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Notes on Taksim and Gezi Park



A report from Istanbul on the historic explosion of opposition to Turkey's leader


11 June: When I finally got through to my Turkish friends on Tuesday 4 June the worst of the fighting was over. They reported that both Gezi park and Taksim, Istanbul’s great square, were in the hands of protestors. I went to witness this as soon as I could, arriving Thursday evening June 6 and stayed until Monday. It was a halcyon moment between the police withdrawal and their counter-attack this morning. Already, these notes are a record of what has been crushed.

But its influence will live on [For the ongoing battle, see below.] It is a undoubtedly a turning point for Turkey - and therefore for both the Middle East and Europe whose directions will be shaped by a uniquely important and influential country. Istanbul's youth have joined the the city-centre occupations of Tahrir Square with Madrid, Athens and New York, and a generation has linked up to the fearless protests, at once highly political yet rejecting traditional political parties, that have erupted from Santiago to Delhi.


The barricades

Taksim is very large and with Gezi park more than twice the size of Cairo’s Tahrir square. Filled to capacity it can hold over half a million people. This was the first thing that struck me, the huge spaces, the large numbers, the mobilization of groups, and the barricades themselves. If the immediate impact comes from the excitement, pleasure and freedom of being inside a ‘liberated space’ free of all police it is also immediately clear that Gezi Park is inside a larger area that has been fought for and won. On Friday 31st as the images of resistance to the gas and beatings flashed across the web thousands poured into the square to support the protestors and the police withdrew. Among many accounts, here is a cool one in English from CaroleWoodall.


Here are some pictures of barricades. You can see immediately that they were more symbolic than military. They allow people to pass by but not vehicles. They are not guarded or controlled. There is barricade tourism with visitors having themselves photographed beside them. They are not the front line between two opposing forces massed against each other, they exist because the police had withdrawn. Inside, and even right beside the barricades, expensive cake and coffee shops do a thriving business.

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