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article imageInterview with a Turkish protester: 'Erdogan must resign' Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Jun 5, 2013 in World
Izmit - A Turkish university professor explains why the freedom protesters in Turkey will not go away and why she will be happy when Prime Minister Erdogan resigns.
She sat across the desk from me, a quiet woman who wore all black in support of Turkish government workers striking to show their disapproval of Prime Minister Erdogan and his restrictive Islamist policies.
"Use my name. Take my photo," she bravely said. "I am not afraid."
I paused, tempted to take her portrait: honey-colored hair swept up on her head, a v-neck black tee shirt and black jeans masking a usually artsy appearance. No jewelry or makeup hindered her hazel eyes.
"But even university professors who oppose Erdogan now sit in prison," I replied. "Let me show some photos of Ataturk and the Turkish flag instead. I would feel terrible if you lost your job or were arrested because of something I did."
"We are tired of being afraid of Erdogan," she stated. "He must now hear our voice. We are not going away. He must resign."
Surprised by her strong words, I leaned closer.
"But what if he does not listen to the protesters? What if he doesn't resign?
"He will, eventually," she replied. "We need a new leader. Like Ataturk. He defended our personal freedoms. Turkey is a democracy, a secular state. I need to be free to drink where I want to, say what I need to say."
We were both all too aware of Erdogan's recent restrictions on alcohol. Before the new laws, it was difficult even to find a bar to have a drink with friends (they are all restricted to one area of Izmit, Kocaeli). It was impossible to drink outside or in a simple restaurant (only a few fish restaurants by the marina are granted licenses to serve alcohol).
"Erdogan says that the protesters are trouble-makers with outside ties to terrorists. What do you think of that?" I asked.
"Protesters are all kinds of people, even university professors like me. People say that things are better under Erdogan, but we need freedom. I want to breathe again."
In fact, it is difficult to get a high-level job in Turkey without connections to Erdogan's ruling Islamist Ak Party. One of my students, a recent university graduate, told me that he couldn't get a government job without an Ak Party recommendation.
"Do you think the protesters will get what they want?" I inquired.
"We must," she replied, her eyes flashing resolve as their color turned almost black. Our country needs a new leader, like Ataturk. We are waiting to know freedom again. When Erdogan resigns, I will be happy."
a giant carving of Ataturk s face in a cliffside
a giant carving of Ataturk's face in a cliffside
Ataturk s tomb
Ataturk's tomb
A Turkish soldier guards Anitkabir  memorial to Ataturk in Ankara  Turkey
A Turkish soldier guards Anitkabir, memorial to Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey
More about Interview, turkish protester, Turkey, Protests, University professor
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