An environmentalist action to protect Gezi park from demolishment.

Istanbul Gezi Park Protests

date 2013

Gezi Park, located in the Taksim borough of the Istanbul municipality, is one of the few open spaces within the boroughs urban grain. This green space is exceptionally significant because it is one of the few public parks available in this dense and highly built-up borough.
On 27th May 2013 a peaceful protest initiated in this park, sparking a major political and environmental movement across Turkey. The purpose behind this public intervention was that to protect Gezi from being demolished and replaced with a shopping mall, as well as possible luxury apartments. This decision, widely supported by the government and Prime Minister of the day has gained huge publicity when the protests started getting overpowering.

At first this protest was very peaceful; intellectuals, students and residents occupied the park by reading books and socialising there. However, as the protest broadened and the support for this environmentalist movement grew, the police suppressed activists with tear gas and pressurised water. The growing attention also bought with it different types of involvement: music, graffiti, open libraries, dancing, picnics and other activities occupied the area to ensure that the park was not damaged. Although this protest soon became a violent one, and many where injured.

This park is a unique type of public intervention for Turkey, in terms of geographical scale and the types of people that were involved in this action. This public intervention was able to engage with people from all walks of life, regardless of: their sexual orientation, religious belief and ethnicity, the public were united on this interference.

In terms of success, this intervention has been highly successful in meeting its purpose of protecting the urban green space. The movement forced the government to withdraw the shopping mall project. Within its geographical context, the park has a significant importance for the area; it is the few urban green spaces accessible to all, and a public guard will ensure it remains!

Image: © BBC