Erdoğan vows to ‘rebuild’ Ottoman military barracks in Istanbul’s Gezi Park
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to reconstruct the historic Taksim military barracks in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, a project that sparked country-wide anti-government protests in 2013.
“If we are going to reclaim our history, there was a historic building there. We will rebuild it,” Erdoğan added, saying that the country had to do it whether it will be a history museum or city museum.
The president also said the project could include a corner where negative episodes from German, French or American history would be shown, as a reaction against the German Parliament’s recent approval of a bill describing the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide.
“Those in Germany have said something. We will reserve a corner for them in Taksim and introduce the world to what they have done. We will also reserve a corner for the French and introduce the world [to their crimes]. We also reserve one for the Americans and introduce them too. The world should know all of them and we should all see what they have done,” Erdoğan said.
“Those who defame this nation should see this nation there [in Taksim]. We do not have a dark history; our history is clean. People should see this,” he stated.
Erdoğan said plans were ready for an Ottoman-style great mosque known as “Selatin” that will be built in Taksim Square, while a huge opera building could be constructed at the current site of the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) “to show the country’s sense of art.”
With all these reconstruction projects, Taksim Square will be completely pedestrianized, the president vowed.
“Let us see what the nation says. Every country in the world is referred to by such squares. But we do not have a proper square,” Erdoğan said.
Meanwhile, at a separate iftar meal event in Istanbul’s Yenikapı neighborhood, the president railed against the Gezi Park protests of 2013 as “an attack against Istanbul’s ability to keep differences alive together.”
“Those incidents happened at the direction of a group that was eager to impose its own thoughts, ideologies and lifestyles on Istanbul and the whole country. They gave the greatest harm to Istanbul,” Erdoğan said.
The Gezi Park protests started as a sit-in by a small group of environmental advocates to stop bulldozers from razing the park, one of the few green spaces left in Taksim, to build a shopping mall in the form of a long-demolished Ottoman barracks building.
The protests quickly spread across Turkey, as millions of citizens took to the streets in mass demonstrations that shook Turkey throughout the summer of 2013. They later developed into country-wide protests against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Eight protesters were killed during the weeks long protests, while one police officer also died after chasing protesters during the uprising.