In June 2013, a wave of protests that have come to be known as the Gezi protests swept through Turkey. The Turkish political scene, unacquainted with this type of protest, had difficulty interpreting the events of Gezi protests. What had begun as a low-key protest against the urban planning project which included cutting down the trees at Taksim’s Gezi Park – and fueled by the use of excessive police force and the administration’s misdiagnosis of the events – turned into a wide-spread movement in a short period of time. During the three weeks the protests continued, the composition of the protesters, as well as their motivation and justification, evolved. Protestors, who were initially mobilized out of environmental concerns, were soon joined by diverse groups whose contradictory motivations could not be reconciled. New waves of protestors ranged from those who sought to become political actors to those who were angered by having lost their status as political actors; from those who demanded a more participatory democracy to those who felt threatened by Turkey’s democratization; from those who wanted to make their voices heard to those who wanted to oust a democratically elected government.
The Political Reverberations of the Gezi Protests
Although a lot has been said about the Gezi protests, analyses of the events consistently failed on two particular issues. First, in their efforts to analyze the dynamics behind the protests, analysts failed to distinguish the immediate triggers of the demonstrations from the more rooted causes of discontent. Second, the diverse and transforming makeup of the protesters was overlooked. The underlying assumption was that Gezi protesters were a homogenous group even as the crowds increased during the course of the demonstrations. This article offers an alternative perspective in analyzing the makeup and the motivation of the protesters.
Protesters hold molotov cocktails in Taksim square in Istanbul during clashes between riot police and demonstators. AFP / Aris Messinis
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