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Post-bombing security measures on İstiklal Avenue feared to ruin its soul

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The İstanbul Govenor’s Office has announced widespread security measures on İstiklal Avenue, where a deadly bombing took place earlier this month, that are feared to harm the area’s dynamism and liveliness, local media reported on Friday.

According to a press statement released by his office on Friday, Governor Ali Yerlikaya issued a general order banning a variety of social, cultural and commercial activities and events on İstiklal, a busy pedestrian street that runs through İstanbul’s central district of Beyoğlu, where six people were killed and 81 were injured in a bombing on Nov. 13.

The prohibited activities include setting up a sales stand and hawking merchandise in addition to performances by street musicians and the like.

“A common demand in consultations with retailers, local administrations and security units operating on İstiklal Avenue, which is approximately 1,400 meters long and has the heaviest pedestrian traffic in our country, was maintaining the flow of tramway transportation and pedestrian traffic,” Yerlikaya said, adding that the same issue was also of critical importance in “ensuring public order, well-being and general security.”

Some news outlets critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the bans brought to mind the harsh measures implemented during a two-year state of emergency that was declared in the aftermath of a 2016 coup attempt.

Journalists and social media users criticized the bans, arguing they would kill the soul of the avenue, where large numbers of people enjoy a wide range of social and cultural activities and events every day.

“If you also ban entry [to the avenue], then there won’t be any problem,” exiled Turkish journalist Can Dündar said in a tweet.

“Yeah, sucking the life out of İstiklal will make it safer, sure,” Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink also tweeted, adding that Turkey should stop undermining the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“Is İstiklal Avenue the only crowded place in the country? Increase security instead of turning down the volume of the music,” a Twitter user said, addressing the ruling AKP.

“They wanted İstiklal to turn into a reinforced concrete open-air mall where tourists come and go, rather than being a breathing, organic place with its own culture. They succeeded,” another Twitter user said.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AKP also attracted criticism for banning the sale of alcoholic beverages in stores during coronavirus lockdowns and due to local administrations’ bans on more than a dozen events, including concerts and university music festivals, on various pretexts, with many accusing them of interfering in people’s lifestyles and trying to force their Islamic values on the nation.

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