Artillery Barracks project in Gezi Park back on municipal agenda
Ömer Erbil ISTANBUL
The municipality has included the construction of the Artillery Barracks (Topçu Kışlası) project in the agenda of its 2015-2019 Strategic Plans.The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has again included a controversial construction project on the site of Gezi Park next to Taksim Square in its upcoming agenda, despite the months-long anti-government protests sparked by local opposition to the same project last year.
The municipality has included the construction of the Artillery Barracks (Topçu Kışlası) project in the agenda of its 2015-2019 Strategic Plans.
The inclusion has raised eyebrows among those who protested against the razing of Gezi Park for the construction last year. A small group of environmentalists had started a campaign against the cutting of trees in the only remaining green area in the Taksim neighborhood, and the excessive use of police force sparked broader protests against the government, dubbed the “Gezi protests.” The demonstrations spread across the country, and eight people ultimately lost their lives in the clashes between police and protesters.
On June 2013, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said a referendum could take place for the future of Gezi Park if a local court allowed permission for the construction. However, the court later halted the Artillery Barracks project, ruling that it was against the principle of protection in the area. No construction work has taken place since the court’s final decision.
According to the court decision, the Istanbul Municipality must include the Artillery Barracks project in the city’s 1/5,000 Protection Construction Plan. These changes then must be sent to the Istanbul 2nd Board on Protection of Cultural Assets, but the board has yet to receive any amended plan.
The change of plan must also be debated by the municipality’s council, and the project can be started if no objections are made within a month of its inclusion in the council’s agenda, and if approval is given by the protection board.
The reports that the Artillery Barracks project may be revived have already raised tension in the political ranks.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş said on Nov. 18 that those who plan to revive the plans will find “a HDP deputy standing against them on the ground.”
“If the construction vehicles enter Gezi Park again, they will find the HDP [deputy] resisting,” said Demirtaş referring to HDP Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder’s halting of bulldozer during last year’s protests by standing in front of it.