News / Europe

Turkish Court Blocks Disputed Park Project

Protesters are detained by plainclothes police during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 29, 2013.
Protesters are detained by plainclothes police during an anti-government protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul, June 29, 2013.
Reuters
A Turkish court has canceled an Istanbul building project backed by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan which provided the trigger for nationwide anti-government demonstrations last month, a copy of the court decision showed.

Authorities may well appeal against cancelation of  plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks on Istanbul's Taksim Square. But the ruling marked a victory for a coalition of political forces and a blow for Erdogan, who stood fast against  protests and riots he said were stoked by terrorists and looters.

Can Atalay, a lawyer for the Chamber of Architects which brought the lawsuit, said the administrative court ruled in early June at the height of the unrest that the plan violated preservation rules and unacceptably changed the square's identity. It was not clear why it had only now been released.

“This decision applies to all of the work at Taksim Square ... The public-works project that was the basis for the work has been canceled,” Atalay told Reuters.

Erdogan has said he would wait for the judiciary to rule, and any appeals process, before proceeding with Taksim, one of several large projects for Istanbul, including a huge  airport, an enormous Mosque and a canal to ease Bosphorus traffic.

June's protests and riots began when police used water cannon and tear gas against a relatively small protest over the plans to redevelop Taksim and the adjacent Gezi Park.  The heavy handed police action stirred unprecedented actions against Erdogan, accusing him of an increasingly authoritarian style.

Four people were killed and some 7,500 wounded in the police crackdown, according to the Turkish Medical Association. It largely ended when police cleared a protest camp on the square on June 15.

Unprecedented protests

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 he has become authoritarian in his rule after three election victories and during the June unrest turned increasingly to the Islamist core of his AK Party faithful.

If the country's top administrative court subsequently rules in favor of the development, Erdogan has still pledged to hold a referendum in Istanbul on the government's plan.

A press adviser at city hall, which drafted the development plan, did not return phone calls seeking comment. Court officials also could not be reached.

“I expect the other side will definitely appeal this decision but in the meantime, they must abide by it and that means removing police from Taksim and allowing citizens to return to Gezi Park,” Atalay told Reuters.

Gezi has been shut to the public since June 15 when police stormed the park and pushed out the protesters.

Taksim carries enormous symbolic value for many Turks of different political stripes.

It was the site of a 1977 May Day massacre that killed up to 40 leftists. For secular Turks, its development in the early days of the republic represent the nation's founding principles, while devout Muslims have long sought to build a mosque there.

Erdogan, whose ruling party traces its roots to a banned Islamist movement, has said that his effort to remake Taksim aims to return it to its original form. He also said he would erect a mosque at the Square and rebuild the Ataturk Cultural Center, named after Turkey's secular-minded founder.

There are other lawsuits against aspects of Taksim's redevelopment. Atalay said this ruling takes precedence since it involves the master plan for the square.

The changes to Taksim include an underground tunnel network for traffic to pedestrianize the square and razing Gezi Park to build the replica Ottoman-era barracks that Erdogan originally said would be a mall, then a city museum.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs