Following a wild weekend of protests, we ventured up to Gezi Park on Sunday to see how things were going. The police had pulled out, leaving Taksim Square wholly in the hands of the people. Thousands had gathered around the square, and a festive atmosphere had settled in. We saw hundreds of volunteers cleaning up the trash and broken glass which had accumulated over the weekend, and others, less civic-minded, posing in front of vandalized, flipped-over cars.
We both felt much more at ease than we had on Friday or Saturday, and this was almost certainly down to the absence of police. It says something about a situation, I think, when you feel safer without any police presence.
The popular uprising in Gezi Park provided a strange coda to our time in Istanbul. We would be leaving on the very next morning, and had planned to spend our last weekend lazing about a tea garden, smoking nargile and playing backgammon. Obviously, that didn’t happen. But it was exhilarating to witness Turkey’s biggest protest in a decade. And we salute the people of Istanbul for their activism. Sometimes, you have to stand up and be heard.
Pictures from Saturday afternoon (July 1st 2013)