This summer marks the eighth anniversary of the Gezi Uprisings; in late May and early June 2013, the call for “resistance everywhere!” that reverberated across the country opened up new dissident visions of Turkey. As Selin Bengi Gumrukcu notes in her contribution to this roundtable, Gezi’s anniversary is noted by both the AKP government and by oppositional forces—obviously, with very different valences and for very different reasons. More generally, as Aslı Bâli reminds us in her response, 2021 marks a year of anniversaries for uprisings across the region: from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Yemen to Syria and beyond.
The importance of marking these anniversaries, and of analyzing the state of these uprisings ten years on, goes without saying. But the commemoration of an anniversary is not without its dangers. Particularly when it comes to forms of popular revolts such as the Gezi Uprisings, even the act of celebrating an anniversary can be a way of freezing it in time and locking it into the past: an event that happened but is now over. So perhaps, rather than marking the anniversary of Gezi, we should wish it a happy birthday: born in the summer of 2013, now eight years old and growing up into an uncertain future.
In this roundtable, “Afterlives of Gezi: Repression, Resistance, and Governance in Turkey,” we have asked the contributors and respondents to reflect on the continuing effects of the Gezi Uprisings. But in asking us to attend to the “afterlives of Gezi,” this roundtable should not be understood as simply marking a commemoration of Gezi as an “event” in the past; rather, it should be understood as an attempt to contribute to the continuance of its spirit into the present and the future.
The title of this roundtable offers three keywords for thinking about Gezi’s afterlives: repression, resistance, and governance. Uprisings such as Gezi are followed by many things in their wake; one of them, all too often, are the violent counterrevolutionary measures carried out by the state and its supporters.
Evren Altinkas, in his contribution “From Gezi to Boğaziçi: It Is Not Only About the Trees,” focuses on one aspect of this post-Gezi repression: the brutal suppression of academic freedom and the attempt of the state to create what Altinkas calls an “embedded academy.” While many accounts of academic repression in Turkey begin with the massive state purge of academics that followed the petition “We Will Not Be a Party to This Crime!” in 2016, Altinkas reminds us that this repression began much earlier, initially against those who participated in or publicly supported the Gezi Uprisings: indeed, as he notes, approximately 800 academics were forced to resign from their positions between September 2013 and December 2014.
Selin Bengi Gumrukcu, in her contribution “The Aftermath of the Gezi Park Protests: Rising Populism and Mobilization for Autocracy,” invites us to understand the Gezi uprisings not as a single “unprecedented event” but rather as a cycle of protests that managed to challenge the previously uninterrupted hegemony of the AKP government. The state, however, was able to turn a crisis into an opportunity, using two particular techniques—the rhetorical vilification of protesters (a technique at which President Erdoğan excels) and the organizing of top-down “counter-protests” by government supporters. Gumrukcu sees the result as the creation of a novel form of governance, signaled by new forms of populist rhetoric and the stated aim of “taming” the streets.
However, oppositional movements have also been able to turn crises into opportunities for the creation of new forms of resistance. Both Altinkas and Gumrukcu note the emergence of powerful protests by students, faculty, and their supporters at Boğaziçi University this year. Sumercan Bozkurt-Gungen, in “Two Strands of Anti-authoritarianism in Turkey and the Legacy of the Gezi Uprising,” focuses squarely on how the aftermaths of Gezi have fed into emergent anti-authoritarian political imaginaries. Anti-authoritarian forces who see the repression of the Gezi Uprisings as part of a continuous move by the AKP to consolidate authoritarian power have forced the opposition away from a desire to “go back” to a more innocent political era of the previous decade and instead to move forward into a different future.
“The challenge for the anti-authoritarian front,” Bozkurt-Gungen concludes, “is to build a concerted opposition embracing various demands and opening avenues for alternative political projects.” The ongoing protests at Boğaziçi, the recent protests organized by feminist and LGBTQ+ movements following the government’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, and the unremitting struggles of the Kurdish movement might all be seen as the continuation of the anti-authoritarian strand of resistance that remains among Gezi’s most important legacies.
The roundtable concludes with responses by Aslı Bâli and Reem Abou-El-Fadl, who in different ways each combine a sober analysis of the present with a reminder of the power of popular uprisings and their capacity, in Abou-El-Fadl’s words, “to create moments when revolutions become ‘thinkable.’”
We end this introduction by noting one additional anniversary: June 2013 marked the launch of Jadaliyya’s Turkey Page. We launched the page in the midst of, and in solidarity with, the Gezi Uprisings. Here in the summer of 2021, we offer this roundtable in the same spirit.
Read the articles in the roundtable here:
- Ayça Çubukçu and Anthony Alessandrini, "Editors’ Introduction: Afterlives of Gezi: Repression, Resistance, and Governance in Turkey"
- Evren Altinkas, “From Gezi to Boğazici: It Is Not Only About the Trees”
- Selin Bengi Gumrukcu, “The Aftermath of the Gezi Park Protests: Rising Populism and Mobilization for Autocracy”
- Sumercan Bozkurt-Gungen, “Two Strands of Anti-authoritarianism in Turkey and the Legacy of the Gezi Uprising”
- Aslı Bâli, "Gezi’s Eighth Anniversary: Reflections on the Roundtable"
- Reem Abou-El-Fadl, "Mirror Images: A Decade on from Gezi and Tahrir in Turkey and Egypt"