In Turkey, government-sponsored suppression and intimidation have become commonplace over the last 10 years. Last summer proved to be a turning point. In opposition to the planned construction of a shopping center on the site of the leafy Taksim Square, some citizens of Istanbul organized a moderate protest. Then, in the blink of an eye, a small gathering turned into a massive civil resistance movement.
The clashes between the police and the protestors lasted for weeks. A majority of the protestors were young people who were enraged by the disproportionate force used by "security forces". Their cause soon came to be supported by a cross-section of society: parliamentary deputies, intellectuals, artists and people fed up with the autocratic style of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Quickly, Istanbul’s Taksim and Besiktas districts were transformed into fields of battle.
While the most intense protests were centered in Istanbul, the spark of conflict spread to cities across Turkey: Ankara, Izmir, Adana. After the second week of park occupation, the government authorized security forces to take control of Taksim by using overwhelming force. But while the government took back the square, the people's will remained. The construction project has been shelved indefinitely .
Besides, the people's memory of what they achieved during those 15 days in Taksim combined with the brutal actions which followed led to the permanent formation of a new social opposition to the government. These groups are dedicated to humane values and represent millions of people who did not have a political voice in Turkey.
'Witnessing Gezi' was created through the recordings of photojournalist Emin Özmen. Ozmen began by capturing the original environmentalist protest, which opposed only the chopping down of trees in Taksim Park, which eventually turned into a resistance movement which changed the course of the country.
Editor's Note: Ozmen's work was recognized by World Press Photo, taking 1st Prize in the online feature category.