Gezi Park Project Suspended; Have the Protestors Won?

Following a lengthy late night meeting with demonstrators, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to halt construction of a controversial redevelopment project pending the outcome of an ongoing court case and possible public referendum.

"Besieged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed Friday to freeze construction in a popular Istanbul park after an emergency meeting with antigovernment protesters in Ankara, easing fear of further violence after two weeks of widespread chaos and bloodshed," report Glen Johnson and Jeffrey Fleishman. "Speaking after Friday's meeting, government spokesman Huseyin Celik said a court order against the proposed development in the park would remain in place."

"Nothing will be done until the end of the judicial process," Celik said. Then "there will be a referendum among the people of Istanbul ... to see what the people of Istanbul want."

"In the current crisis, which centers on a government plan to convert the park into a replica of an Ottoman-era army barracks, Mr. Erdogan has acted more like the mayor of Istanbul, a job he held in the 1990s," writes Tim Arango in The New York TimesThis sentiment was echoed by Professor Sadik Artunc, FASLA, RLA, in a blog post for The Dirt: "I believe these sad developments can be linked to the top-down planning style of the Prime Minister, who once again took center stage to explain his vision for this public square and park during these tragic events."

Artunc, a native of Turkey and head of the department of landscape architecture at Mississippi State University, accuses the Turkish Prime Minister of practicing landscape architecture without a license, and more egregiously, without public input. "Mr. Erdoğan needs to make up his mind if he wants to be the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Mayor of City of Istanbul, or an urban designer," he concludes. "If the Prime Minister has no intention of going back to school, then he should let the real design professionals do their job and concentrate on managing the government in a way that will make all Turkish citizens proud."

Full Story: Turkey's leader agrees to halt park project

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