Occupy Gezi Parki: Turkey’s Uprising in Photos and Tweets

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Turkish actor, comedian, and photographer Okan Bayülgen reads to protesters occupying Gezi Parki on May 30. Photo: Diren Gezi Parki via Twitter.

In March 2012, Sampsonia Way interviewed Deniz Cil, the managing editor of the Journal of Conflict Resolution, about her uncle, the Turkish cartoonist Atila Özer, and the situation of free speech in Turkey. On June 2nd, we received an email from Cil offering her services as a translator and journalist to help Sampsonia Way cover the ongoing civil uprisings and protests that began in Istanbul on May 30th.

The protests initially began in response to the Turkish government’s decision to demolish Taksim Gezi Parki and erect a shopping center in its place. When police attacked the protestors with water cannons and tear gas, rioting began first in Istanbul and later spread to other cities in Turkey. Many of the protesters are now speaking out against Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Because Turkish media has largely ignored the uprisings, we are presenting Deniz Cil’s exclusive selection of tweets and photographs from inside the country. Below each tweet is an English translation, provided by Cil.


Note on the chronology: the peaceful protests started earlier (May 28th). However, the first tweet from DirenGeziParki (the activists’ main account) dates back to (May 30th) when the protests started to attract more people, such as celebrities and politicians.

This is how things started: People wanted to protect Gezi Parki and were opposing the government’s unilateral decision regarding the ”development project” in Taksim Square and its surrounding area without consultation with the city’s residents. This would have destroyed the park.

tweet 1

Sırrı Süreyya Önder, a Turkish film director, actor, screenwriter, columnist and politician on May 28th: “We stopped the demolition in Gezi Parki by standing in front of bulldozers. If everyone comes here they cannot demolish the park.”

And quickly their numbers grew…

tweet 2

Diren Gezi Parki, May 30th: Currently, there are 10.000 people in Taksim Gezi Parki

The main activity in the park has been reading books. Below is a photo of a prominent Turkish photographer, actor, and TV host reading to fellow protestors.

tweet 3

Diren Gezi Parki, May 30th: @okanbayulgen is still reading books in Gezi Park

The next day…

tweet 4

Diren Gezi Parki, May 31st: Police raided Gezi Park and removed the tents. The park where thousands had been sitting now looks like this…

tweet 5

@Atakan_Sevgi: Last Reuter’s photo from Taksim Square – May 31

Below is an example of how Twitter is being used to disseminate information. Additionally, many shops and businesses in and around Taksim Square, as well in other cities, are providing food and shelter to activists.

tweet 6

Diren Gezi Parki, June 1st: 0 212 266 77 43 Oda Theater has opened its doors for the ones who are hungry, who want to sleep, and who cannot go home @odatiyatro

Diren Gezi Parki, June 1st: All the NGOs, business/shop owners and individuals who want to provide help, please contact us. We will try to direct you to people in need of help.

One of the most repeated tweets, not only by @direngaziparki but also by all groups participating in the protests, (i.e. “Carsi” [Besiktas’ soccer team fans], “direnankara,” and many others) warned protesters to be peaceful and avoid any violent acts.

tweet 7

Diren Gezi Parki, June 1:
1. Racist comments
2. Political partisanship
3. Erroneous Information
4. Provocation
5. Profanity

Because there was no mass media coverage of the events until June 3rd, ordinary people took on the responsibilities of the Turkish media. In the tweet below, television host Okan Bayulgen is responding to a comment by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that the groups in the protests are marginal terrorist groups.

tweet 8

Okan Bayulgen, June 1st: As I’m trying to cover the events live you can see the marginal and terrorist women right next to me 🙂

Below are examples of cries for help. “Bad shape” refers to the excessive use of force by the police and the protestors are struggling and need help.

tweet 9

Diren Gezi Parki, June 1st: (Top to bottom)

Gumussuyu and Cihangir (neighborhoods close to Taksim Square in Istanbul) are in bad shape. Urgent help needed!!

Police are attacking the activists in Gumussuyu!

Friends Cihangir is bad shape! Urgent help is needed!!

