A Short Retrospective Look on the 31st May Uprising in Turkey

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>As of today, five people have been killed, three people have died due to cardiovascular and respiratory impact of heavy tear gas, more than ten have lost their eyes by tear gas bullets fired by the police and over one hundred have suffered head trauma. There were thousands of custodies and over one hundred arrests.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>For the last two years, Taksim Platform, a group of elite professionals and environmentalists, was working to protect Gezi Park against development for a shopping mall and to stop Taksim pedestrianization project by law suits and information campaigns. A few days before the 31st, a popular Istanbul MP of BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), Sirri Süreyya’s appearance before the earth diggers was a call to the public.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>Very soon, observing the thousands in the streets, other thousands at their homes and work places became more hopeful. Towards the evening, streets were clogged with tens of thousands of people running back and forth towards guard fences under heavy tear gas clouds fired by police troops. With the white-collars joining after the work day and those marching from the Asian side over the Bosphorus bridge, hundreds of thousands were in the streets, resisting against the tear gas and assisting each other for healing the injuries and the pain felt deep in eyes, noses and throats due to tear gas.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>While the 60,000 meter square space was handed over to the resistance, the mobilization was separating into two. A first group overwhelmingly consisting of the original resisters took over Gezi Park and built up their tents to recreate the communal space, while a second group consisting of some elements of the Turkish left, allegedly in quest of a military takeover rehearsed for a quick overthrow of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government. This second group, fighting the police guard at the Prime Minister’s office down in Besiktas was fortified with football fan groups and individual radicalized fighters with unparalleled intensions, however with deep resentments towards Tayyip Erdogan. Apparently, they were further enjoying their victory over his police in Taksim.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>The first week, Gezi Park and Taksim square was a rebel zone. The resistance was able to expose the hypocrisy of corporate media and to create a crack among corporate groups that are under full service of the Prime Minister and those who had stronger western connections, such as CNN-Turk. Social media was in effective use and the resistance was able to acquire international solidarity. The Turkish government was warned by its western allies in US and Europe. Fethullah Gülen group within the AKP coalition, president Abdullah Gül and deputy prime minister Bülent Arinç were fast to create a shift in the government’s discourse from aggressive Turk-Islamism towards moderate conservative Islamism. In short, Tayyip Erdogan was having really difficult times.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>With that respect, Kurdish involvement from the very start is noteworthy. During the first phase (the two days of street anarchy) young Kurds were active in the streets, stiff fighting to wear the police blockades. In the second phase, the legal Kurdish party BDP (Peace and Democracy Party, also a partner in Taksim Solidarity Platform) was hesitant to encourage Kurds for further involvement in Gezi Protests. While resistance was spreading into many places in Turkey, the Kurdish towns and cities, except low profile protests in Tunceli, were quite silent.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>During the first week, Taksim Square looked like a museum of revolution. Obviously we were not living through a revolutionary moment in its traditional sovietic meaning, however the huge Atatürk Cultural Center, the Atatürk statue and other buildings in the square were ornamented with red flags of left factions. Radicals were taking care of the blockades against police but they were by no means fortified against a well-intended police raid. The state apparatus was watching from outside, the intensive underground construction activity was suspended, all regulations on sales of food and alcohol were lifted and the whole square was a market for the peddlers, mostly Kurdish, trying to make their income out of this unexpected public fair.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>At the end of the week on Sunday, at a large meeting called by Taksim Solidarity in Taksim, the platform declared its provisions for full ceasing of the occupation. The discourse was global and national, against neo-liberal economic order, against commodification of commons. The provisions were mostly local, concerning the development in Taksim Square and Gezi Park, also including country-wide demands concerning the use of tear gas, punishment of officers responsible for unproportional police force against the public and release of Gezi Park activists put in custody throughout the events. The occupation in Taksim Square as well as the Gezi Park was left untouched, still blocking the public traffic and underground construction works.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>The second week, Tayyip Erdogan worked hard to take control and corner the resistance. Firstly, creating a divide in discourse between true environmentalists concerned about the green and vandals and pro-coup groups trying to abuse this mobilization was considered useful. In implementation of this discourse, the police attacked Taksim square and cleared the resisters blockades, vandalized police cars and construction vehicles, the red flags hanging over the large Atatürk Cultural Center and the Ataturk statue.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>Thirdly, Erdogan was signaling that he can come in some terms with the resistance. With a P&R effort, he first started negotiations with irrelevant magazine figures, then with other artists who showed up in Gezi protests and to the end of the week with spokespersons from Taksim Solidarity.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>On Friday, apparently, the spokespersons from Taksim Solidarity were quite convinced with Erdogan’s concessions that ironically, the government would follow the court’s verdict in Taksim development, and even if the verdict favored the government’s plan, they would ask this to the public in a plebiscite. Taksim Solidarity had to find a way out to convince its partner organizations and the independent activists to end the occupation in Gezi and to create a new activism, maybe with a few tents kept in Gezi on rotational basis for several uses. In the meanwhile Erdogan was preparing for a victorious finale in Istanbul with his party’s “Respect to National Will” meeting in Istanbul. Time was short. Taksim Solidarity was lacking the organs to arrive at a quick decision. Erdogan was in a rush to prove his ultimate power.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>Erdogan’s deep insult towards secular society was not yet satisfied. Saturday evening, quite unexpected at least exactly at that time, a much more brutal police raid swept Gezi when there were thousands of activists and visitors inside. The resisters were followed to kilometers away from Taksim, police force was fortified with transfers from other cities. Now, blockades were not only around Taksim but in everywhere, avoiding groups of people gathering and approaching Taksim from remote districts.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>That day, Erdogan once more fall victim of his utter contempt towards secular classes and the leftists.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-ansi-language:EN-US”>In one of his regular contributions in alternative internet media, an author identified the movement as “secular resistance”. The resistance was mobilized particularly with strong resentment towards AKP’s shift from conservative populism which supports its neo-liberal economic policies to an insulting Turk-Islamist ideology which risks sustainability of its economic order. The resistance had a mixed class character. While the left parties and unions were systematically making wrong calculations and creating a psychology of defeat, (a fact that would become more evident in the third phase), and while the nationalist Turkish left was searching for a military takeover in vain, the secular resistance dominated by young middle class individuals was now challenged with the task of organizing.


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