Two Voluntary Translation Movements during Gezi Park Protests: Gezi İçin Çevir [Translate for Gezi] and Translate for Justice

September 2013
Translated from Turkish by Translators for justice

This article was published in Babil Postası [The Babel Post], the e-bulletin of the Conference Interpreters Association in its volume March-September 2013.

The protests in June that started with plans to build a shopping mall in Gezi Park in Taksim Square, the center of Istanbul, were rarely broadcast by mainstream media. The common practice was either self censorship or offering programming that was little more than propaganda for the government. In order to create an alternative source for news and to react to the mainstream media’s attitude, many professional and amateur translators initiated a movement on the web to offer alternative media sources, either as NGO volunteers or independently. In this article we will introduce you to Gezi İçin Çevir [Translate for Gezi] , one of the first examples of such attempts, and then follow with Translate for Justice.

During the Gezi demonstrations, one of the most visible groups of voluntary translators was Gezi İçin Çevir, which was initiated by TÜÇEB’s [the Association of Translation Students of Turkey] support. With the support of many young translators, Gezi İçin Çevir published content in 13 languages for local and foreign audiences. They even became guests on foreign TV and radio shows. Their work was also circulated domestically through social media. As an independent translation movement, Gezi İçin Çevir members joined the march from Galatasaray to Gezi Park beside the Association of Translation and Interpreting, ÇevBir [Turkish Professional Organization of Translators], TÜÇEB and the Editors’ Platform. Problems in the freedom of expression and press freedom were the central focus of this march. Although Gezi İçin Çevir established a large readership, the website was shut down due to intense pressure by the government on all forms of social media. Several individuals were detained for the social media messages they shared.

After Gezi İçin Çevir, Translate for Justice has emerged as the alternative online platform. As members of the translation movement that emerged out of the Gezi demonstrations, we have naturally been focused on the incidents that the protests brought to the fore. But Translate for Justice has moved from the more narrow goals of Gezi İçin Çevir in order to draw attention to the numerous incidents across Turkey that concern human rights and violations of justice. We are translating different types of texts on many subjects, including the obstacles currently faced to freedom of expression and research, the criminalization of critical thinking, measures taken to suppress the opposition to authoritarian regimes, obligatory immigration and the hardships immigrants face, violation of human and animal rights: news from mainstream media and alternative resources, as well as critical texts of social analysis, reports and press statements prepared by various professional organizations. Visual texts such as posters and videos are also part of the tasks Translate of Justice has taken on. To this day we have published almost 300 texts and video translations in 15 languages. Our movement has been the subject of several TV and radio programs, newspaper and journal articles. The German media has made remarkable media coverage about the Translate for Justices movement.

Translate for Justice brings together eminent, meticulous translators from all around the world. They are volunteers who have been drawn to help get the word out about what’s really going on in Turkey right now. Editing these translations is done by professional editors who are competent in the target language

The greatest difficulty we have encountered was setting up a plan of action which would enable all our translators with their different levels of experience to use their abilities to the greatest effect. With so many different languages and texts, it’s not easy to coordinate the project management or carefully supervise the use of language among the texts. Because we publish in 15 languages, but lack the opportunity to communicate face-to-face with our translators unless they are part of our core team, excellent communication skills are required. In addition, to continue to have an effective online presence, it is necessary to use the latest technological devices.  As of now we must rely on volunteers due to the lack of financial resources.

Apart from providing a flow of information in a time that could be historic for Turkish society, Translate for Justice also shows how important the profession of translating really is. Solitude is the natural environment of writers and translators, but the profession and personal solidarity felt by this voluntary group has created a social network that will not easily be disrupted. We are proud of the bonds that we have made with our colleagues. And our sensitivity to social values such as respect and compassion corresponds perfectly with our solidarity and desire to carry on this critical struggle for human rights. Although we prefer to keep Translate for Justice anonymous, we aim to place the translator center stage. On our online platform and in our social media activities, it is the translator who assumes an indispensible role in social and cultural communication. It can be argued that our position on a translator’s visibility (a matter often discussed in media and in translation studies research) on the level of individual translators is an exception to normal practice. This is true. The normal translation market’s economy that runs on variables such as a text’s level of difficulty, the deadlines set for translations, the fees to be paid for the job, and the prestige of completing the job is not the purpose of this site. We also hope the young and prospective translators who joined us develop a new perspective on the profession.

We hope this project, which we think makes our own practice more meaningful, continues to grow. For this we need the support of professional translators. We invite fellow translators who believe in professional solidarity to contact us. We need your help and we hope you need to help.

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