Sunday afternoon saw hundreds of concerned locals gather at İstanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park in a show of solidarity against the impending “Taksim Project,” a controversial municipal initiative to remodel Turkey’s most symbolic square.
İstanbulites from all over the city, as well as high-profile figures from political and arts circles, congregated under the organization of the Taksim Platform -- a group made up of concerned citizens from all walks of life -- to demand city officials serve their constituents in a more transparent and democratic way and afford residents a say in the future of their city. Addressing a crowd bearing placards promoting messages such as “Taksim is my square and this tree is my kin” and “A better project, a better Taksim and a better future,” Korhan Gümuş of the Taksim Platform said Taksim is the verge of an “unbelievable wrong-doing,” urging that if action is not taken now it will be too late.
“If this project goes ahead, Taksim will become a soulless, concrete desert. Some of the most beautiful streets in our city, such as Gümuüşsuyu and Sıraselviler, will be transformed into tunnels and our historical trees will be all but a memory,” he said.
A scheme that was given the green light upon ratification by the Board of Monument two weeks ago, the Taksim Project calls for the construction of enormous ramps leading to subterranean tunnels at seven points in the vicinity of the square. The area will be transformed into a concrete, pedestrian-only zone and the city’s beloved Gezi Park will be replaced with a reconstruction of an Ottoman military barracks that was demolished in 1940.
Speaking in an interview with Today’s Zaman, Tarik Tüten of the Taksim Platform said that instead of destroying Gezi Park, efforts should be focused on expanding it into a bigger green space. “If I had been alive in 1939, I would not have supported the demolition of the barracks. At that time, trees and green spaces were plenty and soil was untouched. But now, as a result of ruthless development projects, there is no green left in Taksim,” Tüten said, adding that he believes large hotels such as the Conrad, the Hilton and Swissotel should not have been built, and that the spot where the Ali Sami Yen Stadium once stood in Mecidiyeköy should be made into a park. “Everything should not revolve around money,” he said.