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‘In Gezi Park there is free food, medical care, a kids’ area and a library’

Ece Bulut gives us the latest from Istanbul’s Gezi Park, and looks at how the movement is organising – and changing people

June 7, 2013
3 min read

gezi-libraryThe Gezi Park library

Day 11 of the protests. There are thousands of people still in Gezi Park and Taksim Square, and hundreds staying overnight in tents. The same goes for other cities across Turkey. Everything seems quiet and peaceful, for now – but we know there is a long way to go.

Taksim is now closed to traffic. Barricades are still standing where they were built, blocking access to the city centre except by foot. Ironically, the renovation plan that sparked the protests included making the square a pedestrian area – yet they probably didn’t imagine it happening this way. Nor did the people.

The new unity

Everyone was taken by surprise by what has happened over the last ten days. We never expected such a big uprising from an ‘apolitical’ generation. Even the people taking part in the demonstrations have been shocked by their own attitude. It seems the police attacks on the park occupiers were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

People have been given plenty of reasons to stand against the government over the last few years. The ban on abortion and morning after pills. The prohibition of alcohol. The Roboski massacre. Rising violence against women. Hundreds of arrested journalists. Thousands of arrested students. Police violence. The privatisation of nature. The Reyhanlı bombing.

Now all political groups are together in the park, except the AKP supporters and Islamist extremists. Even conflicting groups like Kurds and Kemalists are sharing the same ground and working on ways to co-exist.

The great shock of the media blackout has woken up some middle and upper class people to what they have been missing on the Kurdish issue for the last 30 years. Kurds have some anger about this late-coming sympathy – and many Turks criticise Kurds for waiting five days before getting involved in the movement – but still, this collectivity can be a big step towards co-existence.

No leaders

In these days, Turkish people have experienced something very strange to them: people resisting without a leader, trying to stand together and show respect to one another. Even if white collar workers don’t come to the park every day, they protest in the malls and boycott the financial supporters of the government.

In the park there is free food, medical care, a kids’ area and a library. Young protesters’ mothers have started to come along to the park instead of begging the kids to go somewhere safe. Volunteers work hard to keep Taksim and Gezi clean. Artists, NGOs, unions, some political parties, and different working groups all give support.

The resistance has also created its own sense of humour. I feel sorry for the non-Turkish speaking rest of the world – you’re missing out! This is the supposed ‘me me me generation’ of Turkey showing how powerful they can be.

Despite the calm in Gezi Park, people are reminding each other that this is not yet a celebration, especially not with police brutality continuing in other cities. The government is still denying the resistance’s demands – and Erdogan, still prime minister, has not stopped his provocations.

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