Turkish protester Erdem Gunduz has gained sudden fame for an act that is brilliant in its simplicity: he walked into Taksim Square and stood there. Over the past day, the man who has become known as “duran adam,” Turkish for “standing man,” has inspired other still, silent protests across Turkey.
The Associated Press calls it “passive defiance.” I call it active nonviolence. However one prefers to name it, it is a perfect illustration of the power of nonviolent resistance. As the AP reports, “After weeks of sometimes violent confrontation with police, protesters in Turkey have found what could be a more potent form of resistance: standing still.”
Gunduz’s act, amplified by social media, had a remarkably swift effect on the protests.Erdogan appeared to be seizing the initiative after large weekend rallies in which he ordered Taksim Square to be cleared. The government has capitalized on sporadic scenes of violence amid the generally peaceful protest movement.
Gunduz’s act of non-violence could be harder to deal with, as it could pressure the government to arrest or disperse people who are doing nothing more than standing still.
This is exactly why nonviolence is powerful, in a way that violence can never be: it takes away any excuse to demonize, let alone retaliate. Not giving Prime Minister Erdogan anything to retaliate for may well be the surest way, in the words of Solomon and Saint Paul, to “heap burning coals upon his head.”