Yassıada to become ‘Island of Democracy and Freedom’

Yassıada to become ‘Island of Democracy and Freedom’

Vahap Munyar
Yassıada to become ‘Island of Democracy and Freedom’

Yassıada, a small island located off the coast of Istanbul’s Asian side in the Marmara Sea and was officially renamed “Democracy and Freedom Island” in 2013, is undergoing major changes. 

The island is known to have hosted the trials of former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and two members of his cabinet, Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan, after a 1960 coup

The project, which is set to be finished in February 2019, has a cost of 500 million Turkish Liras. A hotel on the island will have 125 rooms. The project also includes nearly 30 concrete bungalows, a conference hall with a capacity to host 600 people, a 1,200-person mosque, museum, cafes and restaurants. 

Arif Parmaksız, the executive board chair of the Customs and Tourism Enterprises (GTI) and chair of Nevşehir Trade and Industrial Chamber, said they acquired the Yassıada and Sivriada islands a few years ago from the Culture and Tourism Ministry for 29 years. 

“The Democracy and Freedom Island was one of the projects of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He asked for the project to be finished by February 2019. Now we are working to finish it on this date. The project was initiated by Justice and Development Party [AKP] deputy chairwoman Çiğdem Karaaslan and has been carried out by Mesa. The cost seems to reach 500 million liras,” Parmaksız said, adding that the island will be operated by the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges’ (TOBB) GTI. 

TOBB President Rıfat Hisarcıklıoğlu said there will be at least 100 trees on the island when the project is finished. 

“Actually, the island had more maquis plants than trees. With the new trees, the island will be greener. Within the scope of the project, a congress center will also be built on Sivriada,” he said. 

Parmaksız said they were preparing a book on Yassıada to be distributed at the opening of the Democracy and Freedom Island. According to a report, which the book will be based on, the highest point on Yassıada is 740 meters and is 185 meters in width. The island is 18.3 hectares. 

Speaking of the size of the construction project, Hisarcıklıoğlu said, “It is made up of a 60,000-square-meter closed area. The hotel will have four floors. 

 A place for exiles 

According to the information in the surveying report, prepared by Ebru Elmas Architecture Office, Yassıada had been used as a place for exiles since the 4th century. 

The Byzantine Emperor Theofilos, who ruled between 829 and 842, built the Platea Monastery on the island. Patriarch Ignatios, who was exiled to the island in 860, had built a church. Tunnels under the church were used as a dungeon. 

Henry Bulwer, a British ambassador to Istanbul who bought the island in 1859 with the approval of Sultan Abdülmecid, had built a castle-like building on the coast and a mansion in the middle of the island. Sometime later, he put the island up for sale. Ottoman state authorities had asked him to sell the island to a Turk. The Khedive of Egypt Ismail Pasha had bought the island.
In modern Turkey, Yassıada was bought by the Naval Forces in 1947. After the May 27, 1960 coup, members of the Democrat Party (DP) were tried there. Three of them were later executed on İmralı Island in 1961.