Frontline Club panel to debate ‘legacy of the Gezi Park Protests and the future of democracy in Turkiye’

In 2013, police brutality against a peaceful group protesting the destruction of Gezi Park – one of the few public green spaces in Istanbul – prompted an unprecedented wave of demonstrations that soon spread across Turkiye.  The focus of the protests soon morphed into riots against the ruling AKP government’s escalating authoritarianism, then headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Gezi Park movement brought together many diverse segments of society and enhanced mutual tolerance. With its vibrant communal life, it became a hub for artistic creativity, humorous slogans and banners, and an instant cultural and political milestone.

Within weeks of the demonstrations starting, they were brought to a heavy-handed end. In the decade that followed, Erdoğan has – according to the event organisers – “carefully steered” Turkiye “towards an Islamic autocracy via his ever-increasing control of the media, military and judiciary”.

In her new novel, The Fugitive of Gezi Park, author Deniz Goran explores how Turkiye’s descent into dictatorship has torn lives. A growing number of Turkish citizens – some in fear of prosecution, others feeling unsafe in a system which favours only its own supporters – have been emigrating, mainly to Western countries.

Erdoğan, who has dominated Turkish politics for over 20 years and transitioned Turkiye from a parliamentary system to a heavily centralised presidency, was re-elected in last year’s general election.

For more Western onlookers, modern Turkiye in its centenary year has never been so far from the shores of democracy.

Against this disturbing backdrop, the Gezi Park protests remain a moment of inspiration, and of hope that perhaps, were the stars to align differently, a very different Turkiye could still be possible.

The panel will discuss the legacy of the Gezi Park Protests and what the future holds for Turkish democracy.

The discussion will be moderated by journalist Hannah Lucinda Smith and will feature a panel of excellent speakers: author Deniz Goran, actor Mehmet Ali Alabora and journalist Selin Girit.

The panellists

Moderator Hannah Lucinda Smith is a journalist who has been based in Turkiye since 2013, reporting across the Middle East and Europe for The Times of London, The Atlantic, WIRED, and others. She is the author of Erdogan Rising, an account of Turkish President Erdoğan’s rise to power, and Zarifa, the memoir of Afghan human rights activist Zarifa Ghafari.

Deniz Goran’s first novel The Turkish Diplomat’s Daughter was published in 2007 in the UK, followed by Turkiye, Italy, Germany, Greece and Taiwan. Her second novel, The Fugitive of Gezi Park, was published by Ortac Press in May 2023 to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the Gezi Park Protests and is due to be published in Turkiye in September 2024.

Selin Girit is a BBC Broadcast Journalist covering Turkiye, the Middle East and beyond for the BBC World Service. She was previously BBC Turkey Bilingual Correspondent.

Mehmet Ali Alabora is a Turkish actor, and civil rights and environment activist. In 2013 he supported the Gezi protests. At the same time, a play he was directing, Mi Minör, on democracy that was inspired by the Arab Spring, was misrepresented in pro-AKP press as being about toppling the Turkish government. As a result, Alabora was forced into exile fearing for his life.

Event Details

Title: Panel Discussion: Is there hope for democracy in Turkey?

Date: Wednesday 27 March 2024

Time: 7pm to 8.30pm

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ

Admission: General admission tickets are priced £16.63. Concessions: Members £5.94; Students £11.29. Ticket prices include booking fee.

Tickets: available online from Eventbrite – click here

Main picture, top, of Frontline Club Turkiye democracy panellists, clockwise top left: Selin Girit, Hannah Lucinda Smith, Deniz Goran, and Mehmet Ali Alabora.