the dawn of the end, turkey's democratic aspirations demise
The protest movement in Gezi Park began as part of a long-term campaign against the planned destruction of the park, one of the last green spaces in the centre of Istanbul as part of a plan to redevelop the Taksim area. Initially led by architects, urban planners, artists and academics, the Gezi protest movement denounced the AKP's initiatives as showing little respect for the common good and the diversity of ways of living in the city.June 8th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
In 2013, for the first time, the Turkish authorities were up against a contestation that went beyond the traditional framework of a left-wing protest linked to demands from the Kurdish community. The years that followed were characterised by a shift towards a tightening of security and a hardening of power embodied by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister and then President of Turkey. Beginning in Gezi Park in the spring of 2013, what was initially a modest sit-in by a few dozen environmental activists suddenly turned into a real challenge for the Turkish government.
The first weeks of the occupation of the Square and the park was the richest in previously unseen political connections and closeness. It was a time when traditional political boundaries and oppositions were temporarily suspended, as symbolised by the variety of banners carried by the demonstrators, decorating Taksim Square or hanging from the front of the Atatürk Cultural Centre. Some of these components of the radical left, often through their youth organisations, were heavily involved in the physical defence of Taksim Square. June 8th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
More than 2.5 million people took part in the movement in over 80 cities, the protesters represented almost every political spectrum in the country, with the exception of supporters of the ruling AKP party. The ensuing crackdown left a lasting impression on civil society. Since then, public freedoms have been reduced to a shred. From 2014 onwards, the political and security climate became increasingly tense. The establishment of an autonomous Syrian Kurdistan was seen as an existential danger. Long ambivalent or even compliant towards ISIS -viewing the PKK and Syrian Kurdish forces as the main threat- Turkey suffered an unprecedented campaign of terror in 2015 and 2016.
Many demonstrators have been victims of police violence, as were journalists. Doctors assisting the injured and lawyers have also been arrested. The Turkish authorities have also targeted shopkeepers who have come to the aid of protestors fleeing the violence. But let's not forget that all the 'martyrs' of the resistance were struck far, or even very far, from Gezi Park, firstly in the outskirts of the city, neglected in the mainstream narrative, and secondly in the strongholds of radical left-wing organisations, both legal and illegal, which had little presence in Gezi Park in the early days of the revolt.. June 11th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
The government then squashed most of its opponents (democrats, academics, writers, journalists, human rights activists, etc.) and, in the south-east, many Kurdish-majority towns were the target of large-scale military operations following failed PKK initiatives to develop urban guerrilla warfare. The last remaining hopes for democratic and social change in Turkey vanished. Since then, the opposition has been doing its best to exist and assert itself, but the AKP then controlled most of the counter-powers in a country where a simple critical message on social networks can land a person in prison.
Gezi Park and Taksim Square, which was next to the park, became the sites for the construction of a new public space for democratic deliberation through the construction of park forums. This resistance quickly spread to other cities and parks in Turkey, and for months there was a convergence of struggles in the post-Gezi period, following the repression of the occupation of the park. The short-lived spirit of Gezi consisted in bringing together very different political sensibilities and social backgrounds in a common opposition to Erdogan. June 7th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
While the protest around Gezi Park is undoubtedly a landmark in the history of struggles in Turkey, the coalitions and associations behind this protest have their origins in earlier campaigns against urban projects such as the pedestrianisation of Taksim Square (2011) and the destruction of an emblematic cinema on Istiklal Avenue (2013). Also the symbolic role played by Taksim Square in the Turkish protest imagination should not be overlooked, reinforced by the bans on holding demonstrations during the May Day celebrations in 2013. Not to mention a whole raft of local measures aimed at restricting alcohol consumption in the area. However few predicted that the mere defence of the trees in Gezi Park would turn into a regime crisis. June 11th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
A cross-section of the population took to the streets, #OccupyGezi spread on Twitter, and the big cities echoed with the rallying cries of the demonstrators, many of them young and previously not much concerned with politics. From the very beginning of the demonstrations, the police made disproportionate use of water cannon, pepper gas and tear gas. In most cases, these weapons were used to disperse peaceful demonstrators, rather than as a targeted response to individual or collective acts of violence. Countless cases of abuse have been shown on television and in numerous videos posted on the Internet and shared via social networks. June 11th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
Born in 1982, Çarşı is the main supporters' group of Beşiktaş football club, one of Istanbul's three historic clubs along with Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe. Centred on the district whose name it bears, Beşiktaş ̧ boasts its own identity. Its supporters like to call it "the people's team". Çarşı has a much wider reach than that of a simple supporters' group: humanitarian actions, opposition to racism, fascism and sexism, concern for social justice and defence of the environment. Its members played a central role during the Gezi events. Used to confrontations with the authorities, some of them actively participated in the uprisings against Erdogan. June 19th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
