Revisiting Gezi Park protests on second anniversary

From environmental protests to violence, Turkey remembers the Gezi Park protests on its second anniversary

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Beginning as a demonstration over the environment, with concerned Istanbulites numbering in the dozens occupying Gezi Park to prevent the removal of the trees there, the Gezi Park protests later turned into a nationwide wave of protests against the Turkish government.

Timeline of Gezi Park protests

November 8, 2012:

Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas announced plans to undertake Taksim pedestrianisation project which included rebuilding of an Ottoman Artillery Barracks which had been demolished in 1940 in location of Gezi Park, shopping stores, mosque, and closure of Taksim Square to vehicles.

May 27, 2013:

Within the scope of the project, environmental recreation started in a small part of the Gezi Park.

A group of activists from Taksim Solidarity, a civil group formed against the project since it was introduced, gathered in Gezi Park to prevent the construction of the project and the removal of the trees from the park.

May 28, 2013:

Turkey’s then pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy of Istanbul Sirri Sureyya Onder supported the protestors and intervened to the removal of trees by getting on bulldozer which prevents police to take action against him due to his parliamentary immunity. (Photo AA)

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May 30, 2013:

Following the police intervention, the protesters began to camp in Gezi Park on Thursday. (Photo AA)

Later in the day, police tried to disperse the protesters from Gezi Park. An image of police spraying tear gas at a woman in a red dress spread around the world.

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May 31, 2013:

The police organised a dawn operation to disperse protesters from the Gezi Park which was subject of lively debate and a court case was filed later against then Istanbul Deputy Police Chief Ramazan Emekli accusing him of misconduct by giving the order of brutal intervention.

Footage of municipal security officers burning down the tents of protesters caused rage among the protesters. Following the incident, the Gezi Park protests turned into a nationwide wave of protests against the Turkish government with the claim of protesting police brutality. (Photo AA)

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In the following hours, the protests quickly spread to other Istanbul districts, from Besiktas to Kadikoy, and to other cities such as Ankara and Izmir.

Prominent Turkish business leaders, including Cem and Umit Boyner, announced their support for the protesters. 

In the afternoon, marginal groups quickly hijacked the protests, and the protesters vandalised police cars and businesses in and around Taksim. Clashes between the police and the protesters continued.

Illegal far left organisations were also involved including the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP) and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) causing vandalism and violence. (Photo AA)

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June 1, 2013:

The protests continued on Sunday as protesters damaged public property, vandalised police vehicles, broke shop windows and ATMs, and burned cars, as the aftermath of clashes revealed in the daylight. (Photo AA)

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The police started withdrawing from Taksim square in the afternoon and left the park to the protesters, but clashes continued in Besiktas where the protesters tried to enter the Office of Prime Ministry.

The attempt of entering the prime minister’s office strengthened the widespread belief among protesters to overthrow the government which caused a big wave of violent attacks around the neighborhood.

The protests became more violent as football team fan group Carsi of Besiktas stole a bulldozer involved in the construction of their team’s stadium in Besiktas. (Photo AA)

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June 2, 2013:

Then-president Abdullah Gul met with politicians of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and released a statement saying “the message of the protesters was received,” urging the public to remain calm.

Then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan left the country for a four-day official trip to Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria.

Clashes continued in Istanbul as well as Izmir and Ankara while protestors at Gezi Park enjoyed time off from clashes as police had left the Taksim area. (Photo AA - Ankara)

June 1 Gezi Ankara 3 AA.jpg


June 4, 2013:

Abdullah Gul met with Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc and BDP deputy Onder in separate meetings. Onder announced that the government and the protestors would hold discussions over the events ‘democratically.’

Bulent Arinc announced that 244 police officers and 60 protesters had been injured in the clashes.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said in a statement that  280 workplaces, 6 public buildings, 103 police vehicles, 207 private cars, a police station and 11 service buildings of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) were damaged due to the protests among Turkey.

