Unity in Diversity: The June Uprising (a.k.a. Gezi Uprising) of Turkey

On the 1st of June, the first makeshift hospitals started to appear in the cafes and offices of Istanbul and Ankara – and continued to exist until the end of the uprising. Medical school students, their professors and doctors volunteered to work in there. Professional organization of the doctors in Turkey, Turkish Medical Association issued a declaration on June 1, saying that “the health workers are and will be side by side with those who defend Taksim” and warned the government to stop “this relentless attack against people”. The materials for medical intervention were collected from the citizens who answered the calls for solidarity. Interestingly, pharmacy shops became an important source for masks, Talcid, plasters and other kinds of medical materials  (TTB 2013).

Apart from the medical aid, legal aid was another important requirement for the thousands of protesters who had been detained in this first phase of the uprising. According to the Turkey Human Rights Foundation, polices forces had detained approximately 4000 people in the first 4 days of the uprising, majority of whom had been participating to such violent protests for the first time in their lives; therefore they had no idea about the detention procedures. Turkish Barr Association and Progressive Lawyers Association made official complaints against the crimes committed by the police forces and prepared their lists of the volunteered lawyers, who played an important role in informing and defending the protesters about the legal proceedings and created a certain confidence in the protesters that they were not alone in any part of the uprising. The support of the famous figures and artists in the early days of the uprising was another important boost. Actors and actresses like Mehmet Ali Alabora, Halit Ergenç, Bergüzal Korel and Erdal Beşikçioğlu who are quite popular with their TV series or programmes made calls for more participation, posted photographs from the resistance on their Twitter accounts (“it’s not just a park issue, don’t you get it?”). A popular singer named Tarkan openly supported the protesters and condemned the police attacks from his Facebook status and participated to the protests. The first song ever composed for the uprising, “Eyvallah”, came from a popular music band named Duman. Another actress, Leyla Okay was heavily wounded with a tear gas and taken to hospital.

As the social media became the main tool for communication and getting the news about the uprising, the number of Twitter users rose to 3.8 million on May 31 from 1.8 million on May 29. Likewise, the number of tweets doubled up to 15 million by May 31. That was why the Prime Minister Erdogan called the social media as “the trouble maker of the society” on a TV programme on June 2 (Hurriyet Daily News, 2013). Examples of activist journalism were also becoming widespread thanks to the mobile technologies. Protesters with smartphones used their 3G connections to broadcast and the clashes live on the internet. The most preferred websites were Ustream and Livestream.

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