Was It a Hopeless Battle? Consequences of the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:10
Location: Seminarsaal 10 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Hayriye OZEN, Atilim University, Turkey
Turkey has recently witnessed the emergence of one of the largest popular movements in its republican history. The particular struggle against the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park in Istanbul turned into nationwide mass protests within just a few days. During the nearly two-month long period, many social groups and individuals with diverse identities, positions, and social demands poured into the streets and squares to express their discontent not only with the current neoliberal and conservative hegemony in the Turkish context, but also with the increasing authoritarian tendencies of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government. This study focuses on the effects of the Gezi Park movement on the Turkish politics. It argues that Gezi protests produced two contradictory consequences. On the one hand, in contrast to the intended aim of the protests, the government became more and more authoritarian, creating a more repressive environment for the Gezi protesters in particular and social movements in general. On the other hand, Gezi protests made its participants more sensitive not only to urban and environmental issues, but also to social and political rights. Many local informal organizations were established, leading to the emergence of subsequent mobilizations in various cities and towns against the privatization and commercialization of urban spaces as well as the destruction of natural environment. Moreover, new civil initiatives emerged which range from those that monitor elections to prevent fraud and corruption to those that support labor strikes, and a political front consisting of a number of left-leaning small parties, academics, and NGOs was created. The study concludes by considering the implications of the increasing politicization of the society within an increasingly authoritarian environment.