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Dec 07 2018

‘I was a Gezi protester too’

Thousands of Turkish people tweeted the hashtag #BenDeGeziciyim - “I was a Gezi Protester too” - after a Turkish court issued arrest warrants for journalist Can Dündar and actor Mehmet Ali Alabora as part of a crackdown on those involved in the 2013 Gezi Park protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations since the country’s Islamist ruling party came to power in 2002. 

Turkish prosecutors opened cases against 120 people in the last week of November and are investigating 600 more for their part in the protests after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called anyone taking part in the protests terrorists.

“I saw Gezi as the largest, the most peaceful resistance in Turkish history, I participated in the revolt of millions of people and supported them with my pen,” Dündar said in a written statement on Thursday. 

The former editor of the secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper, who now lives in Germany, was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison this year on charges of publishing secret state documents revealing alleged weapons shipments to Syria and still faces charges of helping an armed organisation. Dündar is now being accused by the prosecutors of acting as an agent attempting to influence people during Gezi protests.

The details of the Gezi Park investigation are still uncertain, as there is a confidentiality order over the file. But an official letter requesting arrest warrants sent by the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office to a court for the first time provided some information about the investigation.

“It is understood that the Gezi protests did not occur haphazardly, but were administered within an organisation, systematically and according to a plan and the real target of the protests that were presented as innocent events was to create an environment of chaos and turmoil across the country by spreading violence through terrorist organisations,” the prosecutors said. 

They said the protests were consciously guided by some people who were leading figures on the streets and on social media, who acted in an organised manner, and who also received support from international actors.

Groups that have similar opinions and aims as American investor and philanthropist George Soros and their extensions inside Turkey were the organisers of the protests, the prosecutors said. 

The chief prosecutor’s application to the court also named Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in jail for more than a year, as the main arrested suspect of the Gezi Park case. 

The application said Kavala tried to establish a private television channel to support the events in the media and guided civil society organisations such as the Taksim Solidarity Initiative, a group formed mainly by architects and city planners to oppose the government’s plans to build a shopping mall on the Istanbul park. 

Kavala’s main aim was to force the government to resign, the prosecutors said, adding that, if that did not happen, the businessman also planned to create an environment for armed intervention and civil war, and even envisaged intervention by foreign countries. 

Protestors gesture as they stand in front of various objects set on fire during a demonstration in Ankara, early on June 3, 2013. /AFP)
Protestors gesture as they stand in front of various objects set on fire during a demonstration in Ankara, early on June 3, 2013. AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN

The prosecutors also accused actor Alabora of starting the organisation of the Gezi protests in 2011. Alabora met Serbian Ivan Marovic from an organisation called Otpor in 2012 in Turkey and Egypt for that purpose, they said. 

A play titled “Mi Minör” staged by Alabora and written by Meltem Arıkan was also part of the efforts to organise the Gezi protests, the prosecutors said. 

Architect Mücella Yapıcı, a member of the Taksim Solidarity Initiative, was questioned by prosecutors last week. She told Deutsche Welle Turkish that the government was trying to distract people’s attention with the investigation ahead of the local elections in March. 

“We cannot see the case file as it is confidential. But it is absurd to see the newspaper reports include things that we were not asked during the interrogations,” she said. 

“The Gezi resistance was the best thing that happened to this country; they were the most beautiful days of our lives. You cannot erase them even if you want to and you cannot change history with sell-out prosecutors,” journalist Metin Cihan said, joining those on social media protesting the investigation.

“I was there on its first day, I followed it every day and wrote. I am happy if I could have helped voice the demands of the people and reported them. Everything can be found in open sources,” journalist Mehveş Evin said.

 

“I say with honour and pride that I was a Gezi protestor too and I was there everyday. If it happens today again, I will be there with my heart and soul,” said actor Barış Atay, who is also a deputy in parliament representing the Workers’ Party of Turkey.

“Gezi is the most honourable, most dignified movement that the country has ever seen. It did not have a leader, instructions, interests, it was only for the dignity of the people. Even if you divide yourself into two, open 500 investigations, you will never manage to put a stain on it. The history will write about you with damnation,” another protestor said in a very popular tweet.