June 5, 2013:

A group of six representatives from the Taksim Solidarity group met with Arinc, issuing their demands to the deputy prime minister. (Photo AA)

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 The group’s demands were as follows -from Taksim Solidarity’s press release:  

  • Taksim Gezi Park will not be re-developed under the name of Artillery Barracks or any other project; an official statement on the cancellation of the current project is made; the attempts to demolish Ataturk Cultural Centre will stop.

  • Every responsible agent for the thousands of injured people and two deaths, starting with the governors and the Police Chiefs of Istanbul, Ankara and Hatay and everyone who prevented the use of the most basic democratic rights of the people; who gave orders for violent repression, enforced or implemented these orders are dismissed from their posts,

  • The use of tear gas bombs and other similar materials is prohibited,

  • Detained citizens who attended  the resistance across the country are immediately released and an official statement will be released which declares that there will not be any investigation concerning them,

  • Starting with Taksim and Kizilay squares, all the meeting and demonstration bans affecting all of our squares and public areas and all the de facto blocks on demonstrations are abolished and barriers to freedom of expression are removed.

June 6, 2013:

A police commissioner died falling from a bridge while pursuing protesters in the southern province of Adana.

June 7, 2013:

Thousands of governing AK Party supporters went to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport to welcome then PM Erdogan on his arrival back from a four-day visit. (Photo AA)


June 8, 2013:

Football fans, led by Besiktas fan group Carsi, marched to the Taksim Square supporting the protesters. (Photo AA)

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 June 10, 2013:  

Deputy PM Arinc said representatives of the movement would meet with PM Erdogan on June 12.

Clashes continued in Turkey’s capital Ankara, especially around Kugulu Park and Kizilay Square as several CHP deputies joined protesters chanting anti-government slogans.

June 11, 2013:

The police returned to Taksim Square after leaving it for ten days to control the area while removing flags of marginal groups on main building and replacing it with Turkey’s flag.

The protesters used molotov cocktails, fireworks and stones against the police forces which sparked clashes again at the Square. (Photo AA)

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June 12, 2013:
PM Erdogan raised the possibility of bringing the issue of the demolition of Gezi Park to a referendum after meeting with a group of 11 people representing the protesters. (Photo AA)


 June 13, 2013:

PM also held a surprise meeting at midnight with 8 well-known artists and 2 names from the Taksim Solidarity movement at the Official Residence in Ankara.

The meeting resulted in a government statement saying it would comply with a court decision suspending the demolition of Gezi Park. (Photo AA)


June 14, 2013:

Turkish Health Ministry opened an investigation into the Istanbul Chambers of Medicine for operating a volunteer temporary health center at Gezi Park which violated the ministry regulations.

June 15, 2013:

Police moved in, clearing protesters from Gezi Park and ending the 19 day occupation of the park.  

The police began to stand guard at Taksim Square to prevent any possible gathering again. (Photo AA)

June 12 Gezi 2 Reuters.jpg

Costly aftermath of the protests

According to police analysis on Gezi Park protests, during the 112 day period between May 28 until the first week of September, 5,532 protests have been organized across all 81 provinces of Turkey with the only exception of Bayburt.

While approximately 3,600,000 people attended the protests, 5,513 were detained by the police. Within various investigations, 189 were arrested.

On the other hand, 4,329 protesters were wounded as 5 of them died while one police officer died and 697 officers were wounded.

Police authorities said, the approximate damage of Gezi Park protests costed 139 million Turkish liras (53 million US dollars), 74 million TL of it being the workplace property damage.

Other damage costs included police vehicles (15.5 million TL), pavements and municipal vehicles (10 million TL ), public and AKP related buildings (2 million TL), private vehicles (6 million TL), bus stops (4.3 million TL), billboards and traffic signs (4.1 million TL) and ambulances (2.8 million TL).

TRTWorld and agencies