postvirtual

The Free Republic of Taksim

In Istanbul, Occupy Gezi, Turkey on 9 June 2013 at 10:22

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Istanbul, June 9. 0707 hrs.

Dear people,

All night we strolled along the streets of Gezi, and never for a moment did my amazement subside. I am so happy to be here. This thing is much bigger than I imagined. It’s pure love.

Here you have gays and lesbians next to anticapitalist muslems. You have trotzkyists and kemalists and anarchists all eating at the same table. You have nationalists, ecologists, students, workers, feminists, etc. They dance together in circles, having the time of their lives. And of course you have the football supporters, let’s not forget them. The three big teams from Istanbul are all here, Besiktas, Galatasaray and Fenerbahce. They were sworn enemies not so long ago, and now they sing and chant as brothers, united against prime minister Erdogan and the police.

This is actually a police car.

This is actually a police car.

The Besiktas supporters in particular are an important part of the uprising’s muscle. During the clashes, they captured two police panzers. First they used them to push the burned buses into place, then they sold them on eBay.

All ages are here at Gezi Park, and all ages are occupying around the clock. There are hundreds and hundreds of tents, every green space has been taken. There are thousands of people awake at any given hour, talking, laughing and drinking. The prime minister has said that everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. So once in a while at night, a group of people bursts into cheers as they lift their glasses. “This one is to you, Tayyip!”

At the moment, Taksim Square is what anarchists call a ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’. In other words, it’s a bubble in time and space wherein freedom has been achieved. It won’t last forever, but it will give rise to other bubbles. And so on. Until it boils. Until the whole damn system has evaporated.

This bubble was created by people who are fed up with being brutally repressed for any type of dissent. For years and years, tear gas has been the government’s approved remedy against protest. But people have grown resistant. They rose up, they stood their ground, and now they are the only legitimate authority in the square. To give you an example of this, look at the banners. Many of the left wing parties present at Gezi Park are officially outlawed. The memory of their revolutionary leaders is banned by the state. You can go to jail for commemorating the day of their death. Now, their images are displayed, four stories high, from the buildings surrounding Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square. This was not even imaginable, two weeks ago.130609 07

The revolution is happening, not only on the streets, but also in people’s minds. In particular, some nationalist Turks are changing their views on the Kurds. They have noticed how mainstream media have first ignored and then deformed the news about the uprising. As a result of it they also begin to doubt the ‘official’ story of Kurds being the bad guys, that television has been serving the public for years. On Facebook, apologies are appearing, by Turks to their ‘Kurdish friends’.

Gezi Park is a miracle. It’s similar to the occupations in Spain two years ago, but also very different. Especially as far as the organization is concerned. There is no real General Assembly here, and there are hardly any commissions and working groups. There are the stands of the organizations, the parties, the special interest groups, the students and unions. What unites all, is the Commons, the Infirmary and the Library.

The Commons is the nerve centre of the camp, where food, water, materials and information are collected and distributed. Next to it, in the Infirmary, only medical personnel and patients are allowed. Further down, the Library keeps growing. To my relief, they also have a foreign languages section now.

I would love to give you a more in depth account of the history, the geography, the demographics and the sociology of the Free Republic here in Taksim, if police will give me the time to do it. An attack early tomorrow remains a serious possibility. But let me assure you, it won’t be easy, and it may fail. The people of Gezi will not give up their freedom without a fight.

The eleventh line of defence

The eleventh line of defence

At dawn we inspected the defensive perimeter of Gezi Park. In reality, it’s not just the park and the square that are being occupied, but a huge chunk of central Istanbul. At all the exits, there are barricades. All the barricades are guarded day and night by people equipped with gas masks, helmets and walkie talkies. They communicate directly to the Commons.

On the main entrance to Taksim, there are no less than fourteen layers of barricades, built with construction materials, bricks, car wrecks etc. Some of these layers are so called ‘support barricades’, mostly made out of bricks, which are used to reinforce the main defenses, should they be in danger of ceding.

On the main road, police have been beaten back all the way to the waterside. Dozens of people were spending the night at the front line, to keep an eye on them.

We walk back to Taksim, the sun is up. In the park, while many are still sleeping, people everywhere have started the day, as usual, by cleaning up.

Early morning in Gezi Park

Early morning in Gezi Park

 

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