Voices of Dissent
MSU community watches as protests and violence erupt throughout the world
On the first day of his visit to Istanbul, Turkey, biology and psychology sophomore Ryan Farrick woke up to an unusual smell. It was coming from the nearby Gezi Park, where police forces were cracking down on protesters, using tear gas to try and disperse them.
Soon enough, he was on the streets, taking in an experience he never thought he’d witness. Unknowingly, he wandered off to the headquarters of an opposition party.
Caught in the crossfire between riot police and the Molotov-throwing protesters, he was shot in the back by a rubber bullet.
“Rubber bullets hurt, but they bounce off,” he said.
Since the Arab Spring first took flight, the world has witnessed constant protests and uprisings in different regions and countries.
From Brazil to Thailand, members of MSU’s diverse international community have witnessed — and in some cases, assisted — protesters clashing with riot police and toppling regimes.
The trigger for the Turkish protests was the government’s decision to demolish Gezi Park, an urban park located near Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul last May.
Genomics and molecular genetics freshman Gokce Cakirlar, a native of Turkey, said there was more to the protests than just the government’s decision to remove the park. She said the government is surrounded by corruption, in addition to their seeking people’s votes in the name of religion.
Kyle Evered, an associate professor of geography, said the removal of Gezi Park was a watershed moment.
The protests developed into an overall sentiment in the country for “everyone who was disenfranchised by the Islamic Party” to “voice dissent,” said Evered, who was in Istanbul during the time of the protests.
A country that has witnessed turbulence for years felt unsafe for English junior Manisha Manchanda when she went home to Bangkok during MSU’s winter break.
Anti-government protests that escalated in November 2013 after the government passed an amnesty bill perceived as a way to forgive the corruption of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra prevented Manchanda and other residents from leaving their homes.
“The protests happened 15 minutes away from (my) home,” Manchanda said. “Recently, (the) Bangkok shutdown happened, which meant that all major roads were closed and all the public transportation was shut down.”
To Manchanda, the entire affair just seems like a repeat of past problems that were never solved.
“At this point, the same repeated cycle has been going on with no agreement or solution whatsoever,” Manchanda said.
In the midst of political unrest, Franco Gabrieli took to social media to help spread support for an uprising.
The international relations sophomore and MSU international student organized protests in his hometown of Caxias do Sul, Brazil to add to the civil unrest that swept across the country in early June.
Brazilian protests started specifically in Sao Paulo, when the government decided to increase transport fares by 20 cents on June 2, 2013, history associate professor Peter Beattie said. Additional resentment came from the government’s lavish spending in preparation for the FIFA World Cup 2014, which will be hosted in Brazil next June.
Gabrieli said he actively worked to get his community involved because the government spends “billions upon billions” on stadiums, but doesn’t provide adequate education or health care to its citizens. Police involvement also escalated the situation, he said.
“The police interfered on the first day, so the people decided to protest against the government and the police,” Gabrieli said.
Brazilian finance sophomore Victor Sundfeld said the protests pressured the government, but likely won’t cause any permanent solutions.
“It was more (for the government) to get away from the situation,” he said.
Egypt has been facing a lot of turbulence since the Jan. 25, 2011 revolution, which lead to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak leaving office.
Protesters took to the streets in huge numbers on June 30, 2013 demanding early presidential elections and calling for now former President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, to step down after being in office for a year.
“(The) 2013 protests were pretty necessary, considering how things were getting worse in terms of freedom of speech and the economy,” Egyptian and chemical engineering freshman Laura Raef said.
Raef said both the media and Egyptians were divided in their viewpoints, creating tension and clashes between the supporters and the opponents of Morsi.
“The overthrow of Morsi was, I think, the culmination of a series of moves on the part of the MB (Muslim Brotherhood) and the military based upon parochial interest,” anthropology assistant professor Najib Hourani said in an email. “Neither tend towards a democratic ethos.”
Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders now face charges, including incitement of violence during protests.
Hourani said with most Brotherhood leaders in prison, there doesn’t seem to be anybody who could contest the military ruling the country again.
Other countries throughout the world, including Ukraine, continue to see protests and civil unrest that have resulted in violence and death.
Protests in Ukraine started Nov. 21, 2013, when the country’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, announced his decision to stop negotiating a trade deal with the European Union, history assistant professor Matthew Pauly said.
On Wednesday, at least four people were reported dead — the first fatalities in the protests, according to the CNN. An anti-protest law also went into effect, prohibiting people from having any head covering in protests and imposing jail time on those who attempt to block buildings.
Pauly said the law was passed by a mere show of hands by the deputies in parliament.
According to The New York Times, Yanukovych met with opposition leaders after the deaths occurred for negotiations to try and put an end to the crisis.
Staff writer Marissa Russo contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: The graphic was changed to reflect the correct locations of Turkey, Belarus and the Black Sea on a world map.