News / Europe

Turkey Reopens Istanbul Park at Heart of Protests

People walk inside Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2013.
People walk inside Gezi Park at Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 8, 2013.
Reuters
Turkey reopened an Istanbul park at the heart of last month's demonstrations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and protest leaders called a rally there for Monday evening in defiance of the city governor.
 
Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu announced the reopening three weeks after riot police expelled protesters from Gezi Park following a fortnight of frequently violent protests against plans to redevelop the area.
 
The protests rapidly mutated into nationwide demonstrations against Erdogan, accused by critics after a decade in power of ruling in an increasingly authoritarian fashion. The unrest died down in late June, but on Saturday police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse protesters who sought to march on Taksim Square and the adjoining park.
 
“We have seen with the visit carried out today that all our work has been completed,” Mutlu told reporters in the park, which has been spruced up with the planting of new trees, plants and lawns since the protesters were evicted on June 15.
 
Soon after the opening, hundreds of people young and old converged on the park, some strolling along its paths and many lounging on benches and newly-laid lawn under the shade of trees on a hot Istanbul afternoon.
 
Small groups, both pro- and anti-government, gathered to discuss the protests and simmering tensions were evident.
 
“People became brothers here, and it will be very crowded tonight because we all missed that brotherhood. This park will always be the symbol of people's unity, power and harmony,” university student Ozer Sari, 22, told Reuters.
 
Nearby, retiree Abdullah Dogan, 54, dismissed the idea that the protests were about protecting the park.
 
“This was about overthrowing the government, a government which did its duty and took over the park, cleaned it and returned it to the people in better shape,” he said.
 
Protest meeting planned
 
Taksim Solidarity, combining political and non-governmental groups opposed to the construction of a replica Ottoman era barracks on the site of the park, has called for its supporters to hold a public meeting there at 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT).
 
Governor Mutlu warned against renewed demonstrations.
 
“Blocking the parks, making them areas for demonstrations, preventing children, elderly and people from using these areas and turning this into a security problem - we would never ever allow that,” he said.
 
Four people were killed and 7,500 wounded in last month's police crackdown, according to the Turkish Medical Association.
 
The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner pressed Turkey on Monday to investigate reports police used excessive force to contain the protests and punish anyone found guilty.
 
Last week it emerged that a Turkish court had canceled the Taksim Square redevelopment project, including the construction of the replica barracks, although the state authorities can appeal against the ruling.
 
The ruling marked a victory for the coalition against the project and a blow for Erdogan, who stood firm against protests and riots he said were stoked by terrorists and looters.
 
Erdogan has said he would wait for the judicial process to be completed before proceeding with the Taksim plans, one of several large projects for Istanbul, including a major airport, a large Mosque and a canal to ease Bosphorus traffic.
 
The protests were unprecedented in Erdogan's rule, which began in 2002 with the election of his AK Party. He has pressed  significant reforms in the economy and curtailed the power of a military that had toppled four governments in four decades.
 
Opponents argue that during the June unrest he appealed increasingly to Islamist elements of his AK Party faithful.
 
If Turkey's top administrative court subsequently rules in favor of the development on appeal, Erdogan has still pledged to hold a referendum in Istanbul on the government's plan. But he will drop the project if the court rejects it.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs