Istanbul: New Squat ‘Don Quixote’

In the aftermath of the Gezi-protests, Istanbul’s newly-formed solidarity groups continue to work on lasting change. One recent development is the long empty and recently squatted building ‘Don Quixote’ in the district Kadiköy. ‘Don Quixote’ will become Istanbul’s first social center of this kind.

Months after the Gezi-Protests, Istanbul seems to be relatively quiet again. No more regular battles with the police, the streets and Gezipark itself are back to the pedestrians and it is hard to imagine what was going on at exactly these places just a few months ago. But the protest continues. It has just taken another, more sublte and less centralized form. In whole Istanbul, citizens organize themselves in so called ‘forums’, which are district-bound solidarity groups with current and felxible goals. These goals reach from the tightening of the neighborhood connections, over the discussion of prevailing topics to the organization of demonstrations.
One of the recent results of these develpments is the new squat ‘Don Quixote’ in Istanbul’s district Kadiköy. Don Quixote is not planned to be a place for permanent living, but is going to be the first ‘social center’ of Istanbul. The place has been squatted by Yeldeğirmeni Solidarity just a few weeks ago and is currently under construction. At the moment, there are different working groups operating on different parts of the project (e.g. a group for wall paintings etc.) but basically everyone can join. Don Quixote is not a place that ‘belongs’ to Yeldeğirmeni Solidarity, it is not supposed to belog to anyone but everyone at the same time.
Planned is a big ‘free room’ for exhibitions, concerts, workshops and whatever else comes to peoples minds. There will also be a kitchen for cooking and eating collectively, a free shop for exchanging clothes, a children’s lesson room, a relaxation-room, in which an indoor garden can already be found, and a roof garden with water-collection and photovoltaik constructions.
Event-plannings are for example ‘alternative saturdays’, meetings that will take place every two weeks with thier emphasis on creating autonomous systems of all kinds. There will be workshops, talks and movies about topics like how to grow food, seed exchange, altenative economies, energy supply and the like.
Another plan is to connect the ‘Don Quxiote’ project to the nearby immigrant/ refugee school and the newly emerging café-collective in the immediate neighborhood.

The buliding itself has been empty for about the last 20 years. A mix of difficulties, originating in a change in law of buliding security-standards after the earthquake in 1999 and the fact, that the previous owner sold the property to five people at the same time and then dissaperaed, resulted in the building being empty for so many years. ”The court case between all five owners about the property will go on for at least a few more years”, says one person regularly working on the project. ”The squatting was easy, but by law, eviction could happen any time. The most important thing is, to have good ties to the neighborhood and to include them in the project”. He tells that there is a good deal of neighborhood support for the evolving social center. ”Before Gezi, this wouldn’t have been possible. This situation gave us the power and the confidence that projects like these are possible.”
Of course, Don Quixote is more than ‘just’ a social center. It is one form of ongiong protest against the repressive government and one way to show that resistance has various forms, one of which can be the creation of alternative, autonomous space.

For anyone who wants to support Don Quixote or know more about it, visit: