ISTANBUL – Gezi Park was completely unknown two weeks ago for international readers. Today, most people know this is a civic space in the heart of European side of Istanbul. Gezi Park led as news in global media and sparked international interest.
At least one of more than eight million tourists, who visited Turkey in 2011 included short rest on Gezi Park bench and eat Turkish bakery breads.
One can buy round soft and warm simit either from the nearby testy bread stores or take it from the street sellers who sell them for only one Turkish lira ($0,54). They are there all day and during the night even these days when Gezi Park became a place for raising and culminating tensions between people who protests and Turkish riot police.
Assumable, inhabitants of Istanbul can go and spend leisure time at Gezi Park relaxing from busy and hectic life in Istanbul, economic hurdles or rapid business development of Turkey’s economy.
Gezi Park is discreet place at the heart of Istanbul thatcenter staged one of the hardest moments in Turkey’s recent history – confrontation of police with youths of Turkey.
A future destiny and look of the park depends of the court decision on Turkish Government plans to rebuild old military building from Ottoman Time. The court should balance between government’s plans and citizens of Istanbul who want to enjoy in the public space that connects two most interesting parts of Istanbul – Istiklal Avenue and Sisli district.
The stairs of both sides of the park mark its entrance. On its south side, the park melts with Taksim Square and lures further toward separate streets each of which has one specific dynamic and its own citizens.
Istiklal that means independence on Turkish language confuses with the urban environment, modern shops, brands and expensive city malls. Tarlabasi Street is equally busy but rather shabby and neglected in comparison to the lights, music and tourist at Istiklal. And there is no comparison.
Simply, those two streets show the difference in development of Turkey over the recent years.
Though, both streets direct to Taksim Square and Gezi Park where thousands in past weeks started protests to stop plans for more urbanization in this part of Istanbul.
Designed by the French architect Henri Prost Gezi Park was a project of Republic and contains the idea of shared space in the time when this French architect was invited to make Istanbul Master Plan and tray to convert an old city of horse drown transportation into a modern one suitable for cars.
And those stairs that connect Taksim Square and Gezi Park passed by thousands and even maybe millions saw different stories collects the piece of historical meaning as build of gravestones of an old Armenian cemetery ruined in 1939. New Yorker discovered the Armenian history of Taksim Square and Gezi Park.
“Unknown to most of Istanbul’s brave protesters is that, centuries ago, members of Istanbul’s Armenian community were buried beneath the place where they stand. In the sixteenth century, when Suleiman the Magnificent was sultan of the Ottoman Empire, a group of conspirators is said to have approached an imperial chef, Manuk Karaseferyan, with a plan for him to poison the sultan’s dinner. Karaseferyan, however, reported the assassination plot to Suleiman, who offered him a favor in return.
Karaseferyan requested a place for his people, the Armenians, to be buried. The Pangalti Armenian cemetery would become the largest non-Muslim cemetery in Istanbul’s history, although, after an outbreak of cholera in the eighteen-sixties, Armenian burials moved to the city’s Şişli district”, writes New Yorker.
For some who purred on protests in Turkey Gezi Park it was a temporary home and place to share their ideas in more organized way than in everyday life.
For two weeks, Gezi Park was home of estimated 10.000 protesters who came to protect the trees at the park but was cleared by the riot police of Turkey.
For all of them, improvised space inside the park enabled to share their common ideas and declared their message to the world of the vision of Turkey they would like to see in the future.
After the text of famous and internationally recognized Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk on his memorabilia on Taksim Square ask the question to those inside the park do they have any anecdote related to Takism Square and Gezi Park.
People do feel the park is equally theirs like it is a property of Istanbul City and center point of government plans to return Ottoman Empire spirit at it.
“Even it was not directly related to inside the Gezi Park, this area were Gezi Park is opening to is the very first place that I have been, were I met today’s husband and for the first time go out for a date. I recall all the trees here and we are all for saying this: This park is something to do with us, with our lives, with our breathing, so you cannot take away from us”, says Zeynep Saydalvahas.
