This morning my head was filled with pictures from bloody people, teargas clouds and a destroyed city. Headlines like “War-zone Taksim” buzzed around my head. I expected to see a wasted no man’s land once I would enter the Taksim-Area.
Quite the opposite happened.
The Iskele Caddesi is a famous shopping street in Istanbul. It connects the ancient Galata tower with one of the city’s hearts: The Taksim Square. Iskele Caddesi is an adventure itself. The street is everyday busier as any street I have seen my entire life. Amongst the thousands of people strolling on that street a tram is passing. Already in a normal day I find it a miracle that everybody survives walking that street. When I heard the protests passed by it I was sure the relatively narrow street would be destroyed. Indeed there are some smashed shop-windows and a few destroyed ATM’s. But Berlin looks worse after every first of May.
As I continued walking the street towards Taksim there were more and more graffiti claiming Erdogans resignation. The first thing I saw at the square, coming from Iskele Caddesi, was a redecorated monument.
Next, I noticed that there a fewer cars than usual which is quite handy if you try to pass the square as a pedestrian. The entrance to the Gezi-Park is now edged by two car wracks. That sounds scarier than it is. In the bright sunshine the burnt out and sprayed cars serve as tourist attraction. Since their is no waste or police around it feels a little like being on a movie set.
The feeling continued once I entered the park. The movie could be called “Revolutionary-Dreams”. The park was very clean and sunny. I couldn’t see any waste around so the stories about protesters cleaning up must be true. At an improvised kiosk people donated and arranged free food.Nearly every tree I saw had an “identity-card” where the name of the tree and some information about it were written. I was surprised that not even the flower-beds are trampled down.
Deeper in the park around 200, maybe 300 people were assembled. Something like a demonstration or a speakers corner was going on. Different people said something, the other people were listening and after a while they all started to clap and shout together. As in the last days I was surprised by the people’s age. Hardly anyone there iwas over 30. Some even came in their school uniform. Boys and girls, wearing a headscarf, not wearing a headscarf: the crowd was really mixed.
Everywhere else in the park people sat in groups and talked, read or relaxed. I joint on of the groups and asked if the people have been that young the other days, too. “Yes, of course” is the answer. A girl with a rainbow flag around her body told me that the last days have been more peaceful than people who followed the media think. She has been at Taksim the whole time and helped to clean up every now and then. Rumors about burnt down trees aren’t right for sure. At least at Gezi-Park I couldn’t see any.
Also I didn’t saw any police. It seems to be true that they were recalled from Taksim-Area. Even at Iskele Caddesi, where usally at least two police units are based I didn’t saw a single police man. On my way back at the Iskele Caddesi I met the next spontaneous demonstration in direction Taksim square. Since all of the protester still wore their school uniforms it looked like they came directly from there. The crowd sang “Bella Ciao” rather badly.
As I said, I expected a war-zone. Therefor I was more than surprised to the the peaceful atmosphere. It’s time to find out how this has been in the last days. For the following days I plan to speak with as many people who have been there or want to say anything else about it as possible. Is there any question you have? Something I can pass along to Gezi-Park?