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Gezi Park: Negotiating a New Left Identity

Unknown to most of the world only a month ago, Gezi Park –the epicenter of Turkey’s June 2013 protests- has rapidly emerged as a historic site for the country’s democracy. During the course of events, many observers almost exclusively concentrated on young, politically unaffiliated citizens who took the streets for the first time in their lives. However, the movement was really an amorphous whole whose members identify with the Left in the broadest sense of the term. As such, the Gezi Park protests represent a critical juncture in the history of the Turkish Left and a call to existing political parties to reinvent their platform in order to accommodate the demands of underrepresented groups including liberals, the LGBT community and environmentalists.

Gezi Park Negotiating a New Left Identity
Demonstrators posing on the burned public bus. EPA
 

If anyone claimed that what began as a minor protest at Istanbul’s Taksim Square on May 27, 2013 would develop into one of the greatest challenges to the Justice and Development Party’s decade-long tenure, they would be discredited as delusional and uninformed. However, more than a month of protests effectively put the movement’s influence beyond dispute. More important, however, was that the mass reaction to the police’s disproportionate use of force against peaceful activists on May 31st evolved into one of the most interesting political experiments in the Republic’s 90-year history, as people from all Left convictions camped out at Gezi Park and (perhaps for the first time ever) talked to each other about the country’s future and their expectations. For nearly two weeks following the governor’s decision to withdraw police forces from the Taksim area, Gezi Park was home to an amorphous group of people including LGBT activists, Kemalist hardliners,

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