Turkey and Neighbourhood

Realities of the Gezi Park

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There has been a newly emerged concept of “Gezi Parki” the meaning of which resonates in “resistance” against the AKP government and specifically to Recep Tayyib Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey.




This concept transcends its literal meaning of standing up against felling of trees in the park to demands for the resignation of the incumbent government. This paper adopts a theoretical approach by firstly looking at the prevailing circumstances from sociological perspective in an attempt to explicate who they are2 and the demands of protestors and finally what they have derived so far in exchange of what they have been doing in Istanbul. While doing that, it will be imperative to offer a separate legal and ideological perspective to the social unrest.

First of all, it is important to note that the protestors are generally young people who appear to be environmentally sensitive, and do not have a political conscience for certain political stream, yet at the same time tend to favour populist western style modernization ethos inherited from Kemalist-dominant ideology. What I mean by youth is that they seem to be unaware of previous severe experience in Turkey, from which the situation in contemporary Turkey endured and prevailed upon in order to produce the current liberal atmosphere the AKP government has provided for the last decade. This explains why they are very much aware of their democratic right to oppose any policies of the governing authorities. Furthermore, they are not so ideologically consolidated since the original project they are opposing is at least, a two-year-old project, which will lead to a pedestrianization of Taksim Square. This project has been used as a means of propaganda during the 2011 national and later local elections. It was also approved with consensus among the CHP, BDP, MHP and AKP’s members by the municipal assembly of Istanbul.

Under the light of these circumstances, it can be said that none of them neither read nor paid attention to the project either because of their non-solid ideological background or neglected it as it would been another success for the incumbent mayor and AKP government in Istanbul. Despite being a technologically oriented generation, one would have expected them to watch the simulation of the project shown on the municipality’s website. These evaluations debunk claims that they are protesting only for being environmentally sensitive. On the other hand, as it can easily be seen from the pictures and videos taken and recorded from the scene, there have been several issues which have been marginalised. This masks the reality about whether politically or ideologically driven groups which have taken part in the square since the first and second day. Under the guise of ulterior motives, several groups encompassed the DHKP-C, MLKP, SDP, BDP, various illegal leftist organizations, anti-capitalist Muslims, some adherents of MHP (Nationalist Action Party), the CHP (Republican People Party) and so-called apolitical and environmentally sensitive youth. Although raging from radical left to rightist ideologies, their common ground is explicitly being anti-AKP. It is also beneficial to mention that apart from the last one, none- of them has ever organized a protest or meeting for the sake of environmental concerns. Eventually, to consolidate this argument, it is better to mention that an artist3, in the first day of the meeting, stated that “it is not about only a tree, don’t you understand yet? So then, what is it for?

It is time to move from their so-called democratic demands they want the government to fulfil. If it is about cutting trees, it has been approved by the municipality and they knew if they had spared any pains to look at the project into detail, fourteen trees would have be taken out from their roots and replanted somewhere else after the project ends and only two or three of them would have been totally cut. Additionally, the new square would have seen more trees than before. This fact was pronounced from the second or third day of the protests. Why then did the demonstrations on the streets fail to end? They argued they do not want to eradicate Topcu Kislasi (Topcu Barrack) replacing Gezi Parki. The significance of Topcu Kislasi is stemming from the shops, which are planning to be opened in the ground level, which has been deceptively imposed as AVM (Alis-Veris Merkezi, shopping mall). Despite the fact that the project has been approved by the local assembly and already started, the local court decided to halt the execution of the project.

The contradiction arguably starts here; it is because of that, after 16 and 17 days of the protests, the prime minister accepted several artists and actress, representatives of Taksim Platforms and of several labour unions. The decision taken at the end of these meetings has been that the project will be halted and all relevant stakeholders and parties will wait for the verdict of a law court on the eradication of Topcu Kislasi. Even if the court decides in favour of a continuation of the project involving the eradication of Topcu Kislasi, there is going to be a plebiscite to determine whether the people of Istanbul want it or not. These decisions were already rejected by the Taksim Platform once it had been brought forward to debates by the initial days and upon his return from his North African tour; Recep Tayyib Erdogan suggested these solutions. Then, the question that ought to be asked is that why then did the ongoing destructive activities failed to stop within the first couple of days since the protests started. Even, on the third day, Bulent Arinc met with the representatives of Taksim Platform and declared that the government would wait for the decision of the court and then a referendum might be conducted. As a response of these alternative solutions, the representatives of the platform demanded the resignation of the head of the provincial police force and the governor of Istanbul for the excessive use of force against protestors and further required the cancelation of other projects such as the establishment of the third bridge in Bosporus, and the establishment of Canal Istanbul together with the cancellation of the third airport. There is an overt fact that the demands are not reflecting what the protestors originally asked for. By doing so, the concept of Gezi Parki extended to policies of the government. That is why the process has continued and Turkey is faced with unimaginable destruction of its environment, excessive use of force by police against illegal provocateurs groups and a total loss of 8 billion dollars.



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