Court suspends controversial mosque construction at Istanbul grove

Court suspends controversial mosque construction at Istanbul grove

Court suspends controversial mosque construction at Istanbul grove

Scuffles erupted between police and local activists before a press statement announcing the administrative court decision. AA Photo

An administrative court suspended the controversial construction of a mosque in Istanbul’s Validebağ grove late Oct. 21, after bulldozers were sent in the area to start excavations despite vocal opposition from locals.

The grove, located in the Asian neighborhood of Üsküdar, the protected status of which was recently lifted by the local municipality, has become the latest disputed green area between residents and city officials.

The police, who were escorting the construction workers under tight security to the site, resorted to tear gas as local activists gathered to announce the court decision with a public statement.

The construction company had controversially started its work at dawn on Oct. 21 with a police escorted bulldozer, which also raised local outcry.

“The residents of the neighborhood held a sit-in in front of the bulldozer. But they couldn’t prevent it from entering the area due to the police intervention. There were three times more riot police than women,” said local activist Deniz Aslan during the public statement.

“As residents, we are categorically against the illegal construction next to one of the few remaining green areas of the city. We see this facility built right next to the grove as the first step in turning it into concrete," Aslan added.

The grove hosts a number of historic buildings, including The Abdülaziz Mansion and the Adile Sultan Pavilion. Local activists had recently gathered 80,000 signatures to prevent the grove’s destruction.

A separate project in the local Üsküdar Municipality foresees the construction of a leisure complex that will include wedding halls, open-air theaters and artificial tools. But many activists argue that the municipality’s project, which resulted with the removal of the area’s protected status, will clear the way for larger construction projects.