I will tell you the flow of the events. Like most of the people here, we have been in Gezi Park since the first day. On the very first day, bulldozers entered the park, but a group of twenty people stopped them. We went to the park on the following day and saw people setting up tents, we decided to come back the next day with proper supplies of food and other necessary things. When we arrived with our provisions there were a lot of tents and so many people. After 4.30 am the crowd started to dwindle. Then we heard the news that the police were preparing to enter the park.
I had never talked to the police in my entire life, except asking for an address
Once, because burglars broke into our house, two police officers came for investigation. That was the only time I contacted the police. When I heard that they were preparing I didn’t realize how serious it was. We were not prepared. I usually wear a shawl, but that day I didn’t even have it to cover my face. Then, somebody told us to pack up our stuff, to get out of our tents and we gathered there. They told us to sit down so that they understand we were there only to protect the trees, but not for anything else.
We sat down with my friend on right side of the park, we could see the police marching towards us. When I saw the crowd of police officers, I was scared for the first time. They looked like a large mass rolling toward us. They were marching from such a distance that it looked like a movie scene: the police coming out of the clouds. Then we smelled the tear gas. People panicked, they tried to pull me and my friend away. I told my friend not to leave and sit beside me. He was trying to persuade me to go away but I refused and told him to stay there. However, when they fired more canisters, I realized that there wasn’t much to do, so we decided to leave. I don’t know if it was wise, but we tried to leave the park from the way the police was marching towards us. We did not confront them there and started to run. We escaped but there was nobody with us. Few people preferred that route because people had told us to run away from the back of the park because they were coming from the opposite direction. So, most of the people preferred to run away towards the Divan Hotel. We didn’t have any chance to get in touch with the others while coughing and trying to breathe. Others were stuck but at least they were answering our calls and informed us that they were fine. In the end, they somehow managed to get away from the police. Sırrı Süreyya Önder (a member of parliament) stood up in front of the bulldozers and stopped the police. After a couple of hours we went back to the park. It was really a shocking scene. Sırrı Süreyya Önder helped us to get back into the park. The police who were trying to get us out of there, treating us inhumanely, were standing opposite us in a single row was reluctantly listening to what we were saying. Inspiring photos came out of that scene such as the boy reading a book. Another really interesting character was the man who applauded the police for 45-50 minutes. He stood 20 cm away from them. His applause was non-stop and was driving the police crazy. Another man stood next to the man applauding and stared at the police for 2-3 hours from the same distance. Then the police relaxed and started to laugh together with the crowd. It was really funny. Then they shook hands and offered cigarettes to one another. I lost track of time. Since we were exposed to tear gas from three or four different places in a day, days felt much longer. Meanwhile, we weren’t sleeping whatsoever. When people heard about us in the news, they started to come to the park in the evening. We were hoping get some sleep during those hours when other people were in the park. As the park got more crowded and the fear we felt before was gone.
First, the police came and I got to know them. When I witnessed what they could do, I was no longer afraid. I did not feel any fear even when they treated us like beasts in the second raid.
This time we had the gas masks my friend bought from Karakoy. It was so different that I didn’t even know how to put it on. It still looks brand new. We were more crowded on the second day. The police ambushed us in the park. We were trying to make it out of the park, but every exit was taken or closed. The police were throwing canisters from every direction we tried to escape. Then we found an exit covered with a cardboard, anyway something heavy and strong, a guy broke it and we crawled through it as if in a combat. There was a little gap, some sort of a construction hole, we jumped there and crossed the road and climbed over the barricade. Finally, we were in Talimhane. I was choking with my own saliva. I was trying to breathe, but the air was suffocating with tear gas. I tried to calm myself thinking it has to end at some point. One of my friends was running with only one shoe. After making sure we were safe, we called others in the park. I have a friend who defies modern medicine and thinks she can heal herself. When her leg gets injured she thinks it will pass away if she walks.
When I called her that day and asked where she was, she replied, “Burcu, you need to take me to the hospital”.
Strangely, I never thought I was calm or cold-blooded but here I felt 20 years older. Suddenly I matured. The guy who lost one of his shoes was older than I am, but there because of my attitude, I looked like his older sister. I took the responsibilities like a sister. I just told myself to calm down as I had to find and take her to the hospital. We met somewhere and got into a cab. Soon, we were on our way to the hospital. A canister had hit her on the face just below her eye. It was swollen, but luckily she wasn’t hit on her eye. When we were in Taksim İlk Yardım Hospital., She was hit with the canister as she was trying to protect someone. That person was also lying on a stretcher there. She wanted to help him and made it difficult for doctors to treat her injury. We had ten people waiting for us outside, but she had to take care of the wounded man. Finally when we were discharged, she asked if everyone else was and I replied, “They are so fine that they could take one of your friends to the hospital.” We started to laugh. Then we crossed the street to the other hospital. Another friend of ours was hit by a canister from his leg and was in that hospital. As I already told before that day felt longer.
Later, we were informed that there was going to be a press release. We decided to go back to the Divan Hotel and encouraged drivers to blow their horns while they were passing. To our surprise we found out that BBC was recording us.
Meanwhile one of our friends was hit from her elbow and it was broken. She somehow got a cab but recognized another friend thanks to her remarkable dress – they said they were going to frame the dress and show it to their kids in the future. They helped each other and went to Şişli Etfal hospital. Unfortunately, the press release has been made.
That night we went to Istiklal to expose ourselves to more tear gas. I saw a street writing on a wall asking “is this street safe? No, police are there.” This still makes me laugh. We got adjusted to the extreme. When I give direction, I say, “Remember the place we were running away from without a gas mask when we were caught” or “let’s meet in the second barricade.” This is the daily language. Nothing is extraordinary any more, just like the death and rape news. Today somebody died? That’s part of the daily routine.
Despite everything, I have one colour in mind, green. It has the power to clean all the dirt. When Gezi Park comes to my mind, I think about the trees. Many things have covered them but they still be seen. Despite all that noise, there is serenity. When everywhere was covered in a gas cloud, we were in a place where nobody heard one another. Now that the worst is over, I can only hear the crowd chanting the slogans.
1 June 2013
This post is also available in: Turkish