Another supporter to protest at Gezi Park speaks in anonymity. On clear English she gives the idea of the atmosphere created in various neighborhoods in Istanbul where residents use source and pans to create sounds in support of protest to those at Gezi Park.
“That’s happening every night. People who cannot get to Taksim, as well everybody going to borrow and marching and see all along the peaceful protests just to show their support for everything that is going here,” explains Istanbul resident.
The atmosphere in the Park is hectic during the days of June 9 and 10, 2013 as various political, universities and Istanbul supporters arrive at the park and ask Turkish Prime Minister to resign.
Only a couple of days later on Thursday, June 13, 2013 various organizations, individuals and supporters shared the common, friendly and pleasant atmosphere in the park enjoyed with traditional Turkish songs and dances.
Students of various Turkish Universities happily and proudly said are supporters of socialists.
Under the warm weather of Istanbul that is constantly changing with rains and floating possibility police to enter the park at every moment Fulia Dala, a 20-year old student and member of Kolektif student organization say: “I do not expect this will be a Revolution after this, but I just know that people learned not too scared of government. That is something we gain, and we are not losing again.”
Interview with Dala happens in hours after Turkish Prime Minister offered the idea the park should go on the referendum, although decentralized but united in opinions those who protest clearly remains on their idea to hold the park.
Do they feel scared of police that in large in present and stationed at Taksim Square and near by streets at Gezi Park?
Early morning on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 rain stops police in any other action rather to change formation after several hours by the Gezi Park and even allowed help of medical personnel of protesters to a wounded policeman hit by wooden parts due to the strong wind near Ataturk Cultural Center.
The temporarily tenants under the tents at Gezi Park survived another morning at the park not being cleared by the police.
At the center inside the Gezi Park, Boris Erham gives the statement on Turkish that is translated by the member of the film corner at Gezi Park. They talk on solidarity. Harmony here means everything to young people on which the government refers as marginalized groups.
“We cannot assert police movement, but we can guess they will limit us inside the Gezi Park and took the struggle inside the Gezi Park and tried to melt the struggle away. Even though I have not visited this park many times now it means a lot of me. This is a house of hope and struggle. It is one of the rare places of fraternity, and solidarity is being exemplified. It is one of the centers of solidarity,” explains Erham.
Thursday night on June 14, 2013 large crowd of Turkish, international journalists and photographers expect the long announced intervention of the police equipped with helmets and teargas mask.
Police postponed the crack down of tents inside the Gezi Park.
The atmosphere of joy and solidarity culminates with the overnight concert on piano by the pianist Davide Martello by the Republic Monument at Taksim Square. As the night passes, this brings together protesters and members of the police in a quiet coexistence.
A student Fulia Dala tells me that life inside the Gezi Park will mean to her as a place where everyone share with others.
“I will remember that even the people have different political beliefs, they just get the chance to know each other and talk about things and share about it. That’s what the best thing about this park,” admitting she is worry if police enter the part a lot of people will get hurt or injured and at the same time underling what they are here for. “We are fighting for our right get back. We want our freedom back. We really want democracy. We do not want him”.
The response from the state to crackdown the park will be subject of debates over the years.
All advantages of Turkish economy during recent years can fall down over the reasons of irreconcilable differences with their citizens.
With growing differences and economy hurdles worldwide Turkey is not the only one country needs to face their youth, disappointments and their expectations. After all, every voice is much important as it is of those of Governments.
The battle for Gezi Park and how it will look further is in the hands of courts in Istanbul. The latests information of Istabul is that Istanbul court rejects Ministry of Culture appeal to build inside the Gezi Park, as Social Media says without many details on this.
*Authors note: No photo of statement in the article and others part of the blog for Turkey is not meant to be in use for identification of person because their opinions.
© Aleksandra Dukovska