Taksim Square's Last Man Standing

A fresh meme has emerged from the protests on Istanbul’s Taksim Square. And, as RFE/RL correspondent Deana Kjuka reports, this time it’s not about penguins — although they do make an appearance — but rather a silent “standing man.”On the evening of June 17, for more than five hours, Erdem Gunduz stood motionless on Taksim Square. He simply stared at the portrait of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, that hangs outside the Ataturk Cultural Center in the capital.The photo quickly went viral, and within hours #duranadam (Turkish for “standing man”) and #standingman were trending on Twitter.

To see how the “standing man” protests and ensuing memes evolved, take a look at this Storify timeline by RFE/RL correspondent Glenn Kates:

Gunduz’s simple stance inspired hundreds of others to join him in silent protest. However, as Reuters reported early on June 18, dozens of people who had joined Gunduz at the silent protest were arrested.

According to BBC, Gunduz managed to slip away from the police.

“I am just one protester, I’m just one artist. There are many artists and many, many young people on the streets. I am nothing but the idea is important, why people resist the government but the government didn’t want to understand, didn’t try to understand why people are on the streets [for] 19 days,” the “standing man” told the BBC, calling his protest a “silent resistance.”

Gunduz spent hours staring silently at an image of Kemal Ataturk.

Gunduz spent hours staring silently at an image of Kemal Ataturk.

Zeynep Tufekci, a sociologist and social-media commentator covering the protests in Turkey, said on Twitter that the “standing man” protest had spread throughout Istanbul and other cities in several hours.
Zeynep Tufekci @zeynep

“standing man” protest spread in Istanbul & multiple cities without any TV or formal organization. Bet it will be repeated, too.

Reuters also confirmed that similar protests had spread through Istanbul, Ankara, and the city of Izmir.

Soon enough, however, savvy Twitter users had linked the two most prominent memes of the Turkish protests. So the penguin, which became a symbol of how local media missed the initial protest story, became a “standing penguin.”

Turkish humour. Never fails “@zeynep: Here you go! Standing Penguin. :-) RT @leylim @spikylellie see this: pic.twitter.com/yIjS6igJJd. :))”

View image on Twitter

Protests arose in several cities across Turkey on May 28 over plans to redevelop Gezi Park, one of the few remaining green areas in Istanbul. Within days, authorities were cracking down and the protests grew into mass unrest.5pr

The silent protest followed a weekend of heavy clashes between police and protesters on Taksim Square as the police tried to clear out demonstrators.

Meanwhile, thousands of people came out to support Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan kilometers away from the city center in Istanbul.

On June 17, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc warned that authorities might deploy the armed forces to help police disperse the protests.