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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More