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RIGHTS >The top 5 politically charged squares in Istanbul

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

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German pianist Davide Martello and Turkish musician Yiğit Özatalay performed a joint piano concert in Taksim Square in support of the Gezi Park protesters on June 12, 2013.

German pianist Davide Martello and Turkish musician Yiğit Özatalay performed a joint piano concert in Taksim Square in support of the Gezi Park protesters on June 12, 2013.

Istanbul’s No. 1 public square, Taksim, appears to be counting down to fresh clashes, after 
senior Turkish labor leader said thousands of union members were determined to celebrate International Labor Day there on May 1. This despite the fact that the authorities have refused to open the traffic-less square to any event.

Taksim is not the only square in Istanbul with a politically charged history. Here are five with histories ranging from several centuries to just a few months back:


1) Taksim: A political hotspot since the 1970s...

At the heart of “westernized” Istanbul, Taksim Square has been a political hotspot since the late 1970s when labor unions organized the first mass rallies. On May 1, 1977, around 500,000 citizens packed the square for Labor Day celebrations. Unknown assailants believed to be from the deep state fired at the crowd, and a subsequent police intervention drove the number of death to at least 34 in total.

In recent memory, Taksim Square hit international headlines during and after the May-June Gezi 2013 protests, which were triggered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's insistence to build a shopping mall in the form of a long-gone Ottoman barracks in the park, which is immediately adjacent to the square.




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2) Yenikapı: The square that wasn't there

There never used to be such a space off Istanbul's historic peninsula. But the 270,000-square-meter Yenikapı Square, which can reportedly accommodate 1.25 million people, was built in less than a year on artificial land. As one of Erdoğan's “crazy projects,” the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) became the first organization to use the plaza for a political event before the March 30 local elections. However, as journalistAlex Christie-Miller wrote, the square now resembles "Istanbul's tumor" on Google Earth.



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(The DHA footage of the ruling AKP's electoral rally in Yenikapı March 23, 2013)


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3) Sultanahmet: The square of national awakening

Sultanahmet Square is at the heart of the historic peninsula. In 1919, when İzmir was occupied by Greek forces after World War I, a series of rallies were organized in Istanbul under the name of the Sultanahmet Demonstrations. In a symbolic speech during the Turkish Independence War, novelist and women's right leader Halide Edib Adıvar spoke, calling: "Night, a dark night... But there is no night without morning in life. Tomorrow we will create a glittering morning, tearing this terrible night." Modern Turkey gained independence in 1923.


Women's right activist Halide Edib Adıvar leading a march in 1922. (Photo Source)


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4) Kadıköy: Take it on the otherside

Kadıköy Square is the main political rallying ground on the Asian side of Istanbul, and the district of Kadıköy is a stronghold of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). The most recent clashes took place around the square after a protest against the Turkish government’s urban policies and corruption allegations last December, and in the wake of Berkin Elvan’s death last month. 


(Photo: DHA)


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5) Beyazıt: The scene of Bloody Sunday

Another historic plaza marred by deaths is Bezayıt. Roman Emperor Constantine the Great built it (393 AD) and Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II crowned it with the oldest mosque in Istanbul that still stands in its original form (1506). However, Turkey's version of Bloody Sunday took place there in 1969, to be followed by the 1978 Beyazıt Massacre .



On February 17, 1969, Turkish dailies covered the violence Istanbul saw the previous day after the leftist workers marched from Beyazıt to Taksim where they were attacked by a rightist mob.



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April/15/2014

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