Gezi Park Protests / Turkish Spring 2013

Protesters help create a barricade in Taksim, Istanbul during Gezi Park protests
Wikimedia Commons

GEZI PARK PROTESTS – Grassroots Activism in Turkey

For decades, Gezi Park in Istanbul has been a symbol of urban green space and a sanctuary amidst the bustling city. However, in 2013, this peaceful park became the epicenter of a nationwide movement, the Gezi Park Protests, that shook Turkey and sparked international attention.

The Gezi Park Protests were ignited by government plans to demolish the park and replace it with a shopping mall and replica of an Ottoman-era barracks. What began as a local environmental issue quickly evolved into a broader movement, addressing concerns about urban development, freedom of expression, and government accountability.

On May 28, 2013, a small group of environmentalists gathered in Gezi Park to peacefully protest the tree removal. As the police responded with excessive force, the protests swelled in size and scope. Thousands of people from diverse backgrounds joined in, setting up tents and occupying the park.


a banner hung among the trees in the Gezi Park, expressing the spirit of the resistance
Wikimedia Commons

What were the demands and key issues in the Gezi Park Protests? 

The Gezi Park protests were not just about saving trees; they were a cry for social and political change. The protesters' demands included:

1. Preservation of Gezi Park: The primary demand was to halt the park's destruction and maintain it as public green space.

2. Freedom of Expression: The government's authoritarian response to the protests raised concerns about freedom of speech and press freedom.

3. Police Brutality: The excessive use of force by the police was a significant issue, leading to severe injuries and even fatalities among protesters.

4. Government Accountability: Many protesters accused the government of ignoring public opinion and serving the interests of corporations.

Why are the Gezi Park Protests important?

The Power of Social Media: One defining aspect of the Gezi Park protests was the role of social media. Activists used platforms like Twitter and Facebook to spread information, organize protests, and document police brutality. The hashtag #OccupyGezi went viral, drawing global attention.

Solidarity Across Borders:The Gezi Park protests received international support and solidarity. Protests and rallies were organized in various cities worldwide to denounce the Turkish government's actions and express support for the protesters' demands.

Outcome and Legacy: Although the government eventually cleared the park and quelled the protests, the Gezi Park movement left a lasting impact. The protests sparked a new era of activism and political engagement among young people. Concerns about media freedom in Turkey gained international attention and scrutiny. The diverse group of protesters demonstrated that people from different backgrounds could unite for a common cause. Ecology-related demands have created a huge political mobilization.

Continuing Activism: While Gezi Park itself was not entirely saved, the spirit of the protests lives on in various forms of activism and advocacy for environmental conservation, civil liberties, and government accountability in Turkey.

The Gezi Park protests serve as a testament to the power of grassroots movements and the determination of individuals to protect their rights, green spaces, and the values they hold dear. They remind us that the fight for a better society often begins with a single park and a united voice.


Peaceful daytime demonstrations in Taksim Gezi Park
Wikimedia Commons

Who are the “Gezi prisoners”?

The imprisonment of 7 people known as the “Gezi prisoners of conscience” in 2022 remains one of the gravest examples of the worsening human rights situation in Turkey today. The continued detention of Gezi prisoners Osman Kavala, Mücella Yapıcı, Çiğdem Mater, Mine Özerden, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, and Hakan Altınay clearly demonstrates the dire human rights situation in Turkey.

Today, rights defenders facing heavy penalties for exercising their right to non-violent and peaceful protest against the authoritarian regime and policies have become symbolic figures in the Gezi Park protests' struggle for human rights in Turkey. Civil society organizations and human rights defenders in Turkey continue to support the Gezi Park protests and the Gezi prisoners to keep the spark that the Gezi Park protests ignited alive, and to move Turkey to a better position in terms of human rights.

Our platform provides general information in our Gezi Park Protests 2013 section about this historical struggle. You can also access some photos and videos from this section, which show the power of nonviolence. The news portals that monitored the protests, information about NGOs & Unions which were active during the protests, publications related to Gezi Park and the protests, articles assessing the protest, and our useful links can also be found in the same section. 

Author: Huseyin & Merve 18.09.23

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