19 Jun 2013 09:00
Riots in Istanbul started for the sake of protecting Gezi Park, located beside Taksim Square, after the government announced a mall project which would be erected in place of the park. Initially, a few hundred people, mainly environmental activists, conducted peaceful protests and camped in the park. After the first two days of protesting, police officers violently attacked the protesters with tear gas and burned their sleeping tents.
The public furiously responded to these attacks, as they joined together void of any political movement, against the government. The protests contained a powerful, organic element, that combined the diverse Turkish community together for the first time in the country's history, fighting for one cause: freedom. Citizens want be to involved; they want to be the decision makers in the city. More than three weeks have passed since the riots began and there is still ongoing violence everyday. Casualties already reached four dead, thousands injured, and thousands arrested. Also, many journalists have been taken into custody.
Present-day Gezi Park has a controversial history. The site was formerly an Armenian graveyard between 1551-1939 and was also the place of Topcu Kislasi, military barracks built under the reign of Sultan Selim III. The area also included the very first Genocide memorial statue in the world, built in 1919, which witness annual commemorations until 1924.