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Dr. Ulas Basar Gezgin (Associate Professor, Turkey)
The Gezi Park Protest in Istanbul was the most massive of its kind 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. The hashtag #resistgezi worths study for its sporadic, unpredictable character. While it was a translation of the Turkish #direngezi, it did not merely serve the audience as the translation of tweets in Turkish per se. 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.1 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 gets diversified with the posting of 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 appeared on June 5, and the next day witnessed the first tweet in a language other than Turkish and English. By June 7, the first tweet on protests at Izmir — the third largest city in Turkey — appeared, as did the first documentary on Gezi protests. June 8 was 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 were in English. This was a relatively peaceful period as the police had retreated, leaving Gezi Park to the protestors to set their free zone. However, the police attack on June 11, which 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) was one of the peaks of #resistgezi. It’s unusual to see that only one of the tweets on this bloody day aimed to draw attention of the international media (@CNN @BBCWorld @CTV_Television). The next day mostly involved the portrayal of the protest sites, while another tweet in Spanish appeared — although it was about the official demonstration against the Gezi protestors from a critical point of view. June 17 saw the first Italian tweet as well as the inauguration of a new user account: @Resist_Gezi. This account, although almost never used #resistgezi hashtag, has had more than 3,000 tweets with nearly a thousand followers. On June 18, an Argentinean user showed 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) appeared as the symbols of the Gezi Resistance. On June 23, 2 tweets that bridge the resistance in Turkey and Brazil were seen as well as the first #resistgezi tweet in French.
July turned out to be a cold month for #resistgezi tweets, however July 5 could be noted as the day on which the first tweet in Dutch appeared, and a number German tweets were posted. A tragic development of this month was the murder of a 19 year-old protestor (Ali Ismail Korkmaz) by police, something that 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 remained largely unclear. However, a tweet on August 13 directly addressed Brazil and South Korea; it read: “Stop selling tear gas to Turkey. Government [sic] using extreme violence.”
September was the beginning of a dead month by tweets that criticized 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 May 2014 saw no action. The tweets during those months were rare, but consistent in terms of content: mostly about international protests (e.g. Barcelona, New York metro etc.), with images and motives from Gezi. The Amnesty International report was posted, while the first #resistgezi tweet in Swedish appeared. A tweet referred to the METU (Middle East Technical University) protests, while another tapped 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 was reflected in #resistgezi tweets. The final #resistgezi tweet is a picture from May Day clashes in Turkey.
This presentation shows that #resistgezi tweets, mainly, 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.
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