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BASAKSEHIR: A LIFE STYLE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Photos: Kuntay Alpman, Stephan Mörsch, Kınay Olcaytu, Sevgi Ortaç, Ayşe Çavdar


A map of Basaksehir's 4th and 5th districts (Turkish: Stages). This map is shown by all real estate agencies. Although the map changes every year due to new building activities, compared to the other “unplanned� parts of Istanbul, Basaksehir is one of the lucky ones having a map that makes it easy to orientate yourself.


This poster shows why Basaksehir's map changes every year: “Does it work? If this question gnaws at you when you search for an investment, visit the Arterium Shopping Street. It works!�


As the main street is closed due to security measures, people use a temporary road to get to Erdogan.

Waiting for Erdogan

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On the left: Ferman (padishah's decree) of February Valley of Wolves at Olimpa theater Planetarium (Space Watching Tent) Feb. 9 No Smoking Day Feb 14 St Valentines Day Alive Music Clown / coloring face Mini Golf

Salih Kara on Facebook (under the advertisement of the openning ceremony): “We would prefer to see our prime minister opening a factory instead of a shopping mall.”

R. Tayyip Erdogan, current prime minister of Turkey, created the idea of Basaksehir when he was the mayor of Istanbul in the mid-1990s. He visited Basaksehir on February 20, 2011 for the opening ceremony of the biggest shopping mall of Basaksehir, Olimpa. Olimpa was built by Fuzul Holding, a company founded by the Iskender Pasa Naksibendi brotherhood, a religious order that forms one of the biggest groups supporting Erdogan´s ruling AKP, the Justice and Development Party, from the beginning. Considering this background, I was expecting the ceremony would be very crowded. But on the contrary, there were only about 2000 people listening to the prime minister. Even the balconies around the place were empty. When I asked people around me why so few people had come to hear Erdogan speak, the answer was “The weather is too cold.” However, I can easily remember, that, when Erdogan was campaigning, thousands of people were listening to him ignoring any weather condition. Sharing my thoughts with a man in a small shop close to the square, he said: “But there is no campaign anymore.”


CAGRI is a very symbolic term for Islamic politics in Turkey, that means “call” or “mission”. Cagri also is the Turkish title of the movie “The Message: The Story of Islam” made by Mustafa Akkad in 1976. The movie was never broadcasted on TV during the 1980s (at that time there was only one public channel, TRT). In the 1990s it was shown a couple of times on TRT and following the mid-1990s private channels started to broadcast it nearly every week during Ramadan. In the following years, when Muslim companies started to invest in the media sector, it was even possible to watch it everyday on TV. The supermarket in Olimpa also carries the name Cagri, and the slogan of the Cagri Supermarket is “The happiness of limitless shopping”.


It is not very common to see headscarfed women working for T端rk Telekom, a Turkish telephone company. In Basaksehir, however, some companies prefer to work with veiled women, which is probably part of localized marketing strategies. It is also possible to see headscarfed women working for public hospitals. Since veiling is prohibited to public servants, it is not easy for headscarfed women to find jobs in the public sector. However, in some religious neighborhoods like Basaksehir, public institutions (municipalities, schools, hospitals) have employed them in order to show their support (or at least their not being opposite) to the usage of headscarves.

In front of Olimpa Movie Theater The poster on the left: Eyvah Eyvah 2 (Alas Alas 2), a comedy. On the right, another poster: H端r Adam (Free Man) a film narrating the life of Said Nursi (the leader of the Nur Community). Close to the poster, a table offering his books. It was almost impossible to get a ticket for the movie in Basaksehir. This table, on the contrary, was the most desolate corner of Olimpa.


Basaksehir is a completely new town, so most of the names used to entitle Basaksehir are new, too. There are different strategies used by the municipality to name Basaksehir. They particularly use historiography as a reference for their naming practices. First: Commonly acceptable names are for example Ahmet Yesevi (one of the first Turkish sufi wo lived in 12th century), Mevlana (another sufi from 13th century), Yunus Emre (a dervish from 13th-14th centuries) Second: Especially for the gated communities made by KÄ°PTAĹž (municipal construction company), the names of the most famous neighborhoods of Istanbul are used. Like Istinye, Ortakoy, Kanlica etc.


Third: For the small streets between the gated communities, names of Muslim intellectuals, who are representatives of the struggle of the Islamism in the political and cultural area, have particularly been used. Sabahattin Zaim: A professor, who is very well-known as a “religious scientist” within Islamic circles. Cahit Zarifoglu and Erdem Bayazıt: Two poets well known by Muslim intellectuals but ignored by secular literature circles. Ironically, these two poets – whose names are used to complete Basaksehir's 'Islamist' symbolism - wrote many poems to describe the depressive atmosphere of modern cities. Even reading a couple of verses of them gives an idea about the evolution of their policy in a couple of decades: Cahit Zarifoğlu: Let's lay everything aside. There are many things to live, to say and to hush. / We will destroy this city and watch the ruins from across. / Only you and me will remain. We will shatter all the pains, evils, betrays, fears, troubles when they just fall to sleep, together with innocent women / than we will go to other cities. Let's lay the loose ends and desires aside. / Let's lay this city and the world aside. Erdem Bayazıt: The walls suddenly appear in front of me / The city´s walls carry imprisonment/There are no walls hiding any secret behind them/ I ask where, where is my dress / Somebody says the city is undressed / It's dress is stolen.


Sular Vadisi is the most famous public part of Basaksehir. This park has costed KIPTAS approximately 21 million Euro. It has been rented to three different private companies for a period of 30 years. Everything is designed and ruled in a strict way. Destroyed by a flood two years ago the valley has only lately been rebuilt. In summer the valley is relatively crowded. Women and men come here to hang out, to walk and loose weight. Companies rent the public buildings for wedding parties or NGO meetings. To attract people they arrange games like “Memory� (above). Eating nuts is prohibited here in order to keep the park clean.


Transitionary spaces

The gardens of gated communities are neither private, nor public: These spaces are under the control of private security guards of the community. Most of the time they are nearly empty. The oldest district of Basaksehir (1st Stage) was conceptualized as a social housing project, that is why the public space was more open before whole Basaksehir became a gated community town. By the time, the inhabitants of 1st Stage also decided to build fences to close their “public space” to the “outer public”. Currently, it is the only gated community having its own primary school, a large tea garden and a relatively big shopping area.


On the left: Istanbul's logo with minarets On the right: Basaksehir's logo with housing blocks In a meeting with the elites of Basaksehir (representatives of local NGOs and the municipality) I asked if they were aware of the fact that the minarets of Istanbul's logo have been replaced by housing blocks in Basaksehir's logo. But there was no direct answer. Some of the participants told me they wouldn´t interpret the similarity between the two logos the way I did.

Ayse Cavdar: Basakshehir: A lifestyle under construction  

A photoessay by Ayse Cavdar

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