In 2008 the Turkish writer Ahmet Altan contributed to our Turkey magazine. He wrote that the country is in a state of uncertainty, but “in view of the global situation and Turkey, it seems certain that democracy will emerge as the winner”. Altan wrote these sentences as a free man, he was then editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper TARAF, which was banned in 2016.
Now Ahmet Altan has written another essay for KULTURAUSTAUSCH, this time from prison. Altan has been sentenced to ten years in prison for allegedly supporting a terrorist organisation. In his text he describes how it is possible to maintain inner strength even in prison: “This curious contradiction between the raw power of your tormentors, which is sufficient to imprison or even kill you, and their intellectual paucity, which makes it impossible for these people to counter your ideas with their own ideas, gives you, the ›victim‹, a great power of resistance and a feeling of superiority.”
In the past year, countless resistance movements have triggered upheavals around the world, in dictatorships and democracies alike. In Hong Kong, people take to the streets to defend the basic democratic order, while European countries see themselves threatened by the extreme right. Rebellion is a force that can develop in many directions.
In this issue we look at protests, at the resistance of individuals and groups - and at the change that follows rebellion. Political scientist Donatella della Porta describes the international renaissance of street fighting and asks: What connects these so different protests? New are globally networked environmental movements such as Fridays for Future or Extinction Rebellion. With the Canadian author Naomi Klein, we talk about these organisations and looming global crises. “Enemies of the state” such as the Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, who went on hunger strike in a Russian prison, or Wu'erkaixi, who survived the Tiananmen massacre, reflect on the personal price they paid for their political commitment.
It is no coincidence that almost every country worldwide has its own day of remembrance to honour people who changed the fortunes of their country. It seems that across the world there is a need to remember those who found the courage to act. Which of today's protests will have a historic impact and who will be tomorrow’s heroes? We probably have to wait for another twenty or thirty years to find out.