Turkish PM Erdoğan retires mall project, vows mosque in Taksim
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has stepped back from building a shopping mall in the Artillery Barracks project to replace Taksim Gezi Park, while also announcing that a mosque will be built on Taksim Square.
“You cannot make an AVM [shopping mall] familiar to the international ones in this area. There is no conclusive AVM project here. Maybe we will make a city museum there or an architectural work that will put different activities in place. Is there any certain document? No,” said Erdoğan on June 2 in Istanbul as he attended the Rumeli Turks Association’s general assembly.
Erdoğan also said the much debated Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM), also on Taksim Square, should be demolished, proposing to build an opera house and a mosque there instead.
“A mosque will be built in Taksim,” said Erdoğan adding that he did not have to receive permission from the main opposition leader or a “few marauders” for the projects. He said that the authority had already been given by people who voted for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdoğan remains defiant against Taksim Gezi Park protests
Erdoğan has remained defiant against the demonstrations taking place in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park for the past six days.
“Is your issue about planting trees? It is not tree cutting going on there. It is the stubbing 12 trees as part of the pedestrianization project of Taksim,” said Erdoğan, citing the projects of his government that had planted trees across the country.
He also accused the protesters of causing damage to property. “They are burning, damaging the shops. Is this democracy?” asked Erdoğan. He also criticized those who called him a “dictator” for the excessive use of force against the protesters in Taksim.
“[They say] Tayyip Erdoğan is dictator. If they call one who serves the people a dictator, I cannot not say anything,” he added. Erdoğan also reiterated that building a shopping mall in the Taksim Gezi was not a conclusive decision.
The police forces started to withdraw from Taksim on June 1, where a brutal crackdown targeting demonstrators protesting the demolition of Taksim Gezi Park had been ongoing for over a day. Clashes broke out in Istanbul's symbolic İstiklal Avenue, the Beşiktaş and Harbiye districts.
Protesters entered Taksim Square and even took over Gezi Park, which had been cordoned off by the police after a very violent dawn raid on demonstrators on May 31. The raid had triggered some of the largest clashes between police and peaceful protesters in Turkey in recent years after activists occupied Gezi Park on May 28.