ANKARA — Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has reportedly labeled Istanbul’s Taksim Square, which was rocked by deadly anti-government protests last year, “as the ugliest square in the world”.
“If anyone tells me that Taksim is a perfect square, then I would tell him that it is the ugliest square in the world,” Davutoglu told reporters.
“I have seen the squares in Venice and Isfahan,” he said, referring to St. Mark’s Square and the immense Naqsh-e Jahan Square in the historic Iranian city.
“After seeing them, you feel yourself sucked into a vacuum on Taksim Square,” he was quoted as saying by Milliyet newspaper on Monday.
“Taksim Square was not gradually developed as a culture center, unlike in Venice and Isfahan. Incidentally, if Taksim had not been formed and a military barracks had not been built there, there wouldn’t even be a square,” Davutoglu also said, adding that an Armenian cemetery had been located in the area in the past.
A small campaign to save Istanbul’s Gezi Park, adjacent to Taksim, in May-June 2013 eventually drew an estimated three million protesters in an outpouring of anger at the perceived authoritarian tendencies of the Islamic-rooted government.
Eight people died and thousands were injured in the ensuing violence as police launched a brutal crackdown, frequently employing tear gas and water cannon.
The government shuts down both the Gezi Park and Taksim Square at the slightest whiff of public dissent.
The square has traditionally been a focus of political protest and in 1977, 34 people killed during a May Day protest when unknown gunmen fired on a peaceful crowd.
Today however, many Istanbul residents prefer to give the square a wide berth, finding it a noisy concrete wasteland with little attraction or character dominated by tourists.
The comments by Davutoglu, who charged that the protesters “abused the Taksim problem,” came as the 26 alleged leaders of Taksim Solidarity — the main activist group behind the 2013 protests — are set to appear in court on Tuesday.
“ In the past, there was an Armenian graveyard there,” Ahmet Davutoglu stated, in particular.