Turkey’s nationwide protests last year grabbed headlines with images of police violence and protesters’ creativity. Taksim Square, a much-loved green space in Istanbul, was the epicenter of this anti-government action. The icon that put all the other protest antics to rest was the appearance one evening of ‘The Standing Man’.
A 34-year-old performance artist named Erdem Gunduz walked to the middle of the square, stuck his hands in the pockets of his gray pants, and assumed a stoic stance that lasted about eight hours.
Still shell-shocked from two days of fierce clashes with the police, protestors were looking for a peaceful way to extend their effort into its third week. Those arriving at Taksim Square joined Mr. Gunduz. By the end of the evening, several hundred people were standing quietly, some of them holding hands as they faced the Ataturk Cultural Center. In a time-out face-off, security forces lounged in front of the center underneath big umbrellas. Behind them teargas canisters lay in wait.
A phenomenon was born. Within a short period of time, The Standing Man was the hottest thing on Twitter–not only in Turkey, but for a brief period, worldwide.
Then, ‘The Standing Woman’ appeared at the Kizilay Square in Ankara, where a protester was fatally shot. The passive resistance spread like wildfire, even to Paris and London.
Mr. Gunduz, the artist, was quoted as saying in a message posted on social media sites. “Standing Man is not just one person!”
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