Locals protest against Turkish island’s ‘monstrobuses’

By Ag Afp
June 24, 2024
Lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island Ibrahim Aycan, 47, is protesting to stop new minibuses on the island of Buyukada, in Istanbul on June 20, 2024. — AFP

ISTANBUL: Ibrahim Aycan has been waging all-out war against the electric minibuses newly introduced on the car-free island of Buyukada, which he says threaten his corner of paradise on the southern shores of Istanbul.

“We live a peaceful life here,” said Aycan, a lawyer and head of the Association of Friends of the Island.


“These vehicles sadden us. Let people walk and cycle!”

Buyukada is one of the Princes´ Islands, a popular destination for tourists and a retreat for many of Istanbul´s 16 million inhabitants.

Motor vehicles are prohibited on the islands, except for essential services, and even horse-drawn carriages were banned in 2020 to protect the local wildlife.

But the controversial new minibuses, with a capacity of 12 people, went into service on June 15, driving through the narrow alleys of the islands.

As one of the protest leaders against the new mode of transport, Aycan uses his body as a roadