A construction project on the uninhabited Yassıada, a small but infamous island located off the coast of Istanbul’s Asian side in the Marmara Sea, was officially started on May 14 in a ceremony with the participation of the prime minister.
The island, renamed “Democracy and Freedom Island” after the approval of the provincial assembly on Nov. 7, 2013, will host a museum and a congress center. Government officials hope to turn the island into an attention point for cultural and historical tourism.
The “flat island,” one of the smallest of the picturesque Princes’ Islands archipelago, is known as the island where the political brass of the once-ruling Democrat Party was exiled prior to the 1960 military coup.
Turkish politics was indelibly marked by the executions of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Affairs Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan after they were tried on the island.
The latest project was launched by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu
at a groundbreaking ceremony on May 14 on the island.
“This place will be utilized for peace talks that we intermediate, democracy workshops, and as a congress center. The court hall, where Menderes, then-President Celal Bayar, and other defendants stood trial, will be preserved as it is and handed down to future generations, so that nobody will ever dare to make a similar attempt,” Davutoğlu said at the opening ceremony.
He said a “democracy museum” would be built on Yassiada to commemorate the “heroes of democracy,” referring to the politicians who were exiled there.
Davutoğlu called upon opposition parties to hold a symbolic assembly of the Turkish Parliament on the island on May 27, the anniversary of the 1960 coup d’etat, “to show the entire world that nobody can ever shut down the Turkish Parliament again.”
Davutoglu said all political parties, politicians and legislators must display a willingness to defend freedoms against any coup attempts, saying coups have “devastating effects” and target not only single political parties, but also the entire “national will.”
He said the memories and history of Yassiada and neighboring Sivriada would be protected together with their histories and green areas, and will be used for purposes in line with democracy and freedom.
Both Yassıada and Sivriada underwent a reclassification allowing the construction of cultural and tourism services as part of an omnibus bill that was passed in July 2003. Prior to the reclassification, both islands were listed as historical and natural areas. Facilities in Yassıada, where the trials of Democrat Party members were held, are now derelict after years without maintenance.
The plans for the building to become hotels for tourism and housing had caused controversy, with the mayor of the Princes’ Islands stressing the need for the islands’ preservation as they contained archaeologically important ruins dating back to the archaic ages and the Byzantine period.