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Reclaiming the right to the city: Reflections on the urban uprisings in Turkey

The spark that drew Istanbul into a fire of protest and uprising was initially set off by a modest ‘occupy style’ peaceful resistance, staged against the destruction of an historically public park, an urban commons, in order to make way for yet another shopping mall in Istanbul. Following explicit police violence against the protestors, who were openly discredited by the government for being a few looters, the urban centers of Turkey saw a full-fledged uprising, gathering considerable international steam as well. Analyzing the path of this social mobilization flowing from Gezi Park to larger geographical scales of the urban, the national, and beyond, this article situates the urban uprisings in Turkey in the conceptual background of the right to the city, coined by Henri Lefebvre at the time of Parisian uprisings in 1968. The article further argues in the end that, if this revolutionary energy is to be channeled into a lasting social transformation, the Kurdish movement and the labor movement—historically, the two main motors of Turkey's democratization—should catch up with the protestors on the ground.