Socialist Worker

‘Taksim Square is normal but the spirit of Gezi haunts the government’

by Ron Margulies in Istanbul
Issue No. 2363

The supply centre that protesters created in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last month

The supply centre that protesters created in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last month (Pic: Carol Williams)

The demonstrators of Gezi Park now meet in nearly 30 parks across Istanbul and many others in other cities in Turkey. One park has become many.

As demonstrators left Taksim Square and Gezi Park last month, municipal workers moved in to plant hundreds of trees. 

Fresh grass has been laid, and the park looks more attractive than it ever did. Hardly anyone used to sit in it. Now it has become a bustling hive of meetings, activity and strolls.

The government has announced that nothing will be built in the park. But no one trusts their word. There is a sense of victory, but also of bitterness and raging anger. 

The result of the government’s authoritarian stubborness was horrendous—four dead and 7,000 injured, including many serious injuries. 

Dozens of people, hit by gas canisters fired by the police, lost eyes. A total of 170,000 cannisters were fired at people demonstrating their opposition to the demolition  of a park and then opposition to the violence of the police response.

Both the sense of victory and the anger now find expression in local parks which become the scenes of lively and colourful forums every evening.

Some of the forums are very big with more than a thousand local people taking part in each. Even the smaller ones are two or three hundred strong. They start at 9 or 10pm, and sometimes go on until well after midnight—everyone can speak. 

There is some communication between the parks, mainly through social media. 

When a young Kurdish man was shot and killed during a protest in a Kurdish province, the crowds in the parks decided to march to Taksim Square in solidarity. They all did this and the demonstrations merged in the Square.

This would not have happened before the Gezi events.

As the media first ignored and then distorted what was happening in Gezi Park, people explicitly drew the lessons. They thought, “If this is what the media does to us, we can now understand what they have done to the Kurdish struggle for 30 years.” 

As a result, when a young Kurd was killed no one believed media lies about his death.

If questioning everything the government and the media say is one result of Gezi, another is a tangible sense of solidarity. 

Last month’s Gay Pride march in Istanbul had an unprecedented and astonishing 50,000 people on it. Taksim Square is now back to normal. But the spirit of Gezi continues to haunt the government.

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Tue 23 Jul 2013, 16:10 BST
Issue No. 2363
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