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Re: <nettime> #occupyGezi
Burcu Baykurt on Wed, 5 Jun 2013 17:08:17 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> #occupyGezi


Here it is.

*Better late than never: What is #OccupyGezi and what does it promise
(now)?<http://postwoman.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/better-late-than-never-what-is-occupy-gezi-and-what-does-it-promise-now/>
*

I wrote a post<http://postwoman.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/why-should-we-care-about-occupygezi/>
 last Thursday on Occupy Gezi (#occupygezi) I was both terrified by the
extent of police violence towards a couple dozens of peaceful activists and
excited about Turkey’s own Occupy moment, which, I personally believed, had
arrived much belatedly. Over the last weekend, people in Turkey have flexed
their political muscles more strongly than ever, both in the streets and on
social media, thereby creating, according to some, the biggest civil
disobedience movement of the country in
history<https://twitter.com/elifilgaz/status/340846961978658816/photo/1>.
Last week, I was wondering why Turkey’s Occupy moment has arrived *now*.
Since then, many people on social media have debated whether Occupy Gezi is
Turkey’s Occupy Wall Street or Tahrir – which is a question arguably loaded
with many value judgments, misinformation, and ignorance, but it is also a
genuine attempt to get a grip on the revolt of masses in Turkey: What is
#Occupy Gezi?

To an extent, I share sociologist Zeynep Tufekci<https://twitter.com/techsoc>’s
insight, who by the way wrote a compelling
post<http://technosociology.org/?p=1255>
 on the protest, that Occupy Gezi is neither Tahrir nor OWS but a
representation of increasing political polarization in the country.

E.P. Thompson <http://tems.umn.edu/pdf/EPThompson-PastPresent.pdf> long ago
argued that every resistance takes on the flavor of its context, therefore
Occupy Gezi is constituted by, and constitutive of, the concerns of and the
clashes between different political groups in Turkey. But what brings
together many people in the park and in the streets is, and should be,
fundamentally a demand to protect their rights and freedoms in a democratic
society – which should not be undermined within the larger turmoil the
country, and protestors, are going through these days.

The occupation of the Gezi Park has started on May 27 with protection of
one of the few urban green spaces in
Istanbul<http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/11978/the-right-to-the-city-movement-and-the-turkish-sum>
 (planned to be demolished as part of the government’s so-called Taksim
renovation project<http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/taksim-is-a-site-of-struggle-for-ideological-predominance.aspx?pageID=517&nID=48074&NewsCatID=339>).
But behind a handful of people’s protest lay a growing discontent with the
recent urban transformation of Istanbul as well as global capitalism. The
government’s neoliberal urban planning, which usually has to do with public
spaces, proceeds in lockstep with a decision making process that not only
leaves out dissent, but also condemns it constantly. David
Kenner<http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/06/02/why_turks_are_fighting_to_take_back_istanbul?wp_login_redirect=0>
 explains that the Taksim Platform, one of the local citizen initiatives,
for example, had long opposed to those “urban renewal” projects but
Erdogan’s government moved forward “by decree, with little public
discussion of their plans.” Along with the Taksim Platform, many groups
have been petitioning the government, but PM Erdogan publicly
defied<http://www.todayszaman.com/news-316830-erdogan-defies-protesters-says-govt-made-its-decision-on-gezi-park-demolition.html>
 their opposition by saying the government had already made up their mind.

It is Erdogan’s, and his disciples’ in the government, dismissive and
authoritarian politics, and the police’s dawn raid on May 30 when they
teargassed occupiers and set fire to their tents that have sparked public
anger. Extensively reliant on, and organized through, social
media<http://themonkeycage.org/2013/06/03/twitter-and-the-turkish-protests-post-weekend-update/>,
protestors have kept on a diligent and mostly peaceful resistance since
last Friday. Occupying not only the Gezi Park, but also Taksim Square as
well as other public spaces in big cities such as Ankara, Izmir, and Adana,
they have been seeking their right to a peaceful protest, and to the
city<http://newleftreview.org/II/53/david-harvey-the-right-to-the-city>.
Police forces, however, have given a heavy-handed response of teargas
firing, pepper spraying, and deploying water cannons, which, as many have
reported, usually exceed reasonable levels of public security excuses. As *the
Financial Times*’s Philip Stephens
reports<http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/901b1d04-cc46-11e2-9cf7-00144feab7de.html#axzz2VA0qL3ND>,
PM Erdogan “has responded to the disturbance with a public rage that more
than matches the anger of those who have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim square
and staged protests in other big cities.” The mainstream media’s appalling
self-censorship has stirred up further unrest, which deserves a post of its
own.

The police repression keeps drawing more
people<http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/06/istanbul-protests-who-are-protesters-turkey.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter>
 in who come out day and night, chanting “against fascism,” and fortifying
the barricades. But what, precisely, makes hundreds of thousands of people
crazy enough to be in the streets surrounded by police to violently attack
them? The political collective from the park, Taksim
Dayanismasi<https://twitter.com/taksimdayanisma>,
has recently announced their “urgent demands” and one can easily see that
people’s first and foremost concern, and demand, is to end brutal police
violence and take their right to protest back. Taksim Dayanismasi has
listed the dismissal of Taksim Project, the resignation of the Governor of
Istanbul and the head of National Police, the prohibition of gas weapons,
and the protection of people’s right to protest and peaceful assembly. It
is hard to know, and too early to decide, whether Occupy Gezi is a moment
or a movement. An important, but fleeting spark of political polarization
at worst, an opportunity to organize civil disobedience and sustain it
through civic dialogue and participatory democracy at best.

For the moment, however, Occupy Gezi is Turkey’s most recent
experimentation with democratic self-governance and public debate. *In
defiance of Erdogan’s own definition of democracy, the political legitimacy
granted to his government does not solely rest on the majority of votes,
and definitely does not mean** **acquiescence of systematically
“marginalized” (both empirically and in his rhetoric) populations to a
state that effectively precludes other options for them.* People who come
together under Occupy Gezi stand in solidarity with dissenters in, not
authoritarian regimes, but ostensibly democratic countries whose elected
leaders crush opposition in brutal ways*.* It is, and should be, a
resistance of many colors, including
Kurds<http://kurdishmatters.com/freedom-of-speech/castle-of-resistance/>
 and conservatives<https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151501087788801&set=a.65874928800.62952.749998800&type=1&theater>,
that demand social justice and freedom for everyone. And it should give us
an opportunity to keep on learning to live together, listening and
understanding each other, and resisting the political and economic forces
that undermine our democratic rights.

Right now, the whole world is watching Occupy Gezi (certainly not on the
mainstream Turkish media though!). Things are tense in the streets, and the
cracks within the movement are in the making. It is a time for many to
decide whether to stand firm and resist or falter. And let’s be honest,
ongoing police brutality is not making it easy for anyone to keep on
resistance. But at the same time this is a long-awaited opportunity for
coming together and defying political polarization that has been long
provoked by leaders. Let’s keep building a people’s movement that is
foremost committed to *everyone’s* right to free expression and voicing our
grievances, which are all connected no matter what. And let’s take our
cities back only to work together to turn them into spaces where a
pluralistic and egalitarian democracy could thrive.




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