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=]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


Attached files


Jun 11 2013 10:47

An extra note on the Turkish SWP: a leading member of this party, Hayko Bagdat, was making announcements from police speakers today calling for dispersal as the police were attacking the demonstrators in Taksim.

Jun 11 2013 10:50

TOMAs come with self-rinsing capability - they just aim the water cannon down on the roof. This from the manufacturer's brochure site:

Jun 11 2013 14:53

I thought this was a good article on barricades in Taskim:

It's all second hand to me of course but this level of fortification sounds pretty great.

Jacques Roux
Jun 11 2013 16:51

Thanks for sharing, nice post.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 11 2013 19:54

Yeah, everyone I'm talking to is claiming the Molotovs are the works of agents provocateurs.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 12 2013 07:12

There's been solidarity demos around iexist. I know it's not always easy for you to get out, but I'd be surprised if there hasn't been solidarity actions in NYC.

Caiman del Barrio
Jun 12 2013 18:06
Hello comrades;
This is an assesment that we wrote abot the Taksim Riot. We publish this
text in our newspaper Meydan Newspaper.

With revolutionary solidarity
Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF)


This is a revolt*

Urban Transformation Projects have long been threatening living spaces of
Istanbul residents. First slum demolitions, and then 63 million square
meters of forests to be pillaged for the third bridge, shopping malls built
one after another, luxury hotels, and while the pedestrianization project
continued, next was Gezi Park. Istanbul residents continued to resist all
of these projects that threatened life. Until excavators came to Gezi Park
and uprooted the trees. Until "a handful of marginals" that claimed the
trees and their shadows and said "Do not uproot trees, do not build a
shopping mall to Gezi Park". This demonstration was introduced as a
"ecological and peaceful" action. Until the police did a early morning
operation and smothered the park area with gas. The state must have "a lot"
to profit since it's trying to bring this peaceful protest down as hard as
it can. Police violence had been climbing up in the last few months and
protesters were unexpectedly exposed to it. Deputies of opposition parties
and artists came to Gezi Park to protest this and to support protesters,
but they also had their share of state terror.

In the first day of demolition, state could not get what he wanted because
of this scene. Protesters stayed in Gezi Park for the night. It's unknown
if they were expecting an attack the next morning, but all protesters were
thrown out of the park with the police raid in the morning. The police
burned protesters' tents, blankets and belongings. The videos of protesters
exposed to continuous gas bombs and violently taken in custody invoked rage
in everyone who watched.

Of course this rage was not the rage for a single demonstration. This rage
was accumulated. Accumulated for increasing police violence.

It was the attacks with gas bombs, batons and arms that created this rage.
It was forbidden May 1st, Dilan, Şerzan, Metin Lokumcu, Aydin Erdem... What
created this rage was more than two days. It was increasing oppression,
restrictions, censorship, economic exploitation... What created this rage
was the state exercising its power on the people recklessly, relentlessly
and without questioning legitimacy.

The ones who ascribe the "People's Revolt" as post modern style of action,
must see this clearly. The people spontaneously came to the streets because
they felt the social, political and economic oppression heavily. The events
are neither a deal in the last few days as the blind-deaf mainstream media
says, nor are affected by "marginal" groups as the one in state power says.

It is time to raise the curtain before the eyes. This is a revolt. It is
the reaction of people against state terrorism, police violence and
capitalist exploitation. This is the end of legitimacy of the new state
power that had gained the love of other states, international institutions
and global corporations.

*The Democracy of Marginalization, Othering and Neglect*

It's very important that the revolt is happening at a time when the
propaganda of state power is "Democratic Turkey". By this reaction to state
terrorism, the people have pulled down the "democratic" respectability of
the state.

People were on the streets in a setting where the freedom of the people
were ignored, people were tortured and killed arbitrarily, all of the
mainstream media turned into official state press, the state is preparing
for war nearby and killing its own people with its own hands while doing it.

The revolt spread to other cities in the second day. The shared rage
against state terrorism started to burn streets everywhere. The public were
on the streets not because of main opposition party or some leaders words,
but with own volition. To respond to all of this by standing against police
violence and state terrorism. With this consciousness, they attacked the
police, state buildings and temples of capitalist exploitation. The ones
that did it were not "marginal groups". This was also a revolt against the
othering behaviour of the state against the ones that did not obey its
power, against "marginalizing politics" of the state. Moreover the
government did not have anybody to settle or deal with. This revolt was a
direct action.

The state neglected the revolt from the beginning. It was banned on
television, the papers and other media. It was not only on Taksim. People
flowed from Besiktas, Harbiye and other places of Istanbul/ The state had
closed Gezi Park and Taksim Square with all law-enforcement officers in
hand. The clashes continued all day. The public got more angry on each gas
bomb, on each sound bomb and each custody. They resisted the police
violence with determination. Nearly a million people that filled Taksim did
not step back. To say we are here against the state's neglect.

In the morning of the second day, the police violence was even more intense
and we had news of deaths and wounded people. The state terrorized without
caring about either legitimacy, nor human rights, nor democracy. In a two
day revolt, the state throwed away all the masks of ideals and values that
it had been hiding behind. The state showed its real face to its people.
The monopoly of violence terrorized not just in Istanbul, but in every
place that had actions of solidarity with Istanbul. News of deaths, news of
wounds and custodies increased.