The tweet below is from Diren Ankara, the activist group in Ankara. Izmir Street leads to Kizilay Square, the main gathering space for the protestors in Ankara.

tweet 10

Diren Ankara, June 1st: People cannot breathe because of the heavy use of teargas and cannot reach Izmir Street. They need places to hide on Ataturk Boulevard.

It is safe to say that the official numbers of injured are not accurate, because people who have been hurt were and still are getting medical help from volunteer doctors and medical school students. Below is one of many examples of volunteer doctors and med-students tending to injured protestors in shops, mosques, parks, and bookstores.

tweet 11

Diren Ankara, June 1st: Doctors built a tent in the park across from Zafer Shopping Plaza. Please spread the word, friends.

Even though the protests have turned into countrypwide anti-government protests, the activists in Gezi Parki have not forgetten why they started protesting and continue to clean the park and surrounding neighborhood.

Diren Gezi Parki, June 2nd: Activists are cleaning Istiklal Street

Because of the lack of media attention citizens took on the responsibility of reporting events. The tweet below is from @Occupy Gezi, another activist account.

tweet 13

Occupy Gezi, June 2nd: Every citizen on the streets is a journalist right now. Record, gather evidence, it is very important.

As the protests in Turkey spread across many cities, CNN Turk aired a documentary about penguins, rather than covering the events unfolding in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey

Okan Bayulgen, June 2nd: If the news channels try to dissipate the events by airing a documentary about penguins, the public will gravitate towards unreliable sources of information.

Diren Gezi Parki is providing a list of items needed by activists. Lemons and milk are used to alleviate the effect of teargas, which has been fired at the protesters.

tweet 15

Diren Gezi Parki, June 3rd: Gas masks, lemons, milk, water, gloves, food, vitamins, clothes, shoes!

Another example of cooperation among the public. It should also be noted that there are many lawyers sharing their contact information publicly to provide free legal services for protesters who get arrested.

tweet 16

Examples of volunteers helping the injured and alleged police raids on infirmaries established by the activists (top to bottom).

Diren Ankara, June 3rd:
If you need doctors, please contact us we will provide you the phone numbers of volunteers.

Please do not share the infirmary information openly. We heard the Police is raiding. Please don’t share the hiding places and infirmary information.

Another example of solidarity…

tweet 17

A photo of the food left for people staying in Gezi Parki. The sign in the photo and the tweet says, the food is for the ones staying at the night.

Enis Durak (Al Jazeera Turk / Istanbul – Turkey Deputy News Editor), June 3rd.

Social media was the main source of information.

Kit O’Connell (Gonzo journalist, @MyFDL Editor, Social Media Editor for @TweetTheHorn) refers to PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent talk about the events in which he blamed Twitter and said “Social media is the worst menace to society” – June 4th.

Links for further information:

Images of the Protests

Tumblr. All the pictures taken by people on the streets (some include graphic content). View here.

Tumblr. All the photos and videos compiled as evidence of excessive and unproportional use of force by the Turkish Police (may include graphic content). View here.

Translation of the short note at the beginning:
Unfortunately, in the course of the latest events that started with the demonstrations in Taksim Gezi Parki and spread to several cities in Turkey we have witnessed and still are witnessing things that we never want to see done by the Police Forces and civilians.
We are gathering and archiving all the photos and videos of people who you think committed crimes during these events (both police forces and civilians).
All the content in this website is posted without any commentary.

Imgur. Heartwarming photos of the demonstrations. View here.

Onedio. Another collection of heartwarming/fun videos. View here.

International Press

CNN article by Ivan Watson (CNN correspondent based in Istanbul) and Gul Tuysuz (Freelance journalist in Turkey) Read here.

Facts about the events and June 5’s general strike. Read here.

Comprehensive summary of the Occupi Gezi. Comment section highly recommended. Good points made by user peanutty. Read here.

The New York Times.
An analysis of Mr. Erdogan and his stance in the latest events as well as what has changed in regards to freedom of speech in his term. Read here.

Drunkards, extremists, Twitter- Turkey’s Erdogan blames all. Read here.

Facebook. A summary of one week in 7 minutes. View here.

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