Taksim: The question is not the republic

Taksim: The question is not the republic

Despite objections from civil society and experts, Taksim Square, at the heart of Istanbul, has been closed between Tarlabaşı and Harbiye. The other day, I personally went to the square to see it and photograph this “historic” moment of change with heartache.

The connection of the square to Halaskargazi and Tarlabaşı avenues has been completely cut off by panels, and entry and exit to the square is provided through a narrow passage where only two pedestrians can walk abreast. Construction equipment has already started buzzing on the Tarlabaşı side.

This construction at the heart of the city has badly impacted Istanbul traffic, which was already awful. However, the problem is not the traffic and the chaos; we already know how to live with those. The problem is that the excavation that started in Taksim is totally unlawful and irregular.

There is no point in objecting to the project to make pedestrianize Taksim by saying, “no laborer will be able to enter the square,” “those who want to booze will not be able to enter” or “the values of the Republic are being dug up.”

The main reason to object to the Taksim project is that it was forced upon us without asking and listening to the people, city planners, the judiciary and architects. It is the wish to shape the spirit of the city according to the wishes of one-man rule.

In fact, the Preservation Board passed an annulment decision on the underground tunnels in Taksim but the municipality is concealing this information. For Tarlabaşı-Harbiye, on the other hand, the board has given conditional approval. These decisions are being ignored and the entire authority and power they have are being used to the fullest.

A new language needed

I called Professor Betül Tanbay from the Taksim Platform. She said she felt desperate in the face of so much unlawfulness and deception. “You can fight against various ideas but what will you do against deception? This is an incredible pity. The municipality and the government have come to be cut off from the public over the past 10 years. The place that has been a meeting point for years is now called a ‘transit place’ by them.”

Tanbay believes that our only chance is to produce a new language. “A language of war is dominant… In the demand for military barracks and the restitution for Taksim, this language comes to the forefront.
Are we going to decide together or are we going to act based on who is in power? The Taksim issue has become this.”

The Taksim Solidarity group meets in front of the PTT branch every evening between 6 and 9 p.m. Anybody who wishes can express their views there.

Unless Istanbul residents learn to be urbanites and succeed in protecting their square, they should know that they will be bound to accept whatever practice today’s government X and tomorrow’s government Y will implement on urban living spaces.

The prime minister has responded to critics by saying, “We are taking the step that will provide much more peaceful access to Taksim Square for everyone, including weomen and children. Hey, you, the absentminded: Come to your senses a little.”

As an Istanbulite who has frequented Taksim for years, I haven’t been able to understand what he meant by “peace.” Today, Taksim is one of those places in the city where people from all segments of life, ages and genders feel comfortable. If there is a need to reduce vehicle traffic – moving bus stops would have been enough for this – that could be considered; ideas and offers could be collected from experts and voted on. Also, how long has the government been this keen to revive military barracks?