The most striking feature of the movement was its spontaneity. People from all backgrounds flocked to Taksim to express their support for the peaceful activists in Gezi Park, their rejection of the arrogance of those in power and their attachment to basic freedoms, which were being called into question. This strength of the movement is also its weakness. It is true that the opposition to the government has momentarily been able to make people hope for the possibility of a common front. For no political alternative is emerging. This indecision persisted and the protest movement eventually dissolved. The authorities regained control. June 22nd, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
There is now a new form of peaceful protest in Turkey. It all started on an early morning a few days after the police operations to clear Taksim Square: one man stood in the middle of the square, facing the AKM building and stayed there for long hours. He was quickly dubbed the “Duranadam”, the Standing Man. Gradually, people joined, silent, motionless, with a serious look on their faces facing Turkish flags and the portrait of Atatürk ironically put back there by the AKP. June 18th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
After the police clean-up of Gezi Park and Taksim Square on 12 June 2013 and the shift to a more fragmented configuration of the mobilisation - with each neighbourhood invited to form its own Gezi in the form of a self-managed forum - several agoras were formed where thousands of people met every evening in public parcs. There were only two out of 81 provinces in Turkey where no pro-Gezi demonstrations took place. June 19th, 2013 - Istanbul (Turkey)
Tens of thousands of Turks accompanied Berkin Elvan's red coffin from the cemevi - a place of worship for the Alevi minority - to the Fenerköy cemetery. Like a spark, the boy's death rekindled the Turkish anger that had been simmering since the huge Gezi protests. Since June 2013, eight people have died during the Gezi protests, five of them as a result of police brutality. No one responsible has yet been brought to justice. All these victims belong to the Alevi or Alawite minorities, two liberal branches of Islam classed as left-wing, who suffer discrimination in a country governed by the Sunni majority. March 11th, 2014 - Istanbul (Turkey)
Berkin Elvan went out to buy bread on 16 June 2013. Istanbul was vibrant with the Gezi uprising against the authoritarian drift of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. It was 7 o'clock in the morning. Downstairs at the family flat in the working-class suburb of Okmeydani, night-time clashes between demonstrators and special security forces were continuing. The teenager never returned home. After 269 days in a coma, Berkan died at the age of 15. Berkin Elvan has become a symbol of police impunity. March 11th, 2014 - Istanbul (Turkey)
A suicide bomber struck the predominantly Kurdish town of Suruç, around ten kilometres from the Syrian border, killing 34 people and injuring over a hundred. The explosion, which occurred in the middle of the day, caused devastation in the gardens of the Amara cultural centre, where almost 300 Kurdish activists had gathered. These young people, most of them in their twenties and from Ankara, Istanbul and Diyarbakir, were about to leave to help rebuild Kobane, Syria's third-largest Kurdish town, which was destroyed this winter by fighting between the Islamic State (EI) and Syrian Kurdish militias. July 20th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey)
Tülin G. (in the middle of the photo), slightly injured, left the scene of the attack and sought help, while others around him tried to escape. Attributed to the Islamic State group, but never claimed, this attack played a crucial role in the deterioration of the situation in this region of Turkey. This is the first major attack perpetrated on Turkish soil by the Islamic State since the terrorist organisation came to the limelight in Syria and Iraq, where it controls large areas of territory. Just before the explosion, militants and activists were chanting political slogans and showing their support for the Syrian Kurds' fight against the Islamic State troops, who had been defeated a few weeks earlier during the siege of the martyred town of Kobane, not far from there. July 20th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey)
The people of Suruç began evacuating the injured before the doctors could reach the scene of the terrorist attack. The first injured were evacuated in ambulances to the local hospital. The first victims were treated in the small local hospital, which quickly became overwhelmed. Medical students were called in to make up for the shortage of staff to deal with such an emergency. July 20th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey)
In accordance with Muslim tradition, the people of Suruç brought coffins to evacuate the bodies of the victims and prepare their funerals for the following day, if possible. The very next day, the ceasefire that had been in force for several years between the PKK and the Turkish army was shattered and, from reprisals to attacks, the daily lives of the Kurdish population rapidly deteriorated. This attack was the first in a long list and foreshadowed the campaign of curfews and destruction of Kurdish towns. July 20th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey)
In the Sur district, children are jumping in the Tigris river that like the other major river in the region, the Euphrates, this river has its source in Turkey. The neighbourhood of Diyarbakir, Turkey's main city in Kurdistan has been cut in half for almost 3 months. In the open part, the inhabitants are trying as best they can to live normally, but the traces of the fighting or confrontations are omnipresent in the maze of alleyways in Diyarbakir's historic district. March 1st, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
The police use tear gas when several thousand people gathered in the centre of the city of Diyarbakir, the capital of Turkish Kurdistan, to call for the lifting of the siege of the old city of Sur, which has been going on for several months now. The demonstration is taking place in a tense security climate as numerous attacks have mourned Turkey and Turkish civil society is regularly under pressure from the Turkish authorities. February 27th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey).
