Mosque construction halted in Istanbul grove, Üsküdar Municipality declares
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
Activists are protesting against the mosque construction by camping out at the site day and night. DHA PhotoIstanbul’s Üsküdar Municipality has decided to halt the construction of a small mosque next to the Validebağ grove, after activists continued to brave inclement weather by camping out on the site to prevent the cutting down of the grove's trees.
Üsküdar Municipality held a meeting at the local administrator’s office on Oct. 29 and decided to halt construction work in the area until they receive a related court order, Anadolu Agency reported, adding that this decision has also been sent to the construction firm.
The municipality demanded a written statement from the Istanbul 7th Administrative Court about its decision on the grove, after the court issued a stay of execution order for the mosque construction project on Oct. 24.
Despite the order, construction of the mosque continued until Oct. 29, with the Üsküdar mayor claiming that the construction area is outside the boundaries of the legally protected grove. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has a private residence in the same district, also waded into the debate, suggesting that activists were against the construction simply because it is a mosque.
Despite the municipality’s announcement, sodden activists against the construction remained on duty overnight on Oct. 29 and into Oct. 30. In scenes reminiscent of last year’s Gezi Park protests in central Istanbul, they have installed tents and camped in the Validebağ grove, vowing not to leave the area until the construction is completely halted and the municipality’s construction vehicles leave the area, Doğan News Agency reported.
As the strong rain continued to pelt the site, a number of police officers on guard even took shelter in the tents put up by protesters.
Burak San, one of the demonstrators, vowed that they would only leave the area once the police and municipality officials have left.
“Officials from the municipality also came here and we are watching them all. We hope they will leave today or tomorrow. We will leave if they leave, but we will stay here for as long as the officials and police are here,” said San, adding that local residents were bringing them food and supporting their defense of the grove.
The grove hosts a number of historic buildings, including the Abdülaziz Mansion and the Adile Sultan Pavilion. It is also known as the site of many classic Turkish movie scenes, including the legendary 1970s comedy film “Hababam Sınıfı” (The Chaos Class).