Blogging on Issues of International and European Security

Gezi Park: From camping to campaigning

Source: Latuff cartoons

Source: Latuff cartoons

by Elena Marda

It was one of these rare cases, where the panel was consisting of a majority of women; and no, the subject of the conference was not gender and security. On 19 June 2013, reacting with admirable and timely manner to the unfolding developments in Turkey, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung organised a briefing meeting on ‘The Gezi Park Resistance and its Effects: where is Turkey Headed?’

It wasn’t just the world who was caught sleeping when the initial peaceful protest in Taksim Square became a massive political demonstration. For the residents of the city, the activists, the politically involved people, the rapid emancipation of the ‘Taksim experience’ was also a surprise.

But, how did we get here?

The days of ‘Woodstock’-style protest over the use of the Gezi Park quickly turned into the consolidation of political demands. The resistance was nothing more than the result of the continuous imposed management of a conservative understanding of democracy. The transformation of the country’s economy was materialised at the expense of freedom of expression, while the leadership was imposing a majoritarian rule.

The idea of a referendum was rejected on the basis that, if held, it would legitimise the decision of the local municipality to destroy the park. What was suggested instead, was to wait for the decision of the court and to let the people decide over the use of their public spaces.

The activists, who regretted the fact that their demands have not been adequately promoted by mainstream media, called for:

– The preservation of the Gezi Park

– The resignation of the Chief Police Executive and the Governor

– The prohibition of the use of gas against demonstrators

– The immediate release of all the demonstrators arrested

– The pronouncement of public areas as free spaces

The first step has been done – and now what?

Surprisingly enough, the usual argument of the EU’s slow reaction was not heard. The European Parliament’s Resolution was considered to have passed a strong, well-articulated and clear message condemning the violence used against demonstrators. However, discussions for the freezing Turkey’s accession process was rejected and qualified as ‘anachronistic’. Instead, the opening of the Justice chapter would boost the motivation and creativity of the demonstrators and to contribute to a more multiparty Turkey.

The young generation is not affiliated to the existing political platforms, nor has it managed to create new political associations that would effectively express their demands. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, although not seriously fragmented yet, has lost part of its confidence, and the oppressive measures undertaken in Gezi Park are clear signs of nervousness.

A vibrant civil society is at the heart of EU’s concept of democracy. But in order for this concept to become a reality in Turkey, Monday’s General Affairs Council should ‘not leave the demonstrators naked’.

You can find more details on the event here

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