Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Gezi Park

Turkish Erdogan Obsession? Why? and how sit-in progressing?
On a normal day, Taksim Square in Capital ISTANBUL is a mess of buses and crowds, a tangle of plazas, streets, shops and taxi horns.
Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is determined to clean it up and make it into a pedestrian zone, with a new mall, mosque and tunnels for traffic to move underground.
The outrage in response has filled the square with noisy, angry, determined protesters. At midday, the muezzin’s call to prayer now mixes with the chants of union workers and bullhorn speeches from the Anti-Capitalist Muslims. At night, drummers and singers agitate the throngs until dawn.
 Published on June 7, 2013 in the NYT: “In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel”
After Tahrir Square in Egypt and Zuccotti Park in New York, Taksim is the latest reminder of the power of public space. The square has become an arena for clashing worldviews: an unyielding leader’s top-down, neo-Ottoman, conservative vision of the nation as a regional power versus a bottom-up, pluralist, disordered, primarily young, less Islamist vision of the country as a modern democracy.
“Taksim is where everybody expresses freely their happiness, sorrow, their political and social views,” said Esin, 41, in a head scarf, sitting with relatives on a bench watching the protest in the square. She declined to give her surname, fearing disapproval from conservative neighbors. “The government wants to sanitize this place, without consulting the people.”

So public space, even a modest and chaotic swath of it like Taksim, again reveals itself as fundamentally more powerful than social media, which produce virtual communities. Revolutions happen in the flesh.

In Taksim, strangers have discovered one another, their common concerns and collective voice. The power of bodies coming together, at least for the moment, has produced a democratic moment, and given the leadership a dangerous political crisis.

“We have found ourselves,” is how Omer Kanipak, a 41-year-old Turkish architect, put it to me, about the diverse gathering at Gezi Park on the north end of Taksim, where the crowds are concentrated in tent encampments and other makeshift architecture after Mr. Erdogan’s government ordered bulldozers to make way for the mall.

 

Kitra Cahana for The New York Times. Turkish protesters have concentrated in tent encampments at Istanbul’s Gezi Park, on the north end of Taksim Square. More Photos »

And there’s the hitch.

The prime minister has emerged as the strongest leader Turkey has had since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the republic — but he remains not much of an architect or urban planner. Like other longtime rulers, he has assumed the mantle of designer in chief, fiddling over details for giant mosques, planning a massive bridge and canal, devising gated communities in the name of civic renewal and economic development.

The goal is a scripted public realm. Taksim, the lively heart of modern Istanbul, has become Mr. Erdogan’s obsession, and perhaps his Achilles’ heel.

And it’s no wonder. Taksim’s very urban fabric — fluid, irregular, open and unpredictable — reflects the area’s historic identity as the heart of modern, multicultural Turkey. This was where poor European immigrants settled during the 19th century.

Taksim was a honky-tonk quarter into the 1980s, a haven to gays and lesbians, a locus of nightclubs, foreign movie palaces and French-style covered arcades. Gravestones from an Armenian cemetery at Taksim that was demolished in 1939 were used to construct stairs at Gezi Park, a republican-era project by the French planner Henri Prost that is like the jumble of high-rise hotels, traffic circles and the now-shuttered opera house on the square, named after Ataturk. It is a symbol of modernity.

The prime minister’s vision of a big pedestrian plaza, with buried traffic, is intended to smooth out the square — to remake it into a neo-Ottoman theme park. Mr. Erdogan has lately backed away from installing a mall in the faux Ottoman barracks that will go where Gezi is now. But he intends to raze a poor neighborhood nearby called Tarlabasi and build high-end condominiums.

Yet another of his projects envisions a hygienic parade ground on the southern outskirts of the city, designed for mass gatherings as if to quarantine protests: the anti-Taksim.

The real Taksim is an unruly commons in the middle of the city. Mr. Erdogan has already demolished a beloved cinema and old chocolate pudding shop on Istiklal (Independence) Avenue, the main street and neighborhood backbone into Taksim.

This is why it has come as little surprise to many Turks that Gezi Park was the last straw. “We need free places,” Pelin Tan, a sociologist and protester, explained.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 8, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Istanbul’s Heart, Leader’s Obsession, Perhaps Achilles’ Heel.

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,479,852 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 810 other followers

%d bloggers like this: