Turkish Political Prisoners Awarded Architecture Prize for Protesting Injustice

Three jailed Turkish activists, architect Ayse Mucella Yapici, city planner Tayfun Kahraman, and lawyer Can Atalay, have been given the prestigious award for ‘speaking out against social injustice’.

Workers’ Party of Turkey, TIP organised a protest in Istanbul. Photo: Workers’ Party of Turkey

Three Turkish political prisoners, Ayse Mucella Yapici, Tayfun Kahraman and Can Atalay, have been awarded the European Prize for Architecture for raising their voice against social injustice.

“The award committees selected Yapici, Kahraman and Atalay after they were given 18-year prison sentences for treason and ‘speaking out against social injustice in Turkey and for warning in advance about the devastating consequences of the February 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria’,” reported the Architect’s Newspaper.

Each year, The European Prize for Architecture is awarded jointly by The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design to architects who have made a commitment to forward the principles of European humanism and the art of architecture. The awards will be presented in Athens on September 15.

Each of the three was accused of trying to organize a coup d’état with their role in Istanbul’s Gezi Park Protests in 2013 and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey by using force and violence”.

The Gezi Park protests in 2013 was the first major street revolt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian policies, and started in defence of a threatened city park in Istanbul.

Achitect Yapici, city planner Kahraman and lawyer Atalay were at the forefronts of the protests. During the devastating earthquakes of February, the three activist raised awareness about the disaster and about the government’s poor response with statements and letters from prison.

It is estimated that nearly 55,000 people were killed and millions were left without homes in Turkey’s 11 southern and south-eastern provinces by the earthquakes of February 6.

Atalay was even selected an MP in the May 2023 elections from the Workers’ Party of Turkey, TIP, for the southern province of Hatay, which was devastated by quakes. Atalay was not released from prison, however, despite his election and existing laws and practices.

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