Istanbul Municipality says will challenge Gezi Park transfer

The Istanbul Municipality has said that it will challenge the transfer of ownership of Istanbul's Gezi Park, which was the scene of protests in 2013 that posed a challenge to then-Prime Minister Erdoğan.

Duvar English - Reuters

Turkey has transferred ownership of Istanbul's Gezi Park, the focus of anti-government protests in 2013, to national from municipal ownership, drawing criticism from the main opposition-run city which said it would challenge the decision.

The directorate for religious foundations, part of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, said the area was being transferred to one of its foundations.

Istanbul Municipality criticized what it said was a hasty decision by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) which was taken "to stop a project to turn the square into a green an aesthetic area again."

It plans to launch a legal process against the decision, it said in a statement on March 20.

Eight years ago, hundreds of thousands of people marched in Istanbul and across Turkey against plans to redevelop the central Istanbul park, posing a serious challenge to then-prime minister Erdoğan.

Plans approved by Erdoğan to build a replica Ottoman barracks in the central city square were abandoned after months of demonstrations. However, in 2016, Erdoğan said he remained determined to "reclaim our history" by building there.

The AKP has held power nationally since 2002. The AKP and its Islamist predecessors ran the municipality for 25 years, from when Erdoğan was elected mayor in 1994 until 2019, which was when Ekrem İmamoğlu, the candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) won the municipal elections.