Çarşı “Tear Gas is our Perfume”

Posted on June 9, 2013


Tension is rising for the protesters in Istanbul. Rumors say today. The police say Monday. One thing I know for sure is whenever the police do decide to move on Taksim, Çarşı will be ready.

I overheard this conversation in a grocery store this morning:

A middle aged woman working the cash register rings me up as she talks with a teenage girl about Gezi Park.

Teenager: …and there is a museum and lots of art.

Cashier: It’s nice there, isn’t it?

Teenager: Yes, but what I love the most is Çarşı.

Cashier (with a knowing smile): But Çarşı is so bad. Did you see what they did to those busses?

Teenager (looking up at a point on the ceiling in that way girls talk about Ryan Gosling): …but they are the kings of that place…of the whole protest…and they’re not even political!

So who is Çarşı (charshuh)?

Çarşı is the most notorious football gang in a city famous for football hooliganism. Their logo is the anarchist sign. They are a life long fraternity whose motto is “We rebel against everything, we will engage everyone.”  So when an entire city began to revolt, Çarşı brought their experience with police and love of mayhem to the movement.

And the result? They are the sexy heroes of this uprising, and they earned every bit of adoration.

They police brutality during the last 11 days has been very well documented. Most of the people protesting in Taksim had never protested before. Çarşı gave them muscle, a willingness to match violence with violence, and a military discipline. When the fighting was really intense in Beşiktaş (Çarşı’s home turf), the protesters couldn’t break through the police lines and were taking a real beating. Çarşı commandeered a construction backhoe, and charged right at the police. It worked!


— Emre Baykal (@misterbaykal) June 6, 2013

Taksim is on a large hill overlooking the Golden Horn. Gezi Park is at the very top. After the people took back the park last Saturday, June 1st, it became a peaceful utopia. It is a place to experiment with the art of free expression. They have made a museum of revolution, a free-for-all store/’the wall of needs’, a library, children’s play area, veterinarian clinic, and numerous makeshift hospitals. People stroll their babies, walk their dogs, recline in hammocks, and generally feel freer than they ever have.

Çarşı has no interests in such frivolous pursuits. They are busy building barricades, stockpiling projectiles, and most importantly, keeping a close watch on the legion of police at the bottom of the hill in Beşiktaş. As you exit Gezi Park and walk down into Çarşı controlled territory, the atmosphere quickly changes to what feels and looks like an urban guerrilla battlefield.

Çarşı territory

There are checkpoints you have to pass through. Everyone appears to have a job to do here. I was told not to take pictures. The barricades are sophisticated. I honestly don’t believe the police will be taking this route. A young man stopped my friend and I. He made sure that we put our cameras in our bags and secured them so we could not access them quickly. He was authoritative but not angry with us. Right now, Çarşı knows who the enemy is:  the police.

In fact, the Fenerbahçe football fans had scheduled a rally in Gezi Park that day. They were coming all the way from the Asian side. The amazing thing is, they marched right through Çarşı controlled territory. I got the feeling it was all coordinated as a show of mutual solidarity. The young Çarşı man who looked in charge of the first checkpoint at the bottom of the hill wore Fenerbahçe colors around his neck. It was a sign that they could pass freely.

It was an amazing sight to see, but the Fenerbahçe fans couldn’t quite shake the wary expressions on their faces. After all, this is Carşı we are talking about.

(I’ll leave you with some picture I took of Çarşı land. I’ve photoshopped funny masks to protect Çarşı identity.)

Çarşı checkpoint and projectile depot

(Carşı checkpoint. They were busy stockpiling projectiles, so I couldn’t get a picture. I have obscured the identity of these plain clothes Çarşı)



(They have spray painted over ‘police’ with ‘halk’ which means -the people)

Çarşı barricade

(A Çarşı barracade. The only way to pass is through the windows of this city bus.)

Tayyip resign

(Tayyip Resign!)

Çarşı hates racism

(Çarşı banner in Gezi Park. Apparently, they hate racism.)

exiting the park, entering Çarşı land

(an exit sign from Gezi Park leading to Çarşı territory.)

In the video below, Çarşı fans sign “Pepper gas oley!” They are showing the police how much they love pepper gas. As they like to say “Tear gas is our perfume.” This is a nice example of why many believe them to be crazy.