I lay with my legs stretched out, lifeless. The earth around me feels cold. If I could stand up I would see the waves of the Bosphorus and the view of the magnificient Golden Horn. But I can’t. I can only touch the spirit of Istanbul from where I am buried. I am surrounded by my fellow Armenians and by my Muslim neighbours. I have no knowledge of whats going to happen next. Now The Barracks of the Ottoman Artillery Corps rises on top of us. The earth around me stirs with blood.
It’s 1909, they call it the incident of March 31. An announcement of a military order to replace the religiously revered fez with westerner hat enrages the masses, some say its a provocation by the Committee of Union and Progress. It sparks massive riots in the streets that lasts for weeks, which are suppressed by the Ottoman Military. The barracks which serve as a headquarter for the riots are ruined by the artillery fire of the empire. When the dust settles the place strangely turns into a football field. Crowds of people come here to compete against one other. Belorussian people organize horse races, days of excitement and sportsmanship…
In the year 1940, under the government of the newly formed Turkish Republic, Prost a French architect and an urban planner, sets to work to design the city with modern ideals. He wants to create a vast city square that would give the public a breathing space. Taksim Square and Atatürk Cultural Centre defines the area. In later years multi national hotels damage the unity of this public sphere with their high rise buildings; gezi park, the old Armenian cemitary, the remaining gardens of the Artillery Barracks and the courtyard of the Mosque are still struggling to exist.
The year 1911 witnesses the first Workers’ day celebrations and 1977, the bloodiest, with thirty-seven people killed . Empires, Governments, Riots pass by as I lay buried in this earth which is now known as the Gezi Park. In recent years Gezi Park has been strongly desired by capital and the focus of neoliberal projects. On the other hand it also serves as a midpoint for social movements which are concerned with crimes against the city. There are all sorts reasons behind this. It’s a location with a living memory that encompasses all the different layers of the society. It’s a space saturated with images and symbols where resistance can take root and grow. Now the government is testing the boundaries and ignoring our mutual demands of preserving a historical public space by revoking the court order that halted the demolition of Gezi park in the order to construct an artillery barracks themed shopping mall.
One cannot predict the reactions of a rebellious public against a ruler who has distanced himself with social demands. Neoliberal policies that are governing the world we live in today are privatizing the public spaces and stripping away the possessions of the society. But two years ago we have seen a movement that brought people together to reclaim such a public space. People who refuse to give up their rights to the authority will continue to be seen in public spaces defending their rights to exist.