LOCAL > Gezi Park is now a utopic ‘Freetown’

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News

Istanbul’s city center is now a timeless place after the police withdrawal. Closed by barricades, Gezi Park and Taksim now belong solely to people and ideologies previously deemed closed to the mainstream

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Two people walk beside a wrecked police car left on Taksim Square. Istanbul’s city center is now a surreal, timeless place, completely occupied by people following the police withdrawal. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Two people walk beside a wrecked police car left on Taksim Square. Istanbul’s city center is now a surreal, timeless place, completely occupied by people following the police withdrawal. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Çetin Cem Yılmaz Çetin Cem Yılmaz cetincem.yilmaz@hdn.com.tr

At the entrance of Copenhagen’s famous Freetown Christiania, visitors are greeted with a hand-painted sign reading “You are now leaving the EU.” Right now, something similar can be said for the Gezi Park – it’s no longer Istanbul as you know it.

Since the police withdrawal from the city center on June 1 as a result of clashes with protesters, the Taksim district has been occupied as could never have been predicted. Closed with barricades, the central district now solely belongs to the people, and to ideologies that were previously deemed completely closed to the mainstream.

Bright lights and loud music coming from İstiklal Avenue are not there. Shops are closed, and graffiti fills their windows. On Taksim Square, it feels like the post-apocalypse has met the day after revolution. A wrecked NTV van and a crashed police car have been left like remnants of the Berlin Wall, open for photographing. The iconic Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) has been covered with flags: Legendary 1970’s revolutionary Deniz Gezmiş looks down on the area, while next to him are posters of left-wing groups and a “shut up” call to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Just a week ago, even the thought of such a scene was impossible. Now, with the occupation, it has become the reality.

Forty-nine percent

Make no mistake, even though it has a passing resemblance to the “Occupy” movement, this is not a “We are the 99 percent” action. It is more like, “We are the 49 percent.” It is the mobilization of thousands who do not find themselves represented in the Parliament. The protests were more about people, mostly youths, making themselves heard by a government that enjoys too much comfort from its majority and forgets to hear the concerns of the minority.

As a crowd that was complaining of discrimination, the Gezi people are embracing their differences beautifully. On June 1, slogans were silenced when a prayer call was heard. “From now on, respect for every belief will prevail,” one said. That approach was again used yesterday, when they asked people not to drink alcohol out of respect to the sacred night of Lailat al–Mi’raj.

Inside the Gezi Park, the utopian feeling is multiplied. There are open buffets for people feeding themselves, yoga sessions in the morning and now, a library. Every morning, after the police withdrawal, protesters got the area squeaky clean. People have fun in their own way and nobody intervenes: Kurds dance their halays, Laz people do their horon dance, and a group with Mustafa Kemal Atatürk flags chant their slogans - All this happens within a few meters’ distance.

There are lots of differences, but no conflict. There are no police, but it’s safe. No hierarchy, but a humane order.
For a country where the democratic tradition is about rights being given from the top to bottom, it is about reversing the order.

It is about sharing, kindness, and reasoning. So romantic, for sure; but it is there.

We know that it won’t be forever. Enjoy it while it lasts.


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Notice on comments

Eric Martin

6/8/2013 5:37:18 AM

@Gunduz. Exactly. I have not read one article on HUrriyet showing any contempt for these protests. The writers all support these idiot teens. Maybe Erdogan should provide them a 'beer' truck to make them feel better about this evil nondemocratic country.

american american

6/8/2013 3:13:26 AM

again al rashid, aside from christiania in denmark, i am curious about all the free towns populating the western world. people who decide to live in communes pay taxes as well and they are not government supported. unlike islamic terrorism which muslim government, especially the akp, pays for with their dhimmi citizens special protection tax the jeziyah.

Berzan Gunduz

6/7/2013 6:01:04 PM

Dear writer C. C. Yilmaz. 10 000 of protesters of a nation with a population of 76 million doesn't make 49 percent of the people according to arithmetic calculations we are used with. "sharing, kindness, and reasoning. So romantic" Please tell this to the three people who have died and all the damages that have been held. I guess we have to hope that the new football season can start very soon so that those so called demonsrants can go back to their normal life.

Al Rashid

6/7/2013 5:30:14 PM

Members of the communes draw all manner of state benefits, from direct financial handouts, educational benefits, medical benefits, use of the nations infastructure, do I really need to go on. All these are paid for through the taxes of working people.

mara mcglothin

6/7/2013 5:29:58 PM

AMERICAN AMERICAN I would also like to see that list if AL RASHID could please provide it! Also is anyone else wondering where OZ man is these days????? He must be on vacation in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

american american

6/7/2013 4:39:41 PM

can you please by name the tax funded communes in every western country al rashid? i am very curious as to where they are

Al Rashid

6/7/2013 1:00:59 PM

It looks filthy and dirty. All western nations have these communes courtesy of their taxpayers, fortunately most are away from the major cities and certainly not in the major squares. In the eyes of the world and media you have shown Turkey to be closer to Tunisia, Syria and Iraq, immature democracies, rather than Greece, Italy and Spain, never mind middle and northern Europe. A disaster for Turkey. Started by Erdogan, well and truly finished by left wing activists. A set back of 20 years.

Richard Wyatt

6/7/2013 10:33:07 AM

No, it can't stay like this. Free and open thinking is a crime committed by terrorists and foreigners, just not compatible with the AKP lifestyle.


6/6/2013 10:31:59 PM

Absolutely, Jim, what rights could 49% of the population possibly have?

Socialist TRK

6/6/2013 6:02:08 PM

I actually like the place now, it is soo different. I would like it to be arranged to stay like this. A place of free thought and voicing opinions, like Speakers corner in Hyde park in London.
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