Ownership of İstanbul’s iconic Gezi Park transferred to pro-gov’t foundation

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The ownership of Gezi Park, one of the only green spaces in İstanbul’s center, which was the focal point of mass protests in 2013, has been transferred to a foundation close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), independent media platform Medyascope reported on Friday.

The decision to transfer the park’s ownership from the opposition-run municipality of İstanbul to the Sultan Beyazıt Hanı Veli Hazretleri Foundation was made by the Directorate General of Foundations, operating under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

The decision, which was taken on March 12 and recently announced by the directorate in a written statement, was based on Article 30 of the Law on Foundations No. 5737, Medyascope said in the report.

The article says that “cultural assets originating from foundations, the ownership of which have – for whatsoever reason – been passed to the treasury, provincial administrations, municipalities or village legal entities shall be transferred to the … foundation.”

According to Medyascope, ownership of 1,100 properties in the country has been transferred to the Directorate General of Foundations by way of the article since 2008.

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) released a written press statement on Saturday arguing that the transfer of ownership was the latest in a series of moves by the AKP government to take revenge on the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for the 2019 elections.

The CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu assumed office as mayor after winning a decisive victory in a June 24 re-run election in 2019, ending the 25-year rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP and its predecessors in the country’s largest city and commercial hub. The election had to be repeated due to the AKP’s objection to İmamoğlu’s initial victory, who won by an even larger margin in the repeat poll.

“Referring to the articles of a law doesn’t make this decision, which was made by an order [of the government], legal. Therefore we cannot interpret this step, which was taken without even contacting our municipality, as one that was well intentioned and beneficial for the people. We will continue to fight it legally,” the İBB underlined.

“The ownership of Gezi Park was transferred to the palace [a reference to President Erdoğan]. The Gezi [park] resistance was the epitome of protecting trees, nature and public spaces. That’s the nightmare of those in power,” Emin Koramaz, board chairman of the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects Chambers (TMMOB), tweeted.

The Gezi Park demonstrations, which took place in the summer of 2013 in reaction to the AKP government’s attempt to destroy one of the few green spaces left in İstanbul, quickly turned into a nationwide protest against the authoritarian policies of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan.

Eleven protestors died and thousands more were injured as they were brutally suppressed by the police on Erdoğan’s instructions.

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