Beyond Erdogan's Ambitions, A Prayer For Istanbul

Protests against the construction plans to pave over Istanbul's Gezi park have exploded into a national standoff. If the project goes to a popular referendum, what will really be at stake?

 “Let the chains be broken – let Hagia Sofia be opened”
“Let the chains be broken – let Hagia Sofia be opened”
Ahmet Hakan


ISTANBUL - I can be considered as someone who has his roots in the Islamic community, more or less.

I have been among both the most radical and most moderate of Islamic groups.

I have spent time both above and beyond these groups, my writings in the pages of Islamic magazines.

I know the Islamic community’s dreams about Istanbul, more or less.

For example, there was the dream of “reconquering Istanbul.”

The Welfare Party members used to say “Istanbul shall be reconquered” during their local election campaigns 20 years ago.

Actually, what they meant was:

“We do not want to be stuck in the outskirts of the city. We too, want to exist, to be visible at the center of the city; we want to be heard.”

That was a very righteous demand indeed.

This demand became a reality in the following years anyway; just as any other righteous demand.

For example, there was the dream of the Hagia Sofia and there still is.

I have witnessed the chanting of the slogan: “let the chains be broken – let Hagia Sofia be opened” when I was just a kid.

It is the greatest yearning of the traditional pro-Ottoman movements that the Hagia Sofia be opened to prayer as a Mosque instead of its current museum status.

Books like “Mahzun Mabet”, the glorious conferences Necip Fazil gave new meaning to this desire to have the Hagia Sophia reopened as a place of worship…

Shortly: The ideal of Hagia Sophia being reopened for prayer is one that we know and recognize; it is still alive.

Gezi park, seen from above (Chianti)

However, I have neither witnessed nor heard of any such ideal among the Islamic community to “rebuild the Artillery Barracks,” as Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan is calling for, sparking the protests to save the last park in central Istanbul.

No, I have never heard of a yearning for the Artillery Barracks in my life.

Never a dream or a speech, I was not even aware of the story of the Artillery Barracks until very recently.

Is it just me?

Ask anyone from the community, you will get the same answer.

They would say: “we have never heard of such a thing.”

Therefore, Erdogan’s call for the Artillery Barracks is not one to match up with the traditional Islamic ideals; It is a personal notion; a notion according to his personal taste of architecture and urbanism.

I asked the experts, they say: The Artillery Barracks building is an eclectic building not in harmony with the architectural tradition and spirit of Istanbul. It does not sit well with the architectural style with the signet of Mimar Sinan.

You cannot revive the history even if you can build the barracks exactly the way it was because it will be just a brand new imitation of the historic one.

There has to be serious reference data about a currently nonexistent historic building to be rebuilt. There is no such inventory for the Artillery Barracks.

Moreover, if you have a dream of rebuilding currently nonexistent historical buildings, there are many demolished mosques with inventories; waiting for our attention.

Taksim Artillery Barracks. Demolished in 1939 (Wikipedia)

Taksim Square was not surrounded with concrete buildings when the Artillery Barracks was in existence. Therefore, building the Artillery Barracks today means adding one more construction to the breathing space of Taksim.

Despite all these, there will be a referendum on the rebuilding of the Artillery Barracks.


Just because ErdoÄŸan said the word.

Now, please let your conscience speak:

Will the ones who will vote “yes” say “yes” to the Artillery Barracks, or will they say “yes” for Erdogan to keep his word?

Will it be the Artillery Barracks or Erdogan’s power and charisma put to vote?

Let there be no doubt: it will be the charisma of Erdogan.

When the referendum is over: It will be bad for Istanbul if Erdogan’s charisma is saved.

It will be bad for Erdogan’s charisma if Istanbul is saved.

The great city of Istanbul is under the mangle of such a dilemma and deadlock.

I cannot say anything but “May Allah help you Istanbul.”

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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