Several thousand people gathered in the centre of the city of Diyarbakir, the capital of Turkish Kurdistan, to call for the lifting of the siege of the old city of Sur, which has been going on for several months now. The demonstration is taking place in a tense security climate as numerous attacks have mourned Turkey and Turkish civil society is regularly under pressure from the Turkish authorities. February 27th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey).
In 2015, the breakdown of peace negotiations between the Turkish authorities and the Kurdish rebellion led to a resumption of fighting. By opting for an urban offensive, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) hoped for a general uprising in Eastern Anatolia, which did not materialise. Several towns in Turkish Kurdistan suffered the consequences of fierce fighting and relentless repression. March 2nd, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey).
Since 2 March 2016, the inhabitants of Cire, who had fled the fighting between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces, have been allowed to come and witness the disaster, to salvage what can still be salvaged. In the unrecognisable streets, some found the wreckage of their homes, inspecting them for a few miraculously intact belongings. March 2nd, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey).
Tired of decades of war, the population of predominantly Kurdish towns has not followed the PKK in its escalation. Since then, the Turkish grip has not loosened. Legalist parties such as the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) are in the judicial eye, and a heavy blanket has once again fallen over eastern Anatolia. March 11th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey).
Cizre had a population of 130,000 in December 2015. Launched on Monday 14 December, the curfew permanently imposed on the town and the military operations led by the Turkish armed forces against PKK positions have driven out the majority of the population. No reliable human toll is available for the fighting that took place here behind closed doors for two months. March 2nd, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey).
Cizre became a "martyr city" for Turkey's Kurds. The town was destroyed by fighting between PKK separatists and Turkish security forces. The state of destruction in some neighbourhoods reflects the violence of the clashes. Cizre, the symbol of the new insurrectionary doctrine that the PKK has been experimenting with since the summer in several towns in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish south-east, has fallen. March 10th, 2016 - Suruç (Turkey).
After the police attacked a gathering of a few hundred people, clashes erupted for several hours in the centre of the main city of Turkish Kurdistan. The demonstrators protested against the 85th day of the curfew in Sur, the old town's neighbourhood, which is closed under strict military control. The explosion now marks the inhabitants' days. February 24th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
For many years the Turkish authorities have regularly destroyed neighbourhoods in Sur to fight the PKK. The neighbourhood of Sur in Diyarbakir has been cut in half for almost 3 months. In the open part, the inhabitants try as best they can to live normally, but the marks of fighting or confrontation are omnipresent in the maze of alleys in the historic district of Diyarbakir. March 13th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
In the Sümer park of Diyarbakir a democratic prayer on Friday is organized in the presence of Selahattin Demirtas, co-president of the opposition Kurdish party (HDP). This prayer was organised as part of a campaign of civil disobedience and passive resistance to protest against the total curfew that is affecting part of the historic district of Sur, where regular fighting has been going on for almost three months between PKK rebels and Turkish army forces. March, 4th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
The Turkish authorities finally allowed the residents of Cevran Pasa in the Sur district to return home. Occasionally, ambulances were also able to evacuate the bodies of young Kurdish youth who were waiting in another part of the city. The relatives of the deceased were then warned and mourn their dead in a room of a cultural centre in Sur in Diyarbakir. March, 13th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
In Diyarbakir, the Kurds of Turkey gathered to celebrate the Kurdish New Year in a tense security context as curfews multiply in the cities of south-eastern Turkey. Only a few hundred thousand people are present, whereas in previous years the crowd numbered in the millions. March, 21th, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)
Kurds from the Silvan region wanted to visit the town of Cizre, which witnessed 78 days of fighting between PKK militants and the Turkish army. The charismatic co-president of the HDP Selahattin Demirtas wished to visit the city - opened and returned to its population on 2 March 2016 - for the Newroz Kurdish New Year celebrations. These celebrations take place in a tense security context as many attacks have mourned Turkey and Turkish civil society is regularly under pressure from the Turkish authorities. The Turkish army blocked the road and prevented the Demirtas delegation from going to Cizre. March, 22nd, 2016 - Diyarbakir (Turkey)