The event of the year that passed: Gezi protests

Today’s Zaman editors voted the Gezi Park protests as the event of 2013, which not only went down in history as the biggest civil protest movement in Turkey but also triggered a process of transformation in Turkish politics that is far from complete.

On May 28, a small group of environmentalists began to camp out in Gezi Park in Taksim Square to prevent its demolition as part of a city redevelopment plan under which the park would be razed for the construction of a replica of an 19th century Ottoman barracks that would house a shopping mall and luxury residences. The peaceful sit-in, which by then had attracted several hundreds, was crushed on the morning of May 31 when police attacked tents in a dawn crackdown, spraying protesters sleeping in tents with tear gas and hitting some of them with gas canisters.

Outraged by the police brutality, people started to flood into Taksim Square but the crowd was different this time; it was not made up of the usual activists but the educated, white-collar İstanbullus, most of whom were taking to the streets for the very first time in their lives to join a civil protest. Yet, the police continued to respond with excessive use of force, triggering heavy clashes in downtown İstanbul that quickly spread to all major cities. In one of the iconic moments of the protests, thousands of people crossed the Bosporus on foot to join the protests on the European side of İstanbul early in the morning of June 1. Later in the afternoon, the police retreated from Taksim, letting tens of thousands of demonstrators enter the closed-off square. That was the beginning of the “occupation” of Gezi Park, until it was cleared again by the police using tear gas, batons and water cannons on June 15. Sporadic clashes continued across Turkey in the following days but they subsided and gradually the Gezi Park protests came to an end.

The toll from the protests, in which 3.5 million people participated in almost all Turkey’s provinces, is high: Five people, including a policeman, were killed; about 8,000 people were injured, some of whom lost an eye after being hit by gas canisters; and about 5,000 people were detained in connection with the protests.

But the political ramifications have been even bigger……

To read more, click here.



About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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