Atatürk's Republic

Following Turkish News, Politics, Arts and Culture

What’s Going on in Taksim?

with 2 comments

Over the past four days, a peaceful protest against the destruction of a public park off Taksim square in Istanbul has exploded into mess of pepper spray, tear gas, water cannons and general police brutality.

So why are Istanbul’lu’s so upset over the destruction of a small park?  It is not the physical park so much as what it represents.  Gezi park is the last green space in central Istanbul (not including the old city) and it is being destroyed to build retail space.  Over the last 10 years or so, Istanbul has been in the midst of a construction boom.  This has resulted not only in its outward expansion but razing and conversion of old buildings in its core.  Building after building has been turned into shopping space, much to the chagrin of local residents.

But it is not only the fact that a mall will replace Gezi park.  Much of the focus of the protests have been on the destruction of the trees rather than the park itself.  The destruction of trees has been a hot topic in Turkey recently.  Two new projects, the third Bosphorus bridge (for which there was a ground breaking Wednesday) and the new Istanbul airport will result in the razing of hundreds of thousands of trees.  Residents of Istanbul are feeling powerless in the face of the increasing homogenization and concrete-ification of their city.  The threat to this small piece of open space and these few trees has become the perfect stand in for much larger changes and projects.  This protest is about residents of Istanbul trying to regain a small measure of control over the destruction of the city they know.

The disproportionate response of the police to this relatively small, local protest a sign of insecurity, not strength.  Now is the time for Turkey to prove that it is indeed the model Muslim democracy that it has claimed to be.  Prove that the average Turk does indeed have the right to freedom of assembly, speech and peaceful protest.  Prove those of us who have warned that Turkey is slipping toward authoritarianism wrong.  Prove that the Turkish Republic has the strength to bend to the will of its people.

Written by ataturksrepublic

May 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] Square and the brutal police repression. For instant analyses, see the explanation as to “What’s going on in Taksim” on the Atatürk’s Republic blog and Today’s Zaman columnist Ihsan Yilmaz on […]

  2. […] with violence, Istanbul exploded. For some good summaries of what has gone on, read Hugh Pope, Claire Sadar, and Agent L. To see what Istanbul looks like in the aftermath of an unprecedented outburst against […]

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