The Gezi Park protests were a milestone for Erdoğan

As the Gezi protests were unraveling, Erdoğan's cabinet ministers urged him to allow the protesters, including the opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu to march. Erdoğan gave in. But this was the moment when he turned against everyone, except for his family.

In June 2013, the Gezi Park demonstrations began in Istanbul. Back then, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu cancelled a meeting in Kadıköy and went straight to Taksim to attend the protests.

The police lifted the barricades to allow Kılıçdaroğlu to enter. Later, the police left Taksim Square altogether. On that same day, the then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he would let the protesters march from Beşiktaş to Taksim.

While few outlets covered the thousands of people marching across the Bosphorus Bridge, including Kılıçdaroğlu in the early hours of June 1, 2013, Erdoğan's statement about allowing the protesters to march featured as a top story in all news organs.

But what motivated the Prime Minister to make such a decision? A cabinet minister at the time told me about the process.

Erdoğan initially refused to lift the police barricades and did not want to allow thousands of protesters and the CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu to march to Taksim. His cabinet ministers went at great lengths to convince him otherwise. They allegedly told Erdoğan that if Kılıçdaroğlu was exposed to pepper gas in Taksim, his government would fall. The Prime Minister snapped back at them.

Then, President Abdullah Gül called Erdoğan. Gül told him the best thing to do would be to lift the barricades and allow Kılıçdaroğlu to march. Erdoğan put down the phone with an unsettled expression on his face. He turned to those in the room and said, “You have all joined together and done things behind my back.”

The politician who told me this anecdote said this moment marked a milestone. "When we realized the prime minister’s state of mind, we all went through a shock. He was openly saying that he did not trust even his closest colleagues he had been doing politics with for years. We were so sad that some of us found some excuses to give up on the program with him that day."

If one considers this incident, Erdoğan's reactions during that tense period and the events that happened immediately after, the Gezi park protests might be the milestone when Erdoğan decide to trust only his family members.

On Feb. 18, the Gezi Park trial resulted in surprise acquittals at Silivri, near Istanbul. Can this be a breakthrough for the society that is stifled and fed up with the single-man regime?

Civil society leader and philanthropist Osman Kavala was under arrest for 840 days at the Gezi Park trial. 15 other defendants were tried without arrest. In the trial on Tuesday, nine defendants, including Kavala, were acquitted of all charges, the files of those defendants who were abroad were separated from this trial and their arrest warrants were withdrawn.

The authorities of our times are responsible for creating this atmosphere in which a democratic demand for rights can be tried with a life sentence. They owe an apology to everybody that participated and lost their lives or were injured in the Gezi Park resistance, as well as to their families and to those proud defendants at the Gezi trials.

Note: After this piece was written, Osman Kavala was re-detained in connection with an investigation related to the July 2016 coup attempt. Kavala was given an apology for the 840 days he served for Gezi Park charges. Our grotesque judiciary system continues to ruin people's lives.