Gezi resistance in Istanbul: something in between Tahrir, occupy and a late Turkish 1968.

Author:Evren, Sureyyya
Position:Gezi Park - Essay
 
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It started with a small group of activists trying to defend a public park against government's plans to build a huge shopping mall. In few days, as police used increasing violence against that tiny cluster of protestors, more and more people came to show their support. On 31 May, the whole country woke up at 3 a.m. to find that a small protest had turned into a huge revolutionary moment. Taksim Square and Gezi Park (in central Istanbul) were 'captured' on 1 June and remained government-free zones for two weeks ... It was a bit ethereal for everyone: a stateless mega city-centre! The Taksim Commune! And anarchists were clearly not the only people who enjoyed the temporary autonomous zone. The heterogeneous movement was politicised through a common process. Different political stances converged for the first time. There was clearly a 'multitude' on the streets during the uprising and this multitude is still active in different forms. What happened, how did it develop? I believe that the events repay discussion.

There are aspects of Gezi resistance that are truly local and you need to understand the Turkish political and social background to be able to connect fully to the events. On the other hand there are so many similarities, even links with other international uprisings and movements, that the protest seems very familiar. I would like to suggest placing the Gezi resistance in the context of the 2011-2013 uprisings, that is, the new wave of resistance that has emerged in the aftermath of the anti-globalisation movement (whatever we call it). Many aspects of 2011-2013 events resonate with the Zapatistas in 1990s. The encuentros in Chiapas and the writings of Marcos make sense of what is happening in Turkey. For me, this as a new web of radicalism and the main outcome is not overtly 'political'; rather, it is about the empowerment of people. Gezi has transformed Turkish people.

As to the details: the festival-like atmosphere of Taksim after the police withdrew was very interesting. The square was full of revolutionary groups and parties. But none were able to control the festival, so to speak. In a typical May Day celebration in Turkey, for example the one I witnessed on 1 May 2012, (which was also held in the Taksim Square), there was one main programme, one focus; it was a very good plan and it involved a lot of security. Huge flags, huge placards, all displaying the glory of the revolutionary parties. It was a grandiose show. The 31 May...

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