Raft of Turkish Protests Remains Powerfully Afloat

META protestsInternational media is streaming updates on Syria, Big Brother antics by USA and UK intelligence services, and British buildings that can melt cars, but hardly a word on continuing protests in Turkey.  And they are continuing despite chronic under-reporting by Turkish press.

The silence is predictable in a nation that muzzles free expression, but where are the rest of world’s reporters?

In early September, students from Middle East Technical University (METU) set up camp to block construction of a 8-lane highway planned to cut through their campus. Local residents and others from wider Ankara are supporting protestors by providing food and supplies. The photo above shows a camp banner declaring, “Don’t touch my neighborhood”.

METU is Turkey’s leading technical university with100 undergraduate programs including architecture, engineering and arts and sciences.  It’s been a dissident stronghold since its founding in 1956, and continues to attract a heavily politicized student body.

Protesters including students, faculty members and experts from the Chamber of Architects claim the road project lacks necessary permissions, runs counter to accepted urban planning guidelines, and will not relieve area traffic as claimed by Mayor Melih Gökçek.

The METU campus is a protected area and is home to the capitol’s only forest. Protesters point out that several shopping malls have already sprung up along the new highway route, indicating that the project is less about regional transport and more about commercial development.

The mayor has a history of environmental disregard: his previous efforts to demolish university buildings were defeated in court. He also tried to expropriate a lake within the university grounds, but this was also defeated.

Green Prophet’s reported on similar attempts to usurp public green space in Beirut’s Jesuit Garden and in Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

The message is clear to those seeking to destroy public parkland – keep off our grass.

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