Police raided the protest site at the entry of the Validebağ grove late Nov. 6 resorting to batons and rubber bullets. DHA Photo
Police resorted to batons and rubber bullets early Nov. 7 against a small group of activists camping outside Istanbul’s Validebağ grove to protest the construction of a mosque within the area, which enjoys a protected status.
Activists, who had been continuing their protests for three weeks with two “symbolic” tents, wanted to set up a third and bigger tent in the protest site.
But the police did not allow the move, arguing it would block the pathway for cars. Riot police officers, who have been omnipresent since the protests began, then resorted to their batons and rubber bullets to clear the area, as activists refused to renounce putting up the tent.
An activist was injured after being hit by a rubber bullet and has been transported to a hospital.
“Riot police normally stick to using rubber bullets after dispersing the people. But today, they attacked us before with batons and then fired the rubber bullets. One of our friends was hit by four bullets, with one to his head,” one of the activists said.
“We wanted to put the tents that have already been set up inside of a bigger one. But the police chief did not give us permission, saying we were blocking the road. Then he spoke with his chief, the district governor, who reportedly told him not to permit the tent,” he added.
Since the start of the protest, police have repeatedly resorted to violence in order to suppress dissent against the mosque project in Validebağ grove, a historic green area with a protected status inside of a residential neighborhood in the Asian-side Üsküdar district.
The construction of the mosque began under a tight police escort despite a court order for a stay of execution. The ruling was eventually lifted following an appeal from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
Lawyers representing local activists said they would use a higher administrative court to appeal the decision.
Locals have been arguing that the mosque is the first step that paves the way for the removal of the grove’s protected status, which would result in more projects. The grove currently stands as a small oasis encircled by a number of huge residential complexes.