Whole forty hours... After nearly forty hours of clashes the people got
from Istiklal street to Taksim Square. The law enforcement officers escaped
with all vehicles. Forty hours became forty years, the square became the
world for us. The was the freedom of revolt. Our sorrow was our friends
that were wounded and lost their lives.

Then Gezi Park, then Gumussuyu, then Besiktas... Then Sakarya, Kocaeli,
Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Dersim... In this revolt that is still going on, the
most important motivation that kept the spontaneity was sharing and
solidarity. Voluntary health workers formed civil health centers for the
protesters that were affected by the police violence. Organisations like
law associations, bar, Human Rights Association supported protesters in
custody or in similar conditions. Chambers like Turkish Mechanical
Engineers Chamber Association turned their buildings to hospitals. People
opened their homes, workplaces, gave support with food and drinks. People
gave information to each other over social media, people created their own
means despite of silenced media.

Everywhere and everyone became the revolt against state terrorism and
police violence. Social solidarity have worked when the state left the
lives alone and it is continuing to work.

*Reservations of Revolt*

The media that became "mute" at the beginning of revolt, now tries to give
a meaning to the the revolt. Of course the meaning that their boss wants.
They said it is individualist, it is reckless, it is post modern, it is
urban and secular... They have affirmed the people that streamed the
streets with these concepts. They likened it to the Velvet Revolution in
Prague. They are trying to void a revolt against state terrorism, police
violence and capitalist exploitation.

The sectors that were disturbed by the party in power and its government
because of conflicting economic and political interests (many of which are
upper and upper-middle class) started to go out on streets on the next
days. These sectors that were supporters of the previous rulers of state
were emphasizing anti-government protests rather than state terror and
police violence. Care must be taken to avoid strong reformist demands of
this sector to block this new struggle of the oppressed against state
terrorism, police violence abd capitalist exploitation. These sectors may
try to manipulate the struggle towards their own economic and political

Parties in opposition may try to exit the scene with profit, as with all
"springs". Their call for staying away from "marginal groups" while
assessing the revolt, is the most clear evidence that they are talking with
the language of power. As in revolts in other places, these parties that
try to gain power using this revolt will try to stop the people who
revolted spontaneously, without leaders and without parties.

Since these sectors are not the organizers of the movement, they cannot
impose their social-economic characters to the public. So, they cannot
direct the action. Besides, their insistent phrase "marginal groups"
consists of the individuals that annoy them, but are also the real
mobilizers of the revolt. Moreover, they are consciously blind to the fact
that other oppressed people from different sectors are resisting not only
in centers like Taksim and Besiktas but also in "surrounding" areas. Yes,
the revolt has an ideology| but it is not an ideology that the media,
parties in opposition and various economic focus groups try to homogenize
and depoliticise. The ideology of the revolt is the consciousness of the
individual that feels the increasing state terror and the individual action
to struggle against it.

This revolt started against state terror, police violence and capitalist
exploitation as we emphasized from the beginning. We hope that it will
increase with general strikes and have more of the oppressed on the streets
and with this hope we are growing the revolt. Our reservations against the
revolt may be realized moving forward, the revolt may be diminished into a
power struggle of opposing parties. But we are not oracles. Revolutionaries
do not make hopeless predictions of the future and sit on the corner. We
well know that revolts like this are mobilizing moments on the way to
social revolution. Our anarchist struggle will continue to embrace the
revolt with all passion.

mikail firtinaci
Jun 12 2013 21:41

From the occupied Gezi Park in Taksim/Istanbul:
(First half in English, second half in Turkish):

mikail firtinaci
Jun 13 2013 05:39

An amazing video showing the square in the morning (before the last police attack 2 days ago):

Jun 13 2013 12:29
Jun 14 2013 10:44

There is a sense where trees do have a symbolic value. "Foreign Relations 2013" reports that the sycamore trees in Istanbul's Gezi Park, have been adorned with the names of the dead, a memorial to the more than 50 people who died in the twin car-bombing in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli last month. A large number of the population of Reynali directly blamed the Erdogan's government involvement in the Syrian war for the bombings (probably carried out by jihadis with assistence from Turkish intelligence) and up to ten thousand protested on the streets, with some Turkish flags evident, and forced the police to retreat.

There have been protests in the Turkish border towns against the spread of war and the presence of jihadis since last October and protests have continued in the town of Antakya where many demonstrations have taken place. One worker here tweeted against the economic price that accompanies imperialist war.

MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Centre, based in Ankara, found that 28% of the Turkish public support the position of the Erdogan's clique on the war.

This anti-war expression is very much a minority in the Turkish protests and, while it could be used by the opposition, the leftists, etc., to support Turkish nationalism (and maybe against Syrian refugees), it nevertheless exists and can only grow as imperialist induced chaos increases around the region and those specifically in relation to the war against Syria.

Jun 16 2013 09:40
Nov 30 2013 05:19

we went to istanbul during the uprising to see what the workers content of this movement was. we made this short film about one set of striking workers in the park, from Hey Textile factory, who had been on strike for over a year:

Sep 8 2014 13:35 (sorry for linking Hürriyet, haven't found a better source that quick):

Prosecutors have demanded aggravated life imprisonment for 35 members of the iconic supporter group of Beşiktaş, çArşı, on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government” in Arab Spring-like fashion for leading last year’s Gezi protests in Istanbul, Turkish media reported Sept. 8.

The indictment submitted to the court has accused çArşı members of establishing an organization and attempting “to create an image similar to the Arab Spring that could be provided to the foreign press with the aim of ousting the legal Turkish government by illegal means.”