Istanbul, July 16 () - Turkey’s Council of State reversed its previous decision to cancel the controversial pedestrianization project around Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square, expressing support for the construction of the replica of an Ottoman artillery barracks over Gezi Park.
Istanbul’s 1st Regional Court canceled both the Taksim pedestrianization project and the Artillery Barracks project on June 6, 2013, in the midst of the Gezi protests which spread across the nation and the resulted in the deaths of eight protesters.
Almost a year later, in April 2014, the Council of State re-evaluated and approved its cancellation decision in response to an appeal by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
Nonetheless, the municipality made a rare request for a revision of the decision – an unusual motion that only succeeds in the event the decision was made in error.
However, a report by Cumhuriyet on July 15 revealed the Council of State voted in favor of the municipality’s request for a revision on March 31.
In its decision, the council demanded the formation of a new panel of experts for a second expert examination and demanded the finalization of the Istanbul 6th Regional Court’s February 2014 decision for a stay of execution.
The newspaper noted the decision came after 33 new members were appointed to the Council of State in 2014, shifting its balance in favor of the then-ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
It is alleged that the decision also extended veiled support for the construction of the Artillery Barracks by defining the “historical barracks” as a piece of immovable cultural property that requires conservation.
The news of the Council of State decision immediately stirred public outcry on July 15, with the hashtag "we will not allow you to demolish Gezi" (#SanaGeziyiYıktırmayacağız in Turkish) becoming a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.
The project to construct a reproduction of the historic Artillery Barracks was one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “crazy” projects in Istanbul, alongside a new airport, a third bridge and a man-made canal.
On July 13, Erdoğan cited the major projects as his redline for the ongoing talks to form a coalition government, after the AKP lost its parliamentary majority with the June 7 general election. “Any coalition talks that start with a debate about suspending the major projects of Turkey will be challenged by me before anyone else,” Erdoğan said.
The reproduction would have been built over Gezi Park in central Istanbul and serve as a shopping mall and residence with social facilities, but nationwide protests which continued throughout the summer of 2013 prevented the demolition of the park.