Architects, Italians, and the attack on young women in Istanbul

Architects, Italians, and the attack on young women in Istanbul

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has unfortunately adopted a stance that will damage its respectability. The highly controversial “Seagull” transport hub project on the coast of the Bosphorus in the Kabataş neighborhood is not only designed by an inept architect – it also blocks views of the historic Molla Çelebi Mosque built by the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. 

The technique used to construct the building, planned to “looked like a flying seagull,” has also damaged the 16th century mosque. 

If a project damages a 428-year old mosque, clearly its methods are inadequate. Clearly, some people consider themselves architects and act like spoilt children, trying to push through the crowd with their elbows. But good manners and politeness are necessary for architects too. 

Italy in Turkey 

Italy and Spain are two countries with which we still have good relations in Europe. Of course, the role of Italian culture in Turkish history is bigger than many other European countries, and nowadays many Italians live and work in Istanbul. 

There was intense Italian migration to the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. From ordinary plasterers to architects, many who worked on chic buildings in Istanbul and İzmir contributed to the country, as well as musicians and artists. Many Italians who fought against Austria in the 1848 revolution also came to seek refuge here. Aldo Kaslowski, who once headed the prestigious Turkish Business and Industrial Association (TÜSİAD), comes from such a family. 

The Italian colony in the Ottoman Empire used to amount to more than 100,000 people but now it amounts to only 3,000. Still, even this population is enough to connect us with a wide global network. 

There have been times in the past when Italy was unable to feed its children. Some 30 million Italians had to leave their country and went abroad to live in other countries. Everywhere they went they became part of scientific, artistic and commercial life.

The Italian Culinary Academy here works as a branch of the Italian Foreign Ministry and gave a banquet last week. The Confederation of Italian Entrepreneurs Worldwide (CIIM), a business association founded in Rome in 2004 that represents 65 million Italians living across the world, also held a meeting and made assessments. 

One of the CIIM’s 12 global offices is in Turkey and it is headed by Kaslowski. This is a richness and opportunity for Turkey, and we should appreciate its value. 

Scandal on March 8 

Women face difficulties in every field of work life in Turkey. Some hurdles have been overcome but a significant portion remains. 

In academic life, Turkish women are in a desirable position compared to many other countries. In the media, they encounter difficulties similar to their European and American counterparts. They are well placed in the arts and have always been at the forefront of classical music in Turkey.   

But if we look at the areas where disadvantages emerge the most, a girl who picks up cotton until she is 14 years old, who makes her living doing seasonal work, faces similar or even worse difficulties than women faced in 19th century Europe. 

Above all, on International Working Women’s Day on March 8 we witnessed a scandal that besmirched the day. Footage emerged of a group of hoodlums attacking young women marking March 8 at the campus of Bilgi University in Istanbul. 

According to newspaper reports, some of the attackers were students at the same university. However, the acting rector is not too interested and no investigation has been launched. 

Such passiveness will only direct people to take the law into their own hands to defend themselves. This is a very frightening prospect; we must come to our senses.