The 2013 Gezi Park Protest and #resistgezi
The Gezi Park Protest in Istanbul was the most massive in the modern Turkish history. Although it was hailed as a ‘social media revolution’ by techno-centric researchers and techno-optimists, the roots of resistance can be traced to pre-social-media era whereby people still had reasons to go out and protest. Nevertheless, social media, especially Twitter served an informational function where TV channels were suppressed, as evidenced by the recent Twitter ban. The major hashtags were #direngezi which acted as a citizen journalism tool and its English version #resistgezi which targeted international audiences. This work analyzes the tweets with the hashtag #resistgezi.
The first #resistgezi tweet which is on June 1 refers to a letter published on CNN. The next set of tweets by a single user shares updates and pics from the protest scenes in Turkish and English. The day ends by a protest pic from Köln in support of police attacks in Istanbul as a response to Gezi Protests. In a few tweets on June 2 the content is diversified with posting an Anonymous video on Youtube in support of Gezi protestors and reporting from sites other than Istanbul. This day is also marked by a Brazilian netizen tweeting for Gezi and video share portraying a 76 year-old woman supporting the protestors. The first “Everyday I'm chapuling!!!” expression appears on June 5 and the next day witnesses the first tweet in a language other than Turkish and English. By June 7, the first tweet on protests at Izmir which is the third largest city in Turkey appears as well as the first documentary on Gezi protests. June 8 is the day for the first tweet in German and first one about the Canadian protests for support. On June 9, only half of the tweets are in English. This was a relatively peaceful period as the police had been retreated leaving Gezi Park to the protestors to set their free zone. However, the police attack on June 11 which is reflected as a spark in the number of tweets. On the other hand, it is noteworthy to see that almost all those tweets were secondhand accounts from the international newspapers rather than acts of citizen and mobile journalism on this day and the next day. The forced evacuation day (June 15) is one of the peaks of #resistgezi. It is unusual to see that only one of the tweets on this bloody day aims to draw attention of the international media (@CNN @BBCWorld @CTV_Television). The next day mostly involves the portrayal of the protest sites, while another tweet in Spanish appears although it is about the official demonstration against the Gezi protestors from a critical point of view. June 17 sees the first tweet in Italian as well as the inauguration of a new user account: @Resist_Gezi. This account although almost never uses #resistgezi hashtag has had more than 3,000 tweets with nearly a thousand followers. On June 18, an Argentinean user shows his/her support during the first day of the ‘stand still man’ protests. On the same day, new hashtags (#duranadam (stand still man), #kirmizilikadin (the woman in red), #siyahlikadin (the woman in black) appear as the symbols of the Gezi Resistance. On June 23, 2 tweets that bridge the resistance in Turkey and Brazil are seen as well as the first #resistgezi tweet in French. The remaining days of the month are not worthy of note.
July is a cold month for #resistgezi tweets, however July 5 can be noted as the day on which the first tweet in Dutch appeared and a number of those in German are posted. A tragic development of this month was the murder of a 19 year-old protestor (Ali Ismail Korkmaz) by police which was reflected in #resistgezi tweets. As the protests were on low, the tweets of this month mostly involved share of relevant websites, readings or videos of the past months. The only remarkable tweet about the protests was the one depicting Vienna protests for international solidarity.
In the next month, August 3 was the peaking day due to a single user (@echonia) that successfully reported the protests from Taksim with pics and tweets in English only. For all 3 months, the intended audience of the tweets was mostly unclear. It seems like the users tweeted for thin air. However, a tweet on August 13 is directly addressed to Brazil and South Korea: “Stop selling tear gas to Turkey. Government [sic] using extreme violence”.
September, a dead month starts by tweets that criticizes Istanbul’s 2020 Olympics bid. BICDA (the Solidarity Network for Information and Communication Workers) briefly enters the Twitter screen, although they could be expected to tweet more about Gezi. Just like September, the months until now (May 2014) are dead. The tweets on those months are rare, but they are consistent in terms of content: They are mostly about international protests (e.g. Barcelona, New York metro etc.) with images and motives from Gezi. The Amnesty International report is posted, while the first #resistgezi tweet in Swedish appears. A tweet refers to the METU (Middle East Technical University) protests while another taps the problematic Republican Day celebrations. At the end of the year, the protests moved to another direction as the recordings of corruption were released and this is reflected in #resistgezi tweets. The final #resistgezi tweet is a picture from May Day clashes in Turkey.
The main points about #resistgezi tweets have been presented above. This presentation shows that #resistgezi tweets did not serve the function of drawing attention of the international media or building up a pro-Gezi international public opinion. It was neither an exclusive set of protest reporting nor international campaigning. Although it is clear that tweets helped the protestors to organize by Turkish hashtags, the international tweets did not even reach the audience. This can be comparable with #occupygezi which is very active and comprehensive, capitalizing on the worldwide occupy movements which are organized as a configuration of global networks.