Akıncı Air Base to become ‘democracy park’

Akıncı Air Base to become ‘democracy park’

Akıncı Air Base to become ‘democracy park’

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Turkey’s defense minister has said the government aimed to relocate a number of troops in Istanbul and Ankara by mid-September, adding that the Akıncı Air Base in the capital would be opened to the public as a “democracy park.”

“Our goal is to move troops in Ankara and Istanbul by Sept. 15. Efforts are ongoing and plans have been made. Some troops will be relocated in 10 days, while others might take 20 days or a month,” Defense Minister Fikri Işık said on Aug. 12, during an interview with private Turkish broadcaster Habertürk. 

“These spaces will be opened to public use, to the people,” Işık stated, adding that there was a will to establish a democracy park where the Akıncı Air Base currently stood. The base was used as the headquarters of the July 15 failed coup attempt by the plotters, believed to be followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. 

Meanwhile, daily Hürriyet quoted a study by Turkey’s Environment and Urban Planning Ministry which revealed that there were a total 326,200 hectares of military zones across the country. According to the report, 11,000 hectares of this land was in Istanbul – making up some two percent of the city’s area - while another 7,000 hectares was in Ankara.

Commenting on the government’s plants to relocate bases, which triggered fears of rising construction in areas where there were currently green spaces, Environment Minister Mehmet Özhaseki stated only battalions that conduct target practice and those with tanks would be pushed out of city centers towards rural areas.

“It is out of the question to relocate military lodgings. Battalions that shoot and tanks will go,” Özhaseki said, adding a special commission will be established for each province in order to research and determine which units should stay or go.

“Those that are essential should stay, and those that can be brought out should go. A battalion of tanks should go out; what is it doing in the city center?” the minister said, acknowledging the efforts were likely to be expensive. 

“These [plans] also have a cost. In the past, we were told to relocate a brigade in Isparta and a report said it would cost 150 million Turkish Liras,” Özhaseki said, adding some of the costs could be met by allowing construction in current military zones that were not located in the city center. 

“In the case of spaces that are in the city center, we will preserve their greenery and turn them into parks. But there are also prairies around cities. These may be used as reserve areas in urban transformation,” he said.