Kanal Istanbul forum banned in Taksim

A forum that was set to take place in Istanbul's central Taksim Square to discuss the potential environmental effects of the controversial Kanal Istanbul project has been cancelled at the last minute. The forum had a previous clearance from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

Duvar English

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has withdrawn a permission it had previously given to the "Ya Kanal Ya Istanbul" ("Either Canal or Istanbul") Platform – an initiative formed against the controversial Kanal Istanbul project – to organize a forum at the “Meeting Point” public art installation in the city's Taksim Square.

The forum, along with the Turkish music collective Bandista, was set to be held on Feb. 22. The "Either Canal or Istanbul" Platform members went to the “Meeting Point” public art installation on the day, but only to find out their permission had been cancelled. The police did not let them in the amphitheater, saying they did not have the necessary “permission.” The place was closed with barricades.

Following the incident, the platform issued a statement, saying this is an “attack on citizens' most democratic rights.” “We tell the police forces, who have prevented those trying to protect the nature, life, water bases and forests: Even if you stop us today, we will be more powerful tomorrow,” it said.

Activists from the "Either Canal or Istanbul" platform were not allowed to hold a forum in Taksim on Feb. 22. (Photo courtesy of Mezopotamya news agency)

The statement said that their “right to hold meetings and demonstration marches” had been violated as per Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution and demanded an explanation from the municipality regarding the issue.

Prof. Dr. Beyza Üstün from the platform said: “What the police forces said is right; this is a political struggle. We will not step back from this struggle. We will keep to maintain it until the end.”

Koray Türkan, another member of the platform, said many other activities had been organized at the “Meeting Point” public art installation and the prevention of their forum was “illegal.”

Meanwhile, the public art installation was taken down on Feb. 24 following a decision by the regional conservation board. The structure had only been in the square for only two days when the decision was issued on Feb. 17.

Istanbul municipality's Istanbul municipality's "Meeting Point" taken down

Kanal Istanbul would be a 45km shipping canal joining the Black Sea to the Marmara, running parallel to the Bosphorus strait, which already cuts through the center of Istanbul. The government says the canal is needed to reduce water traffic through the city.

Critics – who include the mayor of Istanbul – warn of a great environmental cost, including the potential ecological destruction of the Marmara Sea.

There is a delicate ecological balance between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, currently connected by the Bosphorus strait.