Istanbul Taksim Gezi Park is not about trees

 Istanbul Taksim Gezi Park #occupygezi

Istanbul's central area of Taksim is currently the scene of a fledging 'occupy movement' as people react to this morning's 5am teargassing of protestors opposed to unchecked gentrification in the historic city.

These are some cursory notes on whats been unfolding in Istanbul's central square Taksim and the small green area within in - Gezi Park, as of Friday 31 May there is still little English language coverage, the best place to look is #occupygezi or in Turkish #direngeziparkı which is trending worldwide.

Searching for English language news or analysis of whats currently taking place in central Istanbul is not particularly fruitful, most likely the first thing you will come across is this Tweet from the Reuters news agency:

Along with a lot of information in Turkish there are quite a few Tweets pointing at the environmental nature of the protest with tree-saving and maintaing green space in an over urbanised city as the key issues. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The recent wave of violence released by Turkish police under the rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AKP ([url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_and_Development_Party_(Turkey)]Justice and Development Party[/url]) government including this morning's tear gassing of protestors is in fact a growing trend which many are worried as seeing Turkey slipping further and further into authoritarian rule. Since the annual May 1st demonstrations violence used against protestors has intensified in Istanbul as people have taken to the streets to decry the worrying trends they see developing in their country. This is reflected around the country with attacks on university students in Ankara coupled with a rapidly destabilising situation in the South East as the Turkish border areas are dragged into the Syrian conflict.

Back in Istanbul years of rapid neo-liberal gentrification under the guise of urban improvement has seen swathes of the city transformed. Most recently the go ahead was given for the third Istanbul bridge which is due to see the city transform into an enormous monster spreading up towards the black sea. Many commentators see this as the death knell for Istanbul. In the city centre the central working class neighbourhood of Tarlabasi is currently being decimated while projects such as Galataport and the redevelopment of the Kadikoy train station see historical parts of the city flattened and redevelopment as global investment opporutinites leading to soaring prices and the replacing of large parts of the city with shopping malls and luxury apartments.

In Taksim square, Gezi park (hardly a park by European standards but more a huge traffic island made of of concrete with several hundred trees sitting in its midst) sees itself as the latest victim of a government which deploys heritage as an argument for redevelopment as it drags from the dust the idea of an Ottoman Army Barracks which suddenly must be developed as a shopping mall, replacing one of the last remaining open spaces a city which is already struggling to breathe from congestion, traffic and over development. Scene of protests for the last few days this morning saw police attempt to clear protestors with swathes of tear gas, hospitalising some with an attack which started at 5am while many were sleeping in a makeshift camp. Protestors belongings and tents were burned and newly planted trees uprooted. At 8am this seemed to cease as opposition politicians seeking to make political capital declared opposition to the ongoing destruction and arrived among the bulldozers.

Meanwhile a gathering has been called Thursday night in Taksim square at 19:00.

This is a super rushed account of what's happening and doesn't take into account many of the factors which play into this complex story, hopefully by tomorrow some more English language accounts will be coming out of the city with better analysis.

As of Friday 31 May I am trying to update the story with links below.

Title image credit @ekizilkaya.

Posted By

Jacques Roux
May 30 2013 14:03

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mikail firtinaci
Jun 1 2013 14:45

earlier today a spontaneous gathering of people marched from the Ataturk bridge (connecting asian and european sides of istanbul)

https://twitter.com/refikabirgul/status/340776196960829440/photo/1

A picture from Ankara where clashes are still going on

https://twitter.com/EliifAntaal/status/340787173680902144/photo/1

A tired demonstrator resting after the night long battle and the victory in Istanbul:

https://twitter.com/irfanaktan/status/340839581354180608/photo/1/large

Harrison
Jun 1 2013 16:45

The BBC are saying this

Quote:
Correspondents say that what was initially a local issue has spiralled into widespread anti-government unrest and anger over the perceived "Islamisation" of Turkey.

One woman told Agence France-Presse: "They want to turn this country into an Islamist state, they want to impose their vision all the while pretending to respect democracy."

Can someone clarify how much/little this is reflective of the popular anger, because now the tree fib has been debunked by the spread of the demonstrations, this seems to be a developing narrative in the regular press...

mikail firtinaci
Jun 1 2013 18:33
Quote:
Can someone clarify how much/little this is reflective of the popular anger, because now the tree fib has been debunked by the spread of the demonstrations, this seems to be a developing narrative in the regular press..

