The battle of Gezi – the battle for freedom

June 21, 2013 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Yesterday the sky fell down on Gezi park in Istanbul. The tense atmosphere that has been lingering for in the air was crystallized in the form of police batons, rubber bullets and teargas canons. With violence and hatred, the police forced the demonstrators out of their tents and gassed the crowds away from the Taksim Square. Bulldozers followed in the footsteps of the police and razed the tent camp to the ground.


I am in Istanbul as a delegate at Al Gore’s climate leader program, ClimateLeaderTraining. Together with some 600 other climate leaders from 94 different countries, I’ve spent the weekend learning to teach others. 

We’ve discussed, debated and documented new tools with which to spread our message and inspire even more people to global leadership. We have been trained to create a popular movement in order to create a green revolution.


At the same time, outside the conference center, there is another revolution. On May 28 a spark was ignited in Turkey. For some time Turkish citizens had gathered in a sit-down protest in Gezi park as a protest against Prime Minister Erdogan’s and the Turkish government’s decision to raze the park in order to build yet another shopping mall in its place. Later on Tuesday May 28 the police entered the park and with ordered brutality they broke the peaceful silence and woke the population.


Since then the movement has grown. The sit-down protest grew into an occupation of the park.

The protests grew into a revolution. Gezi park is a symbol for democracy, freedom and green commons that the Turkish people want to keep and develop. The planned razing represents Prime Minister Erdogan’s systematic demolition of the people’s freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom from a religiously based political ruling.

Last night the sky fell down on the Gezi park. I went out of the conference centre, away from the lectures and flaming speeches. I was met by the revolution, by destruction and flaming fires.

The tear gas hit me like a wall of broken glass. Everything blends into one. In the distance I hear the sound of shots and sirens blending into a symphony of worry. My heart starts racing.

Suddenly we ran. I don’t know why, I don’t know where, but we all ran, all together. The tear gas made everything hazy. Blurred gasmasks and yellow hardhats ran in the corner of my eyes, while the crowd kept shouting and chanting. The police shot, beat and pushed the people away from the park they fought so hard to save. But the people kept shouting, kept chanting, kept fighting.

Then it struck me. Everything is connected. The protests here in Istanbul, the Arab Spring, the Occupy-movement and the fight against climate change. The fight for freedom.

When the first shots are fired it is easy to just close your eyes. Shut your eyes and stop thinking, just breathe. It’s OK to be scared, we’ve all been there, we all close our eyes from time to time. But it’s important to open your eyes at the end, to dare to think, reflect and finally act against the evil we hear and see. Just like the protest movement in Turkey fighting for their Gezi park, just like the democracy movements during the Arab Spring who fought against their oppression, just like what we have to fight against climate change with our eyes open.

Research show that if only some 10% of a population share a strong conviction, the rest will eventually share that belief and commitment. So even if a majority oppress and pollute, a minority can make a difference. We’ve seen it before and we will see it again with our eyes open.


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This post was written by Kitty Ehn

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