For the second time in its history, Hagia Sophia has been turned into a mosque. The first time was after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Atatürk turned it into a secular museum in 1934. Last Friday, a court ruled that conversion to have been illegal. The first prayers will be held on 24 July, the anniversary of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The move is widely seen as the latest step in the Islamisation of Turkish society under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP.
In the end it was never even close. Ekrem İmamoğlu was elected mayor of Istanbul yesterday for the second time in three months, taking 54 per cent of the vote, more than double the share of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he ascended to the post in 1994.
President Erdoğan, once such an astute political operator, should have sensed early that rerunning the March election was a mistake. After winning a spirited first campaign, and bringing political fresh air to Istanbul for the fortnight he was in office in April, İmamoğlu’s movement only grew as the second ballot approached. His unapologetically upbeat campaign slogan, ‘Herşey çok güzel olacak’ (‘Everything will be OK’), was popular beyond the metropolis. It was reported that people mistakenly showed up to vote as far afield as Diyarbakır, a predominantly Kurdish city in the south-east.
On 31 March, Ekrem İmamoğlu of the opposition Turkish Republican Party (CHP) was elected mayor of Istanbul at the head of a National Alliance coalition. He was sworn in on 17 April, but removed from office this week when the Supreme Electoral Council announced that the vote will be re-run on 23 June.
İmamoğlu and the CHP will not have been unprepared for the decision. In a city of more than fifteen million people, he defeated the AKP candidate, Binali Yıldırım, by 23,000 votes at first tally. The government ordered a recount. To protect against tampering, polling station officials – supporters not of İmamoğlu so much as of Turkish democracy – slept next to the sacks of ballots waiting to be recounted. İmamoğlu’s majority was reduced to less than 14,000. But he had still won
Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul on the afternoon of 2 October and did not come out. The local police think that Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist writing regularly for the Washington Post, was killed inside the consulate building and his body smuggled out by car.
The Greek-language newspaper
At the tail end of Istanbul’s İstiklâl Caddesi (Independence Street) in Beyoğlu, there’s a shop called Robinson Crusoe 389. It’s one of the last remaining bookshops on Istanbul’s busiest shopping street, a castaway among the big brand retailers, coffee shops and waffle places. Designed by Han Tümertekin, it opened its doors at 389 İstiklâl in 1994, selling an impressive range of Turkish and English books. The street has been renumbered since then – the bookshop’s address is now 195 İstiklâl – but the number 389 still appears above the door and on the shop’s bags.
During the Istanbul Film Festival last month, police used water cannon, tear gas and batons to disperse a crowd, Costa-Gavras among them, who were protesting against the imminent destruction of the Emek Theatre. Built in 1924 as the Melek Sineması in the former Club des Chasseurs de Constantinople, the cinema closed in 2010. It has been an object of contention ever since plans were announced that the state-owned building would be torn down and replaced with yet another shopping mall, as happened to the nearby Saray Sineması. The government and the construction firm they leased the building to, Kamer İnşaat, say that the Emek will be preserved and moved to the mall’s fourth floor. This seems unlikely, considering that it’s an 875-seat, single-screen theatre.