I think this is partially correct. It is right that anti-AKP feelings is a huge factor uniting the protestors. However the demos are not simply about "anti-islamism". It is not a coincidence that everything started with this park issue. Ruling parties grand infrastructure and construction policies changed the economic and social face of turkey. You can see major construction and renovation projects in every part of the country. These includes huge investments on new suburbs, highways, energy stations etc. And this process has created AKP's new wealthy elite. In almost 11 years since the AKP came to power, a new conservative fraction inside the capitalist class has dramatically emerged and enlarged. The most visible effect of this was on the cities. Older buildings, even whole districts in city centers where poorer people live have been gentrified. And the hatred towards AKP exploded in this situation.

This reclaiming of the city center was a huge issue for in recent years since every 1st of May leftists and workers were trying to demonstrate on the Taksim square (a central historical and cultural square in Istanbul). However, Taksim square was also significant for AKP since it was here that they implemented their most symbolic and radical construction policies by raising whole buildings, closing the parts of the square to public etc. And every year there were significant clashes on the 1st of Mays -including this year.

However, this spontaneous explosion was totally unexpected. Conventional intellectualist mentality in Turkey assumes that average turkish worker and youth is totally nihilistic, unresponsive to politics at best if not conservative. But AKP has changed the the relations between the state and workers dramatically in its decade long rule. It stripped the state all its remaining "neutral" image. More importantly it crushed heavily all the intermediary political groups (like social democrat-Kemalists) and unions rejecting any negotiation. In fact AKP paradoxically constructed a huge authoritarian system of police oppression and censure trusting its popular electoral successes. This erosion of "civil society" intermediary groups created a perfect basis for such a spontaneous and unexpected rising.

mikail firtinaci
Jun 1 2013 21:27

Some frıends told that there are at least two demonstrators killed. But since there is a complete media black out no news is reported on that.

Harrison
Jun 1 2013 22:28

This is confirmed - http://www.liveleak.com/c/Turkey_Protests_2013 has video evidence of the deaths of two demonstrators - one a man ran over by an armoured police vehicle, and two a man killed by a water cannon at extremely close range.

I really don't advise watching the videos unless you want to upset yourself, but it is important to keep a record of these things. Also there is evidence of many acts of police brutality such as beatings of demonstrators they have caught, and people being injured by being shot in the head by tear gas canisters.

rooieravotr
Jun 1 2013 22:47

A somehwat sceptical view, calling the thing an "upper class revolt": http://muftah.org/why-the-gezi-park-protests-do-not-herald-a-turkish-spring-yet/

Quote:
The youth demonstrating in Gezi Park and in solidarity protests in secular bastions across Turkey hail from several groups opposing Erdogan. Nevertheless, young people from the country’s mainly upper-class, secular ‘white Turk’ social strata are the key driving force.

In this sense, these demonstrations represent one of the last convulsions of the old ‘secular’ elites, who have been waging, and losing, a bitter battle against the rising Anatolian nouveau-riche that make up Erdogan’s AKP.

The fact that protesters did not remove representatives from the main opposition party, CHP, who were present at yesterday’s Gezi Park demonstration is telling

I am not convinced, but I wonder what people, especially those with more knowledge of Turkish context and background think.

bastarx
Jun 1 2013 23:13
rooieravotr wrote:
A somehwat sceptical view, calling the thing an "upper class revolt": http://muftah.org/why-the-gezi-park-protests-do-not-herald-a-turkish-spring-yet/

Quote:
The youth demonstrating in Gezi Park and in solidarity protests in secular bastions across Turkey hail from several groups opposing Erdogan. Nevertheless, young people from the country’s mainly upper-class, secular ‘white Turk’ social strata are the key driving force.

In this sense, these demonstrations represent one of the last convulsions of the old ‘secular’ elites, who have been waging, and losing, a bitter battle against the rising Anatolian nouveau-riche that make up Erdogan’s AKP.

The fact that protesters did not remove representatives from the main opposition party, CHP, who were present at yesterday’s Gezi Park demonstration is telling

I am not convinced, but I wonder what people, especially those with more knowledge of Turkish context and background think.

