Which one to be voted, barracks or charisma?
AHMET HAKANI am a person more or less coming from the Islamic community. I have been among the most radical Islamic groups as well as the most moderate ones…
I know more or less what kind of dreams the Islamic community has for Istanbul.
For example, they have a “conquering of Istanbul again” dream. In their local election campaigns 20 years ago, the members of the Welfare Party (RP) would say, “Istanbul will be re-conquered.”
Actually, what they wanted to say was this, “We do not want to be squeezed into the suburbs of the city; we want to be visible in the main centers of the city, be present there and have a say.”
This was a very justified demand…
Like any justified demand, this demand also was met in years…
For example, they had a “Hagia Sophia dream” and they still do.
I was a child when I first heard the slogan chanted, “Chains to be broken, Hagia Sophia to be opened.”
It is the biggest yearning of the conservative, Ottomanist Islamic movements that the Hagia Sophia is converted into a mosque from its current status as a museum and opened for worship...
For Hagia Sophia to be reopened to worship is a known dream, a typical vision which still maintains its vigor.
But, however, I have not come across in the Islamic community, or heard any dream of “Rejuvenating the Artillery Barracks (Topçu Kışlası).”
Let alone a dream, I have not even come across such an expectation.
Not once in my life have I encountered a cry such as, “Oh, the Artillery Barracks, the poor Artillery Barracks.”
I never heard a speech starting with, “They have knocked down our barracks; those barracks were…”
Never mind the cry or speech, until very recently, I had not even heard about the adventure of the Topçu Kışlası.
Am I alone? You can ask anybody in the community, and you will receive the same answer. “We never heard of it.”
In short, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire for Topçu Kışlası is not a desire that overlaps with the conventional Islamic dreams, one that has roots and a meaning.
It is a personal desire. It is a suitable desire for personal architectural and city planning taste.
I am talking to those who know about the matter and they are telling me that the Topçu Kışlası (Artillery Barracks) building is an eclectic building that does not fit Istanbul’s architectural tradition and spirit. It does not fit the style that has been sealed by Sinan either… Even if you are able to build the barracks identically, you would not be reviving history because by building a new one, you are only building a brand new building that is copying the historical one.
For the rejuvenation of historic buildings, there has to be very concrete data present; there is no such record for the Topçu Kışlası. Besides, if we had a dream of rejuvenating historical buildings, then knocked-down historical mosques with concrete records are waiting for us.
While the Topçu Kışlası existed, Taksim was not surrounded by concrete buildings all around… Building Topçu Kışlası today means adding one more construction to the breathing space of Taksim.
Despite all this, there will be a referendum or a plebiscite for Topçu Kışlası. Why? Just to avoid contradicting a word that came out of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s mouth…
In this case, please put your hand on your heart and tell me: Those who are going to say “yes,” will they be saying “yes” to Topçu Kışlası or will they be saying “yes” to prevent the violation of Erdoğan’s word?
Will it be the Topçu Kışlası that will be voted on or will it be Erdoğan’s charisma?
Have no doubt that it will be Erdoğan’s charisma that will be voted on.
At the outcome of the plebiscite, if Erdoğan’s charisma is saved, then Istanbul will lose. If Istanbul is saved, then Erdoğan’s charisma will lose.
The colossal city of Istanbul is facing such dilemma and quagmire. I can only say, “God help you Istanbul.” Nothing further.
Ahmet Hakan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece was published on June 14. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.