Istanbul Protests Reflect Tensions over Urban, and Societal, Transformations

The protests that've gripped Istanbul, and several other Turkish cities in recent days, reflect tensions over the 'autocratic ambitions' of the country's government and the cultural transformations it has pushed through grand redevelopment projects.

With plans for the world’s largest airport, the country’s biggest mosque, and the redevelopment of Taksim Square into “a Las Vegas of Ottoman splendor” underway, or on the drawing board, Istanbul is undergoing a remarkable transformation. "For many Turks, though, the development is not so much progress as a reflection of growing autocratic ambitions by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government," reports Tim Arango. 

"The swiftly changing physical landscape of Istanbul symbolizes the competing themes that undergird modern Turkey — Islam versus secularism, rural versus urban," he adds. "For many, it has also created a sense of resentment and loss — for longtime residents, urban intellectuals and many members of the underclasses who are being pushed from their homes so that upscale housing complexes and shopping malls can be built."

“The Istanbul that we grew up with is lost,” says Ara Guler, a photographer famous for his black-and-white photographs of Istanbul’s cityscapes. “Where is my Istanbul? It’s all about the money.”

Thanks to Bora Mici

Full Story: Protests in Turkey Reveal a Larger Fight Over Identity

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