Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Istanbul’s Gezi Park

Turkish Erdogan Obsession? Why? and how sit-in progressing?
On a normal day, Taksim Square in Capital ISTANBUL is a mess of buses and crowds, a tangle of plazas, streets, shops and taxi horns.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is determined to clean it up and make it into a pedestrian zone, with a new mall, mosque and tunnels for traffic to move underground.
The outrage in response has filled the square with noisy, angry, determined protesters. At midday, the muezzin’s call to prayer now mixes with the chants of union workers and bullhorn speeches from the Anti-Capitalist Muslims. At night, drummers and singers agitate the throngs until dawn.
 Published on June 7, 2013 in the NYT: “In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel”
After Tahrir Square in Egypt and Zuccotti Park in New York, Taksim is the latest reminder of the power of public space. The square has become an arena for clashing worldviews: an unyielding leader’s top-down, neo-Ottoman, conservative vision of the nation as a regional power versus a bottom-up, pluralist, disordered, primarily young, less Islamist vision of the country as a modern democracy.
“Taksim is where everybody expresses freely their happiness, sorrow, their political and social views,” said Esin, 41, in a head scarf, sitting with relatives on a bench watching the protest in the square. She declined to give her surname, fearing disapproval from conservative neighbors. “The government wants to sanitize this place, without consulting the people.”

So public space, even a modest and chaotic swath of it like Taksim, again reveals itself as fundamentally more powerful than social media, which produce virtual communities. Revolutions happen in the flesh.

In Taksim, strangers have discovered one another, their common concerns and collective voice. The power of bodies coming together, at least for the moment, has produced a democratic moment, and given the leadership a dangerous political crisis.

“We have found ourselves,” is how Omer Kanipak, a 41-year-old Turkish architect, put it to me, about the diverse gathering at Gezi Park on the north end of Taksim, where the crowds are concentrated in tent encampments and other makeshift architecture after Mr. Erdogan’s government ordered bulldozers to make way for the mall.

 

Kitra Cahana for The New York Times. Turkish protesters have concentrated in tent encampments at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, on the north end of Taksim Square. More Photos »

And there’s the hitch.

The prime minister has emerged as the strongest leader Turkey has had since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic — but he remains not much of an architect or urban planner. Like other longtime rulers, he has assumed the mantle of designer in chief, fiddling over details for giant mosques, planning a massive bridge and canal, devising gated communities in the name of civic renewal and economic development.

The goal is a scripted public realm. Taksim, the lively heart of modern Istanbul, has become Mr. Erdogan’s obsession, and perhaps his Achilles’ heel.

And it’s no wonder. Taksim’s very urban fabric — fluid, irregular, open and unpredictable — reflects the area’s historic identity as the heart of modern, multicultural Turkey. This was where poor European immigrants settled during the 19th century.

Taksim was a honky-tonk quarter into the 1980s, a haven to gays and lesbians, a locus of nightclubs, foreign movie palaces and French-style covered arcades. Gravestones from an Armenian cemetery at Taksim that was demolished in 1939 were used to construct stairs at Gezi Park, a republican-era project by the French planner Henri Prost that is like the jumble of high-rise hotels, traffic circles and the now-shuttered opera house on the square, named after Ataturk. It is a symbol of modernity.

The prime minister’s vision of a big pedestrian plaza, with buried traffic, is intended to smooth out the square — to remake it into a neo-Ottoman theme park. Mr. Erdogan has lately backed away from installing a mall in the faux Ottoman barracks that will go where Gezi is now. But he intends to raze a poor neighborhood nearby called Tarlabasi and build high-end condominiums.

Yet another of his projects envisions a hygienic parade ground on the southern outskirts of the city, designed for mass gatherings as if to quarantine protests: the anti-Taksim.

The real Taksim is an unruly commons in the middle of the city. Mr. Erdogan has already demolished a beloved cinema and old chocolate pudding shop on Istiklal (Independence) Avenue, the main street and neighborhood backbone into Taksim.

This is why it has come as little surprise to many Turks that Gezi Park was the last straw. “We need free places,” Pelin Tan, a sociologist and protester, explained.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 8, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel.

What’s Happening in Istanbul? A delayed Spring upheaval?

So far, in the last 6 days, the mass demonstrations in Turkey are growing larger and more widespread to most cities. The Government has exercised utmost violence to disperse the citizens. Over 2,000 have been detained, over 1,000 injured and 6 died. Two of the sit-in were crushed under the tanks.

And this dictator of Prime Minister, since 1992 in the power seat, is lambasting his citizens as extremists and criminals, like all dictators. The syndicates are joining the demonstrators and the soccer teams too. Erdogan, PM is touring the northern African States of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and promising to tame the upheaval from afar.

