I have been following the riots in Istanbul over the past few days and have become increasingly concerned that this is just the start of something much bigger. It seems to me that when there are blueprints for development, no one takes much notice. It is only when the bulldozers move in that citizens react. That is not just the case in Turkey I fear, but all over the world, those who should be informed about urban planning which affects them, just don’t notice the plans. You could say that this is deliberate on the part of the planners and those in power who simply don’t want people to know about their plans until they are a fait accompli.
The current demonstrations are about the demolition of Gezi park which is close to Taksim Square, one of the central squares in Istanbul. Taksim has become a dirty, grimy, polluted part of that city and one which has lots of hotels where foreign tourists stay (they probably don’t realize how noisy and polluted the area is). Gezi park has a military barracks in it dating back to Ottoman times. President Erdogan has said that it will be re-built. If that is the case why demolish it in the first place? It has been suggested that the park, one of the few green places in the Taksim district, is to be demolished in order for a supermarket or mall to be built on the site.
When I was in Turkey last autumn (on the Asian side of the country, not in Istanbul) a friend was telling me that there were plans to modernize Istanbul. This, he said, would mean the demolition of the older parts of the city, which he suggested were nothing more than slums, and the people would be re-housed on the other (Asian) side of Istanbul, across the Bosphorus. This sounded vaguely familiar as when in the 1960s families were moved into high rise apartment buildings in British cities, and out of ‘slum’ areas. This project was a disaster, and most of those high-rise buildings have been demolished now.
I could see then that demolishing the older parts of Istanbul would be a disaster, but my friend was convinced that it would all be a good thing for the city (he is a supporter of President Erdogan). I feel and fear that the current protests in Istanbul and the police crackdown on the protesters is just a beginning of what will come if parts of the historic city of Istanbul are to be demolished and people moved from their homes –especially if the move is against their will.
- Turkey PM defiant as clashes rage (bbc.co.uk)
- Turkish protesters pack Taksim Square as police withdraw (bbc.co.uk)