Protesters park cars to block access to mosque construction site at Istanbul grove
Many of the cars were removed with the drivers still in their seats. DHA PhotoProtesters demanding a halt of the construction of a small mosque next to a protected grove on the Asian side of Istanbul, in line with a court order, resorted to an unprecedented action on Oct. 27, in a bid to hamper the access of trucks and heavy duty vehicles to the site.
Demonstrators near the Validebağ grove parked their cars on the side of a small dead end street early in the day, preventing the exit of a truck from the site.
Riot police officers, who have been escorting the construction works under tight surveillance since local activists launched street actions last week, threatened protesters with interventions over the incident. They eventually called tow-trucks to the site, and many of the cars were removed with the drivers still in their seats.
A municipal council member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Sema Şen, was among the protesters.
The construction of the mosque has continued despite a stay of execution order issued by an administrative court on Oct. 24, with the mayor of the local Üsküdar Municipality that claiming the area is located outside the boundaries of the grove. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose private residence is in the district, also became involved in the debate, suggesting that activists were against the construction because it is a mosque.
Meanwhile, a number of local residents camped overnight to denounce the ongoing construction.
“We consider the construction of the mosque as a step to cancel the protected status of the grove and change it into a park. We are here against that,” said Ayça Telgeren, one of the activists who camped at the site.
“People have their shared blankets and clothes with us. They have offered us soup, börek [a Turkish pastry] and cookies. This is enough for us,” she added.
Another activist, Aycan Doruklu, said he had come all the way from the Mediterranean town of Antalya to show his support. “I am a religious person and I am here to say there cannot be a haram mosque. I want to tell them they cannot do construction where people don’t want it,” Doruklu said.
The grove hosts a number of historic buildings, including the Abdülaziz Mansion and the Adile Sultan Pavilion.
The site has also been the scene of many classic Turkish movies, including the legendary 1970s comedy film “Hababam Sınıfı” (The Chaos Class).