Woman in Red (Turkish Police Spray Tear Gas on Modern Young Protester)


(Courtesy Reuters)

This young woman being teargassed at the Taksim protests in Istanbul has become an internet icon.

Unveiled and bare-armed, she is clearly secular and modern. Many but not all of the supporters of Justice and Development Party Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wear headscarves and dress modestly. But she is also just young, female, and vulnerable, under the blasting chemical attack of an well-equipped, aggressive police officer who is himself representative of a modern and authoritarian institution in Turkey. Having technically and tactically advanced police serving a conservative government is among the paradoxes against which the young protesters are mobilizing. So the photo fills in four blocs of a Greimas square, with regard to the secular values of most of the protesters, thusly:

Modern Dress (Liberty) Muslim Dress (Authority)
Modern Police Dress (Authority) Modern unveiled hair disheveled by gas attack (lack of liberty)

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Here is a photo gallery at the Telegraph of women protesters standing up to police

6 Responses

  1. “Having technically and tactically advanced police serving a conservative government is among the paradoxes against which the young protesters are mobilizing.”

    I’m not convinced that this is a paradox, except verbally. ‘Conservative’ regimes want and need the latest means of projecting force — ignorance of modern military technology is not one of the virtues of the past that they wish to ‘conserve’.

    Perhaps the term ‘conservative’ ought simply to be retired. It tends to denote little more than an authoritarianism that draws its sustaining myths from a fictionalized past. We have ‘leftist’ commonly used for their more-or-less opposite numbers who lay claim to an equally fictional and inauthentic future. Maybe we should work to rehabilitate ‘rightist’ as a term of ordinary discourse.

  2. This is “a picture worth a thousand words” kind of picture, thanks for publishing it.

  3. Government harm to vulnerable citizens is the precise antithesis of what government should protect and cherish at all costs. Otherwise, what’s the point of consenting to be governed?

  4. Contrariwise, it’s worth pointing out that Turkish women *not* wearing suitably “secular” and “modern” apparel – specifically, women who choose to wear the headscarf or eşarp – were for decades on end among the most vulnerable, oppressed people in the Turkish Republic: to the point, astonishingly, that tens of millions of them could be denied a university education or work in the public sector.

    This is the way oppression is ideologically encoded in a society: with such fatuous yet deeply significant equations as these: “liberated” paired with “secular and modern” – specifically “secular and modern” dress, indeed – correspondingly, the implied opposite of un-liberated with non-modern, with non-modern dress… as if you can’t be truly oppressed until and unless you are dressed a certain way. And that of course is the point, isn’t it? *The ideology will decide what the correct, valid forms of being oppressed, of being a victim are.*

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