Without knowing much about Turkey it is very rare for "upper class revolts" to take the form of rioting.

mikail firtinaci
Jun 1 2013 23:27

It is completely wrong to call this a middle class "white turk" revolt.

I could have only seen the first day of the protests -before the police attack-. There were only a few dozen people and most of them were students, professionals and middle class people then. The political spectrum was leftist. Even though it was obvious from the scene that there was a police crackdown to be expected I assumed naively that would be the end of it. The following resistance was probably unexpected for everyone including both the government and and the leftists. Especially on Friday and Saturday workers from the slums surrounding Istanbul poured into the center. That is indisputable. What is more interesting is that those workers from many political and ethnic backgrounds have fought together. Kemalist (Turks) fought together with the Kurdish people. Nationalist grey wolfes were trowing stones to the police together with the radical leftists.

In one sense this is a cross class revolt. Traditionally conservative small shop owners were helping the demonstrators. Professionals and football fans were fighting together. There were famous artists, singers, comedians supporting and even joining in but the majority on the front line was probably workers, unemployed, housewives and high school students.

Maloney
Jun 2 2013 00:03

In this 45 minute interview Sevinc who recently migrated from Turkey to Ireland provides context on the Gezi park struggle and the police repression from recent regional and left politics. Touches on the Turkish left & anarchist movement, LGBT & Kurdish struggles, the role of the Ultras, army & Police

Turkish anarchist on background to Gezi Park struggle in Istanbul - explanation for the left by Workers Solidarity on Mixcloud

http://www.wsm.ie/c/turkish-anarchist-gezi-istanbul-explanation

mikail firtinaci
Jun 2 2013 01:00

an amazing video from tonight showing a spontaneous moment of mass uprising:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKv601khylM&feature=youtu.be

Live coverage from the square:

http://rt.com/on-air/turkey-protest-istanbul-park/

Harrison
Jun 2 2013 02:27

Police are now using a stronger chemical projectiles similar to those that the greek police have started using, stronger than tear or pepper gas.
http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ec7_1370131192

(i believe 'Agent Orange' as mentioned on the vid must be the wrong name name for it, thought that stuff is super illegal for causing birth defects when used by the US in the Vietnam war.)

madashell
Jun 2 2013 08:49

Agent Orange wouldn't make much sense, it's a defoliant, not a crowd control weapon, used in Vietnam to clear forests to increase American air force's tactical edge (with horrific consequences and a total disregard for human life, of course). Also really toxic from what I understand, seems like a hell of a jump from tear gas to a highly poisonous chemical weapon.

Not saying they couldn't be using something much stronger than usual but Agent Orange would be a very strange choice for a police force trying to quell urban unrest.

mikail firtinaci
Jun 2 2013 09:25
Quote:
Not saying they couldn't be using something much stronger than usual but Agent Orange would be a very strange choice for a police force trying to quell urban unrest.

It is probably a false rumor. However it is certain that police is using outdated tear gas canisters.

Here is an amazing scene where people are beating up the police and appropriating their shields:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iKVj7rgbTQ

Chilli Sauce
Jun 2 2013 10:25

Does anyone know how this is playing out in the Kurdish parts of the country or within Kurdish groups and parties?

mikail firtinaci
Jun 2 2013 10:46
Quote:
Does anyone know how this is playing out in the Kurdish parts of the country or within Kurdish groups and parties?

There were definitely Kurds fighting on the streets. In some streets people shouting Kurdish nationalist slogans fought together with people carrying the Turkish flags. There were demos in Kurdish or minority Kurdish towns (Van, Mersin, Antakya, etc), not to mention the fact that Istanbul is also the biggest Kurdish population town in Turkey...

However, in my opinion BDP (the Kurdish national party) have totally collapsed in the face of the revolt. Some leaders of the party rejected to be identified with the revolt, however one MP (Sirri Sureyya Onder) was in the Square from the beginning of the events. So they missed their chance to join officially while the Kurdish masses were revolting on the streets. And at the same time they could not withdraw the Kurdish people from the streets.

