I’ve been traveling in Germany with intermittent access to the Internet (but lots of delicious food and wine, although no one can claim Bavarian food is slimming). I wanted to call attention to two good articles that have just appeared. One is by Suzy Hansen in NY Review of Books (spoiler alert: it prominently cites me and my book) about women’s situation in Turkey before and after AKP, and women’s participation in Gezi. Apparently more than half the 2 million people participating in the Gezi-related protests were women. This doesn’t surprise me as women (and young people) have little say in traditional politics other than casting a vote. Even if they join a party, their activities and influence are limited. Civil society is increasingly constrained. Going out on the street is one of the few avenues available to make their voices heard. Hansen sets this in the context of women’s roles in Turkish society since the founding of the Republic. What has changed? What hasn’t?
Another article is by Daniel Dombey and Funja Guler in the Financial Times about the devastation ahead as the AKP government goes ahead with mega-projects that put the now-stalled Gezi Park project in the shade. I’ve discussed many of these mega-projects here on my blog — the airport (May, $22 billion), third bridge (already begun, $3 bn), “Crazy” canal, Galata port complex ($700 million), etc. The FT article mentions two more disturbing plans:
Ismet Yilmaz, Turkey’s defense minister, indicated earlier this month that military security zones will be shifted from western Turkey toward the east. These sites occupy more than 50,000 acres in Istanbul alone, almost all of it green space and much of it beside the Bosphorus and along the Golden Horn. The environment ministry has indicated that at least some of the land will be developed as housing projects and government buildings. Thus will disappear some of the last remaining green flanges of the Bosphorus, replaced by government offices with views previously enjoyed by sultans and pashas (and military officers). And the AKP-linked housing development agency TOKI and “friendly” companies will undoubtedly have their noses deep in this rich trough.
A related development area is the old shipyard along the Golden Horn founded in 1455 by Sultan Mehmed II, two years after the Conquest of Constantinople. Since it was a military area, access was limited, but a soldier stationed at the gate is quoted in the article as saying that there are many beautiful buildings inside the shipyard; he thinks they’ll be knocked down. He’s probably right. (Does anyone actually know what is inside the shipyard? Have historians been consulted? Archaeologists? Architects?) The area will soon boast two marinas, two five-star hotels, a shopping mall and a mosque with space for 1,000 worshippers ($1.3bn, tendered last month). Perhaps they’ll be in the same puffed-up cartoonish version of Ottoman kitsch that AKP seems to prefer to any real historical buildings. Will Istanbul someday become a cartoon version of itself, a postmodern monstrosity, clean, sleek, soulless, its roots withering in the arid imagination of technocrats?