On March 1st, Sunday, we went to Taksim Square and met with Muge Yorganci. She is the Urban Design Projects Supervisor at Dome Mimarlık. She gave us a very extensive tour around the Taksim square, introducing us the historic and political importance of this city center. The statute at the middle of the square marks the establishment of the Republic of Turkey and it is almost the last public space of the city where people can convene and demonstrate their political inquiries. During the tour and while we were having tea at the Gezi Park, a beautiful green space right next to Taksim square, she elaborated the political protest that happened last year.
The prime minister of Turkey, Erdogan, announced a decision for replacing Gezi Park to an ottoman styled shopping mall in May 2013. It would be a mixed-used cultural and financial center with the incorporation of residential buildings. People are surprised and angry about this top-down and un-consulted decision. They convened at the Gezi Park and protest. The peaceful and quite protest attracted more and more citizens. The police ended up using tear gas and other violence forces to suppress the protesters.
I find this tour very powerful. It was the first time for me to hear from someone who has experienced a major political demonstration, someone who feels so strongly about something that she would risk her safety and reputation to speak up for the cause she believed in.
This tour is also very relevant to my research topic. Media often play an important role during political uprisings. I asked her questions about how the media reported on the construction decision before the Gezi Park, and the Gezi Park protest. From her words, I found out that quite many mainstream media groups are involved in business with the government. They distorted the situation and neglecting the substantial issue of the Gezi Park protest.