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Taksim Square and Gezi Park construction works, Turkey


Description:

Two different and interrelated arrangements are planned for Taksim Square. Pedestrianisation is planned at the square by taking the roads underground via tunnels. Yet the placement of ramps in such an important urban public space would prevent pedestrian use and actually make entrances to the square difficult, opponents claim. The square has a very important role in urban memory (especially for demonstration meetings) that could not then be organized because of the entrance difficulties.

It was also planned to build a model of the pre-existing Taksim Halil Paşa Artillery Barracks as a shopping mall on the present Taksim Gezi Park area. As a result of destroying probably the only recreation ground in the city centre and turning it into a shopping mall, the public sphere would be left to the use of high-income groups only Protests against the project started at the end of 2011 and despite the counter movement, construction started in October 2012.

The project was first rejected by the regional Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Board in Istanbul on January 2013, but PM Erdogan had already declared “we will reject the rejection.” Overriding the decision of the regional board, the Higher Board of Cultural and Natural Conservation then approved the proposal at the national level.

When in late May 2013, news spread that bulldozers were moving in to uproot the park’s trees in preparation for the construction of the barracks, a group of activists occupied the park with tents and launched the hashtag #occupygezi on twitter calling out for support. More and more people joined the protestors in the park, transforming it into a socially and ideologically diverse solidarity arena. The construction was halted, and the park and the square occupied for 15 days. The protest in the square soon spread to the whole country.

In what was the largest wave of protests in recent Turkish history, hundreds of thousands took to the streets to contest the proposed demolition of the park.

These demonstrations that took place in June 2013 across Turkey generated widespread interest and coverage. The occupation of Gezi Park was not just meant to save trees, but to save Turkey’s democracy. Yet, while that story covers how the conflict escalated from a demonstration in an Istanbul park to a nationwide revolt, it also conceals a different reason for the unrest: the enclosure of public space by capital and the state, and a nationwide assault on the environment.

The Gezi Park is now a symbol of the resistance for rights, democracy, and the environment.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Taksim Square and Gezi Park construction works, Turkey
Country:Turkey
State or province:Istanbul
Location of conflict:Beyoglu
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Urban development conflicts
Specific commodities:Trees, Green Areas, Urban Park
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details:

During the tender process which began on 30.08.2012, 9 companies placed bids; Kalyon Construction gave the lowest offer of 51,555,370 Turkish Lira and undertook the Harbiye-Tarlabasi diving tunnel construction. The company finished the construction of this diving tunnel in early September, 2013. The other parts of the plans could not be finalized due to social unrest and the pedestrianisation of the square is now on hold, leaving an ugly, useless, and big mass of concrete above the ground.

With a decision on the early May, 2014, the state council cancelled all the plans related to the redesign, pedestrianisation, and re-building of the old military barracks; making the already completed tunnel an illegal construction.

Level of Investment:25,000,000 - 150,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:12/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Kalyon Construction Group from Turkey
Relevant government actors:Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality; Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation Board; Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan;
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Taksim Solidarity (which includes trade associations, local associations and political parties); Chamber of Architects; Chamber of City Planners; Ayaspasa Association (close neighbourhood association); Cihangir Association (close neighbourhood association);

Conflict and Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Trade unions
Women
International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Wastepickers, recyclers
Informal workers
Trade chambers; Political Parties; Students; Whitecollar professionals;
Recreational users
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Street protest/marches
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Development of a network/collective action
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Property damage/arson
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Blockades
Boycotts of companies-products
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Strikes

Impacts of the project

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Potential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of cultural heritage, loss of or damage of historical artifacts

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Corruption
Negotiated alternative solution
Project cancelled
Repression
Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Fostering a culture of peace
Institutional changes
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:During the protests in the early June, 2013, the Taksim Solidarity requested the following concrete measures from the government:
• Gezi Park must stay as a park. An official announcement must be made saying that Gezi Park
will not be converted to military barracks or any other building.
• Governors and police chiefs, and anyone else who ordered, enforced or implemented violent
repression tactics must resign.
• The use of teargas bombs and other similar materials must be prohibited.
• Detained citizens must be released immediately.
• The prohibition of meetings, rallies, demonstrations and de facto hindrance in the squares and
public areas across the country, starting with Taksim Square as a demonstration area for Labor Day (May 1), and Kızılay Square in Ankara, must be rescinded; obstacles to freedom of speech must be lifted.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:The project was stopped following the protests and the Gezi Park is still preserved as a park. The municipality even took the further effort to rehabilitate the park. Furthermore, the collective spirit born from the protests reshaped the whole resistance culture of the country. Leftists, nationalists, religious groups and bankers – people who never would have previously passed the time of day – are united. The occupation of Gezi Park was not just meant to save trees, but to save Turkey’s democracy.

Sources and Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Newspaper Article: Geri sayim basladi (In Turkish - Haberturk):
http://www.haberturk.com/yasam/haber/770453-geri-sayim-basladi

Turkey’s Tree Revolution – part 2: Everyday I’m chapulling*
http://www.ejolt.org/2013/06/turkeys-tree-revolution-part-2-everyday-im-chapulling/

A year after the protests, Gezi Park nurtures the seeds of a new Turkey
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/29/gezi-park-year-after-protests-seeds-new-turkey

Website of the Taksim Platform (Turkish):
www.taksimplatformu.org

Newspaper article: Yesil Gazete soruyor:Taksimde kaziklar kime? (In Turkish - Yesil Gazete):
http://www.yesilgazete.org/?p=64083

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Documentary - Turkey's Civil Revolt: Istanbul Rising (Vice)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Uwh971f6w

Documentary - Gezi Parkı Belgesel (Parkın Açılışı ve Kapanışı )
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvbH6scoNUE

Other documents

Gezi Park - Tip of the Iceberg
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/top-of-the-tree.jpg

View from the protests
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/1.jpg

Everyday I'm chapulling
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/everyday-im-_apuling_1.jpg

Demands of the Taksim Solidarity
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/taksim_demands.jpg

Banners on AKM
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/5664_593949737293966_740324282_n.jpg

Plans of the barracks Two different image is used for showing the barracks: One with more trees than other
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Barrack_forrest.jpg

Turkey's map of environmental injustices in the park
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/the_map_in_the_park.jpg

Women in red This image is from the early days of the protests and became a symbol of the police brutality against the peaceful protests.

Photo credit: Osman Orsal - Reuters
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Woman_in_red-OsmanOrsal-reuters.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Mahmut Boynudelik, Korhan Gumus, Betul Tanbay
Last update02/06/2014

Images

 

Gezi Park - Tip of the Iceberg

 

View from the protests

 

Everyday I'm chapulling

 

Demands of the Taksim Solidarity

 

Turkey's map of environmental injustices in the park

 

Banners on AKM

 

Plans of the barracks

Two different image is used for showing the barracks: One with more trees than other

Women in red

This image is from the early days of the protests and became a symbol of the police brutality against the peaceful protests. Photo credit: Osman Orsal - Reuters