As a matter of fact this political impotence is not limited to Kurdish nationalism. Turkish nationalist parties have also been caught by surprise. MHP (the fascist turkish party) could neither support nor criticize the movement or the government. However, my friends told that they saw many people wearing three crescent (a symbol of turkish fascism) scarfs on the streets. Among the mainstream bourgeois parties only CHP (the Kemalist party) acted cleverly in my opinion. They neither claimed the movement for themselves nor hesitated to join it. The leader of the CHP was in Taksim yesterday.

Harrison
Jun 2 2013 11:00
madashell wrote:
Agent Orange wouldn't make much sense, it's a defoliant, not a crowd control weapon, used in Vietnam to clear forests to increase American air force's tactical edge (with horrific consequences and a total disregard for human life, of course). Also really toxic from what I understand, seems like a hell of a jump from tear gas to a highly poisonous chemical weapon.

Not saying they couldn't be using something much stronger than usual but Agent Orange would be a very strange choice for a police force trying to quell urban unrest.

That was my understanding, i seem to remember reading that in Greece the different chemical was nicknamed 'Agent Orange' by protesters because the smoke is slightly orange.

Entdinglichung
Jun 2 2013 11:05

some interesting points in http://www.europe-solidaire.org/spip.php?article28813 (I think, the author is from the IS tradition), there was a number of strikes planned for early june

Quote:
Another strike is waiting in the wings, one with potentially devastating consequences for the government. This is the metal workers’ strike which has already been announced (a legal precondition), but not yet put into practice. If all the workers involved go on strike (for legal reasons this has to be some time in the course of June), this will amount to over one hundred thousand workers, in a sector that has become the main export engine of the country’s manufacturing industry in recent years. Although there are immensely complicated factors to be taken into account when analysing this potential strike, not least the clearly reactionary political stance of the ruling bureaucracy in the major union in the industry, the results may be dire in the context of this explosive situation.

History seems to be aiding the popular masses of Turkey. KESK, the Federation of Public Employees’ Unions, one of the fighting organizations within the union movement, had already declared a sector-wide strike for 5 June. This needs to be transformed into a general strike, adopted by the whole union movement, putting forth demands in the political sphere as well as voicing the considerable grievances of the workers of different sectors and industries. The present moment witnesses a people’s revolt in the face of the arrogance and repressive practice of the government. Should this be combined with an insurgent working-class movement, Turkey would become open to all kinds of revolutionary change.

more stuff about strikes on http://en.uidder.org/ (I think they are former Maoists who maintain cordial relations with AWL, Lutte Ouvriere and some Iranian groups)

akai
Jun 2 2013 12:48

A friend had both arms broken by police.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 2 2013 14:03

Jesus Christ. Full solidarity.

Guiraude
Jun 2 2013 18:45

This comes via the French Anarchist Federation (FA-IFA) from Revolutionary Anarchist Action in Turkey:

Le 02 juin 2013 16:57, Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet DAF a écrit:

The clashes began yesterday morning with the intensity no less than the first day of resistance. Police blocked the ways entering Taksim at first. Although the police attacks were more harsh than the day before, nearly one million people fought, moving the barricades forward kicked the police out. Then all the people entered Taksim and Gezi Park. Police had to escape and their cars that could not escape were burned.

Yesterday, the clashes spread all over the country. In many other cities, police attacked protesters with gas bombs, pressured toxic water and plastic bullets. Protesters cleared protected free zones behind barricades.

Yesterday we as Revolutionary Anarchist Action were fighting at the front lines and during the first moments of entrance into the square we wrote a public declaration. We are sharing it below:

This is just the beginning, the struggle is going on.

Revolt is out of time and space. For about 40 hours from Istiklal to Harbiye, from Tarlabasi to Besiktas the freedom of a rebellion is being felt. We come in to Taksim Square from Istiklal, after forty hours of clashes. Law enforcement officers run away with all their vehicles. Forty hours, forty years, the square has been a world for us.

This was the freedom of rebellion, maybe the most frightening slogan was that, this is just the beginning the struggle is going on.

Yes, our struggle is going on till we grow our free world, which we carry in our hearts.

