Enough is enough. This Sunday December 22 the people of Istanbul will ‘reclaim their city’. The brainchild of a number of organisations, movements and forums (some notable ones include Istanbul Urban Movements, Defence of the Northern Forests, Abbasağa Forum, Archaeologists’ Association Istanbul Branch, People’s Engineers and Architects, Istanbul Assembly for Urban and Housing Rights, Inter Forum Group on Urban Transformation, The Black Sea Uprise Platform, Pangea Ecology, Social Rights Association, Taksim Gezi Park Preservation and Development Association, Yedikule Gardens Preservation Initiative, Yoğurtçu Park Forum, Chamber of Environmental Engineers Istanbul Branch, Democratic Student Associations, and many more), a solidarity march will take place in Kadıköy to raise awareness and stand up for what Istanbul is quickly losing – its environmental treasures, archaeological and historical sites, and the plethora of communities who are being displaced daily without permission.
The manifesto of the December 22 initiative is simple: to say NO to ‘those craving money and power who have commodified Istanbul and put its neighborhoods, public squares, forests, history and culture on sale’.
Cihan Baysal, spokesperson for Istanbul Urban Movements, a group that is committed to stopping urban planning that might have negative environmental and other impacts, said that the idea for the march has been a work in progress spawned from many dissatisfactions. Since the Third Bridge project was first announced, there have been many meetings and rallies against it, mobilised under the Platform Against the Third Bridge (comprising of various groups, initiatives, activists and academics). When Gezi happened, two other projects – the Third Airport and the Canal – started being questioned and various other groups formed, such as the Abbasağa Forum and the Northern Forests Defence. Along with Istanbul Urban Movements and others, these groups decided to band together and ‘organise an event before the local elections to voice their discontent and show the power of urban opposition,’ according to Baysal. ‘Each and every parcel of Istanbul is under threat of demolition and destruction. Mega projects destroy forests, water basins, nature and also threaten neighbourhoods,’ Baysal adds. Besides Belgrade Forest, the 1600-year old Yedikule bostans are under severe threat. Something had to be done.
Çiğdem Çidamlı, a member of the Northern Forest Defence and one of the seven people forming the organising committee of the march, also says that Gezi is, in a way, responsible for this march being possible. ‘A march uniting our struggles was a kind of dream for all of us. During our June Revolt we experienced a moment where this dream became a reality. So after Gezi it was inevitable to organise something in which all of our struggles, demands and dreams will be united,’ she says.
Baysal and Çidamlı agree that the aim of the march is ‘to unite, organise and reclaim the city’. ‘We do not expect a miracle or an immediate return. We are realistic. We want to raise awareness, we want to make the government think again. It is a message to the government, the opposition and the local candidates on what we, the people of Istanbul, want and don’t want,’ says Baysal.
The message from both Baysal and Çidamlı is clear: those who have ‘besieged Istanbul with their unlawful laws, exceptionally empowered ministries, law-enforcement forces, bulldozers and co-conspiring local authorities, turning the city into a scene of struggle for survival’, as according to the manifesto, have to be stopped. A solidarity march that will spread throughout the city is a very good notch on the belt for the various fights that are being fought in Istanbul (click here to read the full manifesto).
People are encouraged to come to either Söğütlüçeşme or Haydarpaşa Numune at 12 noon and walk to Kadıköy Square where the two groups will converge at around 1pm.