Saturday, June 1, 2013

The İstanbul problem and the protest movement in Turkey

    Saturday, June 01, 2013   No comments

Unfortunately, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government seems to be losing the hearts and minds of many İstanbulites because of its harsh rhetoric on the Gezi Park issue.
Gezi Park is next to the famous Taksim Square and is one of the very few green areas left in the city center. The government wants to rebuild a totally demolished Ottoman barracks. The government claims that it is doing this out of respect for history, but the fact that the barracks will actually be a shopping center topped by luxurious residential flats makes many people, like myself, very nervous and upset. The government is not ready to listen, but the Gezi Park issue may be the last straw and may pave the way for the eventual electoral loss of the city by the (former) Islamists who have been administrating the city for the past 20 years.

I will not talk about the tired and ineffectual image of the AKP mayor, Kadir Topbaş, who is the first mayor elected for a second term in Istanbul. I will also not talk about another perception that the city is actually run by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But I will look at the “cementization” of İstanbul. In the city, other than the squatter houses, we have only a few one or two-storey houses that are only for the super-rich. Ordinary people, who make up 95 percent of the city's 15 million population, live in apartment buildings. The previous governments did not have any urban planning, so people simply went to the places that were inhabited, bought or occupied some land and built homes in an ad hoc fashion. In these areas, infrastructure followed the urban development, not vice versa. Squatter houses were turned into apartment blocks when these people became a little richer and their families expanded. Yet, because of the lack of urban planning, in these areas the roads are very narrow and there are neither parks nor trees. If you fly over Istanbul, in most areas, you do not see any green and you are inclined to think you are looking at a war zone.



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