Leo
Jun 2 2013 22:48

Came back from the demonstration in Ankara a few hours ago. I'm still very tired and full of tear gas so this will be quite brief. The movement is very heterogenous, with a previously apolitical majority. Very widespread, lots of people are very excited. In Istanbul, over a milion demonstrators overwhelmed the police and took over Taksim square. In Ankara violent clashes have been occuring over the demonstrators intent to occupy Kizilay square and march on the parliament. Today, after hours of clashes and tons of tear gas, the police only managed to disperse the demonstration with the aid of soldiers. The number of total people demonstrating in and around Kizilay is reported to be over 100,000. A protestor was shot with a real gun on the head in Ankara yesterday,and is in hospital right now, expected to die

Leo
Jun 2 2013 23:19

Calls for a general strike are spreading on facebook, twitter and all.

wojtek
Jun 3 2013 06:29

Beşiktaş Çarşı football supporters apparently hunting a police tank with a bulldozer

Chilli Sauce
Jun 3 2013 07:40
Leo wrote:
Calls for a general strike are spreading on facebook, twitter and all.

I was waiting for that. What day is being proposed? All out indefinite or single day?

bastarx
Jun 3 2013 07:29
wojtek wrote:
Beşiktaş Çarşı football supporters apparently hunting a police tank with a bulldozer

It's an excavator not a bulldozer.

Steven.
Jun 3 2013 09:34
Jenre wrote:
Those pictures are on a few sites though, and the people don't exactly look dressed for a marathon.

yeah, with these photos of the bridge up close you can definitely tell they are from the protests. Look at the clenched fists and clubs! Not to mention the flags and banners. They are amazing photos…

Leo
Jun 3 2013 09:56
Quote:
I was waiting for that. What day is being proposed? All out indefinite or single day?

Well, today was being proposed initially but now there seems to be an increasing focus on tomorrow, and DISK, KESK and other leftist unions are having an extraordinary meeting where they are discussing the possibility of having a general strike. University teachers have gone on strike in Istanbul and Ankara, and also in Ankara several hospitals have gone out basically, declaring that they will only deal with emergencies and the demonstrators. So far the teachers are saying they will be on strike until the 5th, which is going to be when the public sector workers were already scheduled to have a strike. I personally believe that only after the 5th it can actually begin, if the strikers refuse to go back to work.

Here's a banner inviting workers to a general strike:

#invitationtothegeneralstrike If not today, then when? Turn off the switches! Down with the anti-worker government! Both the workplaces and the streets are ours!

Harrison
Jun 3 2013 11:37

Paul Mason at the BBC has written about the demonstrations and points out that it 'is certainly already something more than the Turkish version of Occupy.'

Meanwhile an analyst at The Telegraph newspaper is describing how the demonstrations are affecting financial markets, below is a snippet.

The Telegraph wrote:
The political crisis comes at a highly sensitive moment as emerging markets across the world face intense pressure, with a sudden exodus of capital flows from those deemed most at risk from trade deficits and political risk.

The Turkish lira fell to a 17-month low against the dollar last week while yields on 10-year Turkish bonds spiked 40 basis points. “We may see some further sell-off in Turkish assets. The Istanbul 100 index may start trading [today] with a sharp drop,” said Tufan Comert from Garanti Securities.

The moves so far reflect the broader flight from emerging markets as hedge funds liquidate their bond holdings on fears over a dollar rally and a withdrawal of dollar-based liquidity as the US Federal Reserve prepares to slow its bond purchases. Morgan Stanley called it a “mini sudden stop” in external funding across the world.

Turkey has been a stellar performer over the past decade and is expected to grow by 4pc this year and next, far outstripping Brazil or Russia, but imbalances are rising. “Our risk indicator suggests that Turkey is one of the emerging markets most vulnerable to an economic crisis,” said William Jackson from Capital Economics.

Entdinglichung
Jun 3 2013 11:41

another interesting element are the massive solidarity demonstrations of Turkish and Kurdish communities all around the world, in Germany it is my perception that the AABF, a federation representing around 35-50% of the 500.000-600.000 Alevis in Germany is a driving force in organising the protests, the AABF is both a religious body and a left-leaning socio-political organization

meinberg
Jun 3 2013 16:34

you can find a timeline of some of the events in multiple languages on linksunten.indymedia.org. the timeline reaches from saturday to yesterday night. it will be continued.

https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/87733

https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/87793

https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/878

edit: ticker for the first half today
https://linksunten.indymedia.org/de/node/87901

edit2: nearly real time:
http://turkishspring.nadir.org/