The Right to the City


With the situation between State and Citizens in Istanbul and Turkish cities escalating far beyond what can be considered to be a common sense crowd control and protection of property, my Turkish friends in New York asked to come out to the Zuccotti Park to show solidarity with protesters.


I was inspired by Turkish people’s reaction to undemocratic urbanization and will to be loud and clear about ownership of their city. The fact that protest began as a reaction to gentrification is similar to many actions in Korea around 2008~2009 regarding urban development of Yongsan area.

Then again, the Turkish protest is becoming something greater than reactionary outburst of urban activists, into a social movement revealing idiosyncrasy of incumbent government. Honestly, it was something I was only vaguely aware of. Most of my Turkish friends usually did not say much about Turkish politics, calling it too messy to begin to explain. A great thing about protesting is it cracks opens a box full of worms.

“The transformation of the the urban environment has become a usual strategy for the government and municipalities in Turkey. For the Turkish government, new urban policies have become a justification for acts of segregation, encouragement of a neoliberal capitalist lifestyle, the progressive indebtment of citizens, exploitation, racism, corruption and the installment of a “state of exception” that violates human rights.” from Domus 


Wait, why are we protesting for a park in Istanbul here in Zuccotti?

“Gezi Park is a small rectangle of grass and trees just north of Taksim Square, in the center of European Istanbul. Separated by concrete barriers from a particularly congested traffic circle, it doesn’t have a lot going for it in the way of charm or landscaping. But it does have trees—six hundred and six of them, according to some reports—which makes it a distinct space in the heart of one of the world’s fastest-developing cities.” from New Yorker.

Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the Zuccotti Park and Gezi Park. Thankfully the NY Police were behaving sanely this day. However, there wasn’t much activity going on.  Many Turkish people who showed up were not the usual protesters and there weren’t enough time to set up food/water/sign up/pamphlet station.


I couldn’t help but to think of David Harvey’s classic essay The Right to the City, reflecting upon Henri Lefebvre’s proposition. I made few signs with an excerpt from the text. It was translated into Turkish by my friends Atif Akin and Beyza Boyacioglu the night before.

“The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city. It is, moreover, a common rather than an individual right since this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the processes of urbanization. The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is, I want to argue, one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights” from The Right to the City.