One Protester's Reasons For Going Political In Istanbul

Like many demonstrators in Istanbul, Turkish protester Ayse Ozdel shifted from apolitical student to active participant. Weekend Edition Sunday host Rachel Martin talks to Ozdel about what made her get involved.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The protests that started almost a month ago in Istanbul's Gezi Park have brought all different kinds of people out onto the streets. Most of the protesters are young and many have described themselves as being previously apolitical. Ayse Ozdel is a 21-year-old college student who grew up in Istanbul. Ayse, thanks so much for being with us.

AYSE OZDEL: You're welcome.

MARTIN: When did you first get involved in these protests and what triggered your involvement?

OZDEL: Basically, the police attacked my friends for no reason. Right after the attack, whole city just, like, awakened and they started to fight against the police in order to protect, deport our friends and, yeah, that's basically it.

MARTIN: What do your parents think, what does your family think about you getting involved in these protests?

OZDEL: That's a funny thing because actually they didn't know that I was taking part of the protests for like a week. I was just saying, like, I'm going to stay at my friend's house because they didn't want me to be a part of it.

MARTIN: And what were their concerns? Were they afraid for your safety?

OZDEL: Me getting hurt basically because police were, like, just trying to stop us. They were trying to kill us.

MARTIN: And I understand that you've been recovering this past week because of the tear gas that was used.

OZDEL: Yeah, tear gas and, like, the compressed water. Because of it, I had lung issues. They are just aiming at us and, like, shooting at us. Some police said - I heard them speaking - like, yeah, I shot him in the face, yeah. They're taking joy out of it. And now, like, a week ago, they started using, like, compressed water mixed with liquid tear gas in it.

MARTIN: What is the situation just becomes more violent? Would you stay home?

OZDEL: No. Because it can't get any worse. Because if we continue to protest this way, which is peacefully, they can't use weapons. And they're trying to change the way we protest in order to use weapons. If we attack them, they have the right to use weapons.

MARTIN: So, what would Prime Minister Erdogan need to do in order to bring the protests to a stop?

OZDEL: He has change his state of mind. He became a dictator, and, like, he has to accept that there are differences in this country. He has to be more democratable(ph) about everything. He's just thinking, like, I'm the most powerful man in the country right now and everybody has to do what I say. And, like, it's not like that.

MARTIN: Ayse Ozdel is a 21-year-old college student. She's a political protester in Istanbul, Turkey. Ayse, thanks very much for talking with us.

OZDEL: You're welcome.

MARTIN: This is NPR News.

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