The beautiful Turkish city of Amasya sits on the banks of the Yesilirmak River, and boasts thousands of years of history. This month, the city is making history yet again, as its residents become involved in a protest that appears to be quickly spreading beyond Amasya’s borders.
It might be the new Gezi Park, and it’s further evidence of social and political unrest in the already troubled nation of Turkey. While the protests are still in their nascent stage, many Turkish people are following the situation closely.
Amasya’s situation started with a proposal to develop a park located in the middle of the city. The park is filled with trees and plants, and it’s a popular place for residents to visit. If the story sounds familiar, it should, because this is effectively what happened in Gezi Park as well, where the interests of developers were put over those of residents. As in Gezi, people are fighting back. They’re occupying the park and its trees to protest the development, arguing that surely, there must be a better place to put a gas station.
#DirenAmasya (“diren” means “resist”) is already trending in Turkey, and it’s starting to attract global attention as well. While the physical protests have remained local, the discussion has gone national, highlighting growing concerns among Turkish residents about the construction boom in the country. While the government argues that development and construction are signs of a robust economy and are ultimately good for the nation, some residents feel otherwise, arguing that destructive construction and the removal of treasured public resources like parks is troubling.
Even on social media, Turks appear split between favoring development and chances to build, and protecting the country’s valued green space. Turkey, like many nations experiencing rapid jumps in growth, is facing conflicts between the desire to develop and the need to do so in a balanced way. In ancient cities like Amasya where layers and layers of architecture going back centuries jostle for room with parks and the needs of the public, development can be especially fraught — where, when, and how can you build to accommodate the needs of a growing population and an economy that’s experiencing growth as well?
While #DirenAmasya may not reach the scale of the Gezi Park protests, it’s an important social phenomenon, and it’s worthy of attention. Turkey is experiencing a period of very turbulent politics, and situations like this one illustrate the stark disconnect between the government and its citizens. As residents of Amasya fight to protect the park they love from development, the government charges on with similar projects in other locales, often over the voices of residents and the larger community.
Is Turkey close to another breaking point that might erupt in explosive nationwide protests, and is the government prepared to deal with such an event and its fallout?
Photo credit: Turc Olive.