political circumstances. But also, it was not nearly as bad as what could happen any other day in Turkey, be it Kurds demonstrating for their acceptance, students for their freedom or anyone for having different ideas.

The memory of the gay pride week that remains for me is not even from the attack on Sunday’s walk. It is an image from a few days earlier, at a smaller but similar event in Moda. In a narrow street, flanked by grafiti of Socialist symbols and Gezi martyrs, a few hundred participants of the LGBT street party sang Kurdish songs together. If you stand shoulder to shoulder to the police, run from their tanks and help yourself up to escape a cloud of tear gas, you are bound to become allies at some point.

There are societies in Turkey that seek power by glorifying a common, exclusive, ultimately constructed identity. They try to play the citizens of Turkey out against each other. They instill fear and hatred for Kurds to gain votes, feed and harness wide-spread antisemitism, present alternating concepts of partnership as aggressive perversions. The AKP and MHP, but also the PKK, draw power from ignorance. As of now, it works. But I know Istanbul’s educated youth and I met many outstanding specimen of Turkish citizens. They learn that unity doesn’t mean forced conformity.

The police will get more brutal, the propaganda more vicious, the legal battles unfairer. In my eyes, these are the signs of those in charge losing ground.