Press Release from History Foundation, Turkey

9 June 2013

For Turkish: http://www.e-skop.com/skopbulten/topcu-kislasi-insasina-karsi-tarih-vakfindan-basin-aciklamasi/1335

The abridged translation is below:

Press statement against the proposed construction of the Taksim Military Barracks from the History Foundation.

As protests against the planned construction of the Taksim Military Barracks at Gezi Park grow, the History Foundation (Tarih Vakfı) became yet another organisation to voice their opposition. Speaking from Beyoğlu at a press conference, Uğur Tanyeli said “This is the first time I’ve seen a nationwide protest erupt through the means of architecture. I don’t believe there is any viable explanation for reconstructing a building demolished around 70 years ago, for whatever reason. Furthermore I believe that before a project begins construction, the aims of it should be clear. You can’t just say ‘it could be a mall, a city museum or a hotel’”

The History Foundation has been aware of a growing phenomenon of politicians abusing Turkish history. However the large amount of organisations opposing the planned construction of the Taksim Military Barracks may be a sign of hope that such abuse will come to an end.

Contrary to the principles of urban management, several decisions regarding Taksim Square have been made by central government. Examples, including the Golden Horn metro bridge and the 3rd Bosporus Bridge, have all disregarded the rights of locals to govern their city. As a result, several Istanbul residence have seen protesting as the only way to retain their right to local government. Protests in several cities have also begun for such reasons, as well as against police brutality.

History is not something that people with power can exploit. History is the flow of events from distant times to the present. Looking at it this way, Taksim Square can be seen as the centre of historical memory of Istanbul’s past, and as a result it should be under protection.

Similar to the way it’s against the construction of “replica historical structures” which defy local government and history, (i.e. the military barracks), the History Foundation is also fully against plans for a city museum despite it being disguised as a much more friendly project. For 10 years, the History Foundation has written books, participated in foreign art exhibitions, published the Istanbul Encyclopedia and Istanbul Magazine, as well as researched information regarding Istanbul Museums. Such extensive research makes the History Foundation the most knowledgeable organisation in terms of city museums. It claims that hosting such a museum within a replica building is entirely defying its purpose. Both the state and government should ensure that they have full support of local residents before undertaking projects in public places. Furthermore, history should not be politicised and used as a basis of political ideologies or to defend policies.

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