[Ed. Note: Today’s post is written by David Giovacchini, the Middle East Studies Librarian at the Penn Libraries]
At the end of May and beginning of June, 2013, first Istanbul and then all of Turkey were shaken by widespread protests, sometimes known as “the Turkish Spring”. The protests were initially sparked by the planned demolition of a beloved urban park and square in Istanbul, known as Gezi Park and Taksim Square. When the peaceful protests were broken up by police with increasing force, the protests spread throughout Istanbul and eventually to most of the country’s cities, as Turkish youth responded to the striking images flooding the media, both social and mainstream.
The government called for an end to the unrest, but the protests went on. The protesters had begun to doubt whether the Islamist Turkish government of the AK Party with its religious agenda actually represented the will of the Turkish people. Turkey has been a secular state since its creation in modern form after WWI. The Turkish protesters identified closely with the Occupy Movement, and dubbed their own movement Diren Gezi Parki (Occupy Gezi Park). As it has been in so many cases of unrest in the Middle East, social media was an important tool for the protesters. The situation was finally defused by the end of June.
The Middle East Collection at the Penn Libraries has acquired a remarkable group of items from “the Turkish Spring”, including leaflets, public opinion polls, local street papers, and even a small cotton mouth-covering to keep out tear gas. Most significant and unique is a collection of special issues from various Turkish journals and magazines about the events of Gezi Park and the protest movement. Of course, such an important national event would be the object of much discussion in the press, and the analysis of the protests in these journals runs the editorial gamut from radical feminist to literary to leftist to photographic to intellectual to semiotic to comic strips.
Currently, these journals and magazines can be seen by communicating with the Middle East Librarian, Rm 524 in Van Pelt Library. After processing, these items will be held in the Kislak Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscript Center. The Middle East Collection also has a large collection of books on the Gezi Park protests. These include almost all of the works which have been issued so far in Turkey about the protests, and are one of the most complete collections of this material among research libraries in the US. This collection will certainly grow, as new works are published.
To find a complete listing of Penn’s collection of journals, and books, as well as links to a number of important web and social media sites about the protest movement, go to the Gezi Park Protests 2013 LibGuide (http://guides.library.upenn.edu/content.php?pid=480136&hs=a).