İnsanlik Hali posted on June 1, 2013: (I felt that I need to slightly edit this article)

To my friends who live outside of Turkey:

I am writing to let you know what has been going on in Istanbul in the last 5 days.

I have to write on internet: Most of the media sources are shut down by the government and the word of mouth and the internet are the only ways left for us to explain ourselves and call for help and support.

Four days ago, a group of people who did not belong to any specific organization or ideology got together in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

Among them there were many of my friends and students.  Their reason was simple: To prevent and protest the upcoming demolishing of the park for the sake of building yet another shopping mall at very center of the city. (This park was the location of an Ottoman fort that was destroyed by the secular revolutionaries in the early century)

There are numerous shopping malls in Istanbul, at least one in every neighborhood! The tearing down of the trees was supposed to begin early Thursday morning. People went to the park with their blankets, books and children. They put their tents down and spent the night under the trees.

Early in the morning, the bulldozers started to pull out the hundred-year-old trees. And the people stood up to stop the operation.

They did nothing other than physically obstructing the machines.

No newspaper, no television channel was there to report the protest. It was a complete media black out.

The police arrived with water cannon vehicles and pepper spray.  They chased the crowds out of the park.

In the evening, the number of protesters multiplied. So did the number of police forces around the park.

Meanwhile, local government of Istanbul shut down all the ways leading up to Taksim square where the Gezi Park is located. The metro was shut down, ferries were cancelled, roads were blocked.

Yet more and more people walked their way up to the center of the city.

They came from all around Istanbul. They came from all different backgrounds, different ideologies, different religions. They all gathered to prevent the demolition of something bigger than the park:

The right to live as honorable citizens of this country.

They gathered and marched. Police chased them with pepper spray and tear gas and drove their tanks over people who offered the police food in return.

Two young people were run over by the tanks and were killed.

Another young woman, a friend of mine, was hit in the head by one of the incoming tear gas canisters. The police were shooting them straight into the crowd.

She has undergone a 3- hour operation and is still in Intensive Care Unit and in  very critical condition. As I write this we don’t know if she is going to make it. This blog is dedicated to her.

These people are my friends. They are my students, my relatives. They have no «hidden agenda» as the state likes to say. Their agenda is out there.

The agenda is very clear. The whole country is being sold to corporations by the government, for the construction of malls, luxury condominiums, freeways, dams and nuclear plants. The government is looking for (and creating when necessary) any excuse to attack Syria against its people’s will.

On top of all that, the government control its people’s personal lives, and this trend has become unbearable as of late.

The state, under its conservative agenda passed many laws and regulations concerning abortion, cesarean birth, sale and use of alcohol and even the color of lipstick worn by the airline stewardesses.

People who are marching to the center of Istanbul are demanding their right to live freely and receive justice, protection and respect from the State.

People are demanding to be involved in the decision-making processes about the city they live in.

What they have received instead is excessive force and enormous amounts of tear gas shot straight into their faces. Three people lost their eyes.

Yet they still march. Hundred of thousands join them. Thousands crossed the Bosporus Bridge on foot to support the people of Taksim.

No newspaper or TV channel were there to report the events. They were busy with broadcasting news about Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

Police kept chasing people and spraying them with pepper spray to an extent that stray dogs and cats were poisoned and died by it.

Schools, hospitals and even 5 star hotels around Taksim Square opened their doors to the injured. Doctors filled the classrooms and hotel rooms to provide first aid. Some police officers refused to spray innocent people with tear gas and quit their jobs.

Around the square the police force placed jammers to prevent internet connection and 3G networks were blocked.

Residents and businesses in the area provided free wireless network for the people on the streets. Restaurants offered food and water for free.

People in Ankara and İzmir gathered on the streets to support the resistance in Istanbul.

Mainstream media kept showing Miss Turkey and “the strangest cat of the world”.

***

I am writing this letter so that you know what is going on in Istanbul. Mass media will not tell you any of this. Not in my country at least.

Please post as many as articles as you see on the Internet and spread the word.

As I was posting articles on my Facebook page last night someone asked me the following question:

«What are you hoping to gain by complaining about our country to foreigners?»

This blog is my answer to her.

By so called «complaining» about my country I am hoping to gain:

1. Freedom of expression and speech,

2. Respect for human rights,

3. Control over the decisions I make concerning my on my body,

4. The right to legally congregate in any part of the city without being considered a terrorist.

But most of all by spreading the word to you, my friends who live in other parts of the world, I am hoping to get your awareness, support and help!

Please spread the word and share this blog.

Thank you!

For further info and things you can do for help please see Amnesty International’s Call for Urgent Help

Görsel
Taken from Occupy Gezi Facebook page. Also used by Reuters
Note: View Heartwarming Images from the Turkish Resistance. – Imgur

imgur.com

adonis49

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