Erdem Gunduz, ‘The Standing Man’: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

Turkish choreographer stands on Taksim square following what had been a lone protest June 18, 2013. The man stood for several hours unnoticed before his presence on the flashpoint square went viral on the social network Twitter. (Getty Images)

Erdem Gunduz stands on Taksim square following what had been a lone protest June 18, 2013. The man stood for several hours unnoticed before his presence on the flashpoint square went viral on Twitter. (Getty Images)

While violence, chaos and confrontation envelope Turkey and its anti-government protests, one man decided to just stand still.

Last night, Erdem Gunduz walked to Turkey’s sealed-off Taksim Square with no announcement, no signs, no explanation and silently stood there for eight hours. This small but powerful act of defiance magnetized others to join in his peaceful resistance.

Slowly but surely, his protest grew and spread to other cities in a wave driven by social media. His quiet image seems to have struck a cord with sympathizers who are more used to seeing violent images of stone-throwing youths battling police officers and tear gas.  Poetically reminiscent of the historically iconic photo depicting an idle protester standing in front of tanks in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square — the man who silently stood in Taksim square has now become a symbol of Turkish protests.

Here is what you need to know about the standing man revolution, Erdem Gunduz and Turkey’s heated predicament.

1. Erdem Gunduz is a Performance Artist

Photography from Gunduz's website. Photo by Gülnur KILIÇ

Photography from Gunduz’s website. Photo by Gülnur KILIÇ

According to recent reports, Gunduz is a dancer originally from Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city. Gunduz has a degree in fine arts and has been doing street performances for years. Friends have commented that Gunduz isn’t particularly politically active although they are not surprised by his silent act. Gunduz has a webpage which details his choreography work. Photos and video feature contemporary dance.

Screen grab from Erdem Gunduz's website which features a performance called "Mahrem"

Screen grab from Erdem Gunduz’s website which features a performance called “Mahrem”

2. Hashtag #Duranadam (Standing Man) Began Trending on Twitter

Twitter trend graphic

Twitter trend graphic.

Gunduz’s courages act has earned him the Twitter hashtag #duranadam, Turkish for “Standing Man.” The hashtag dominated Turkish language Twitter on Tuesday morning. With the help of social media, his image spread and inspired others to perform similar protests across the country.

Two weeks ago, 24 people were detained for allegedly spreading anti-government propaganda on Twitter, which the Turkish Prime Minister has described as “a menace.”

3. He Stood There Staring at an Image of Turkey’s Secular Founding Father


Images via Twitter

While Gunduz stoically stood, hands in his pockets, he was staring at a image of Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, Turkey’s founding father . Ataturk’s legacy is rooted in his success in imposing secular values on a largely Muslim nation after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire nearly a century ago. Turkey is currently embroiled in massive anti-government protests which criticizes Prime minister Receep Tayyip Erdogan’s move towards religious conservative policies.

4. This Protest Challenges The Government In a New Way

Turkey Protests Taksim Square

People run away as Turkish riot policemen fire tear gas on Taksim square (Getty Images)

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. Interior Minister Muammer Guler said authorities wouldn’t intervene against any demonstration that doesn’t threaten public order, but that pledge could be tested quickly. Other protests have been met by brutal police crackdown and further confrontation. Perhaps “the standing man” and his peaceful for of protest could prove more difficult for the government to antagonize and meet with force.

5. Hundreds Joined in On His Protests.

Gunduz – or the “standing man” as he quickly became known on social media sites – was gradually joined by other protesters. Their silent protest was staged in defiance of a ban on demonstrations in the square and follows the decision by Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to use police armed with tear gas and water cannon to end the occupation of nearby Gezi Park by anti-government protesters.

By 2 a.m, at least 300 protesters stood by his side.

6. Protestors Were Arrested

Turkey Standing Man

The vigil continued until police arrived to break it up. At 2am today they told the group of about 300 protesters to disperse because they were “blocking the traffic“. Ten of them refused and were detained. Gunduz was escorted away from police by his friends.

7. Gunduz Called Himself “Nothing”

Interview with Standingman

In an interview with BBC Gunduz explained the reasoning behind his peaceful protests:

I’m nothing… The idea is important: why people resist the government. The government doesn’t want to understand, didn’t try to understand why people are on the streets. This is really silent resistance. I hope people stop and think ‘what happened there?

8. His Image is Reminiscent of Tianamen Square’s “Tank Man”


The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, were student-led popular demonstrations in Beijing which took place in the spring of 1989 and received broad support from city residents, exposing deep splits within China’s political leadership. The protests were forcibly suppressed by hardline leaders who ordered the military to enforce martial law in the country’s capital.The crackdown that initiated on June 3–4 became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre as troops with assault rifles and tanks inflicted thousands of casualties on unarmed civilians trying to block the military’s advance on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing.

A day later, a thin man in a white shirt stepped in front of a line of moving tanks near Tiananmen Square and become one of the most famous protesters of the 20th century. Twenty-four years later, his identity is still a mystery. He is called simply Tank Man.

9. In Ankara a Woman Stood Still at the Spot Where a Protester Was Killed

Anti-goverment protestors stand on Taksim square after Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz' (not in picture) lone protest. (Getty Images)

Anti-goverment protestors stand on Taksim square after Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz’ (not in picture) lone protest. (Getty Images)

The standing man’s silent protest spread across the country, inciting others to join in on his act of defiance. A woman in Ankara, inspired by the stand man, decided to stand in the place where a protester was killed by police forces. The death toll has risen to 5 in Turkey’s wave of anti-government protests. Three men stood at the place were Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead in 2007, two kilometers north of Taksim Square. A group of women and men also stood facing a former hotel in the central city of Sivas, where 37 people died in a 1993 fire started during an Islamist protest.

10. The Standing Man Planned to Stand for an Entire Month

Erdem Gunduz

Erdem Gunduz stands on Taksim square following what had been a lone protest. (Getty Images)

The choreographer’s plan was to stay standing still there for a month, breaking every 24 hours for three hours’ rest, while a friend took his place. It was not long however before others joined in and shortened his stay. Although shortlived, Erem Gunduz’s protest has inspired other to find new way of getting their message across.


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