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

by Eren Buğlalılar

A research paper developed in the Summer School “Teaching the crisis – Geographies, Methodologies, Perspectives”
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Astonished by the extent of the June Uprising of 2013, AKP’s Minister of National Education, Nabi Avcı admitted in the first days of the uprising that they:

…have succeeded in five days in doing something that the opposition wouldn’t have been able to do in years. And we have made very groups and factions meet each other under the dust, who would have never gotten together under normal circumstances (Bozkurt 2013).

He was right. The June uprising had no organized headquarters, nor a single central organization that could mobilize the masses toward a common target. The protesters were in the streets with their own reasons and values to stand against the government. It can be said that standing against AKP government was the only common denominator that united the protesters. The people, with their deep, and most of the time contradictory, differences managed to unite against the government. The underlying causes of the uprising can be traced back in the history of republic or in the 10 years of AKP rule. But the trigger of this loaded gun was pulled by the government’s attacks over a small group of environmentalists who wanted to save the Gezi Park in Taksim Square of Istanbul from being demolished. The growing masses of people clashed with the police and the demolishers from May 27 to June 1 in day and night. According to the Ministry of Interior, 400 demonstrations and protests were organized in 74 cities of Turkey in just 4 days.

This was the first stage of the uprising and at this phase and all the necessary resources and possibilities were determined with this focus in mind: Gezi Park had to be saved. Wireless connections to spread news, anti-gas solutions against teargas, available spaces and doctors for the makeshift hospitals to give first aid to the wounded, lawyers to defend the detained protesters are all mobilized for this purpose. By the third day of the protests, a call was being made to the shops, offices and households around Taksim Square to share their Internet connections with the protesters. Soon, various shop and office owners located on the side-streets of Istiklal Street, started to send tweets that declared they were ready to host tired and wounded protesters and they shared their Wi-Fi passwords. Such kinds of places become important shelters for the protesters who wanted to take a break from the police violence.

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