Category Archives: Gezi

Taksim in Limbo

This is a personal report on the current condition of Taksim square. I visited Taksim recently (early December, 2014) on a rare sunny day.

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Madness, stupidity, or evil?

In Turkey in 2014, May Day was an official holiday, and yet demonstrations in Taksim were banned. They had been banned also in 2013. In June of that year, I opined that the banning had contributed to the rage that erupted in the Gezi protests.

Why would the government ban demonstrations again this year? The only reasons I can think of are suggested by my title.

May Day demonstrations were permitted in 2012, and I remember the day as a joyous occasion. Some photographs of mine should suggest this.

May Day 2012 Istanbul

May Day 2012 Istanbul


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Funeral march for Berkin Elvan

Posters around our university building invited us to leave together at two o’clock, to walk to Şişli Meydanı to await the hearse bearing the body of young Berkin Elvan. But for some reason the students left a bit early. Some faculty walked together.

It’s a ten-minute walk to Şişli square. Police had blocked a street that ran parallel to the main avenue that we expected to march along.

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May Day One Month Late

I am not able, and do not attempt, to tell the full story of recent events in Istanbul. My impression is that mainstream foreign media (in English) do a reasonable job at this. It might be emphasized that the first protesters were yoga practitioners and tree huggers. It was police brutalization of them that drew out more violent protesters—as well as people who had never demonstrated in their lives. If the government had allowed May Day demonstrations this year, as last year, then radicals might have blown off some steam then, and the rest might not have happened. But this is just speculation, not meant to belittle the serious grievances that people have with the government. What follows is just a personal account of a walking tour in the vicinity of Taksim Square, June 1, 2013. I made a Google map of the route. The most interesting experience was seeing plain-clothes police officers retreating from Taksim. The second-most interesting was encountering a wedding of friends of the ruling party, taking place in the gardens of an Ottoman pleasure palace, while police battled protesters about 600 meters away.

We were awakened in the night by a strange persistant sound. Was it the creaking of our building in the Next Big Earthquake? No, it was our neighbors beating on pots and pans.
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Police against all

I returned again this afternoon (Friday, May 31, 2013) to Gezi Park, or rather to its vicinity. Since yesterday the police had fenced it off.

Northern end of Gezi Park

Northern end of Gezi Park

The police fences can be seen on the left above. I think the woman here was just trying to make her way to Taksim. Presently I noticed that my eyes were stinging. It was the same with other people nearby, even in front of the ritzy Hotel Intercontinental adjacent to the park. Some young men I consulted with there confirmed that the police were using tear gas.
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Occupy Istanbul Taksim Gezi Parkı

When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.

They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Taksim Square is the cultural heart of Istanbul.  Most of it is paved, but nearby is Gezi Parkı, shaded by many trees.  It is somewhat out of the way and hidden from view: from the Taksim side, one must climb steps to reach it, and between it and the main road north, Cumhuriyet Caddesi, there are restaurants and a Turkish Airlines office.  As a tourist in Istanbul, I was only vaguely aware of the park.  Now, as a resident, whenever I walk from home to Taksim, I pass through the park.

The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intends to replace the park with buildings of some kind.  His words are translated by Hürriyet Daily News:

If you have respect for history, first you need to learn the history of Gezi Park.

He is supposedly referring to the Topçu Kışlası or Artillery Barracks that used to stand on the land of the park.

It is a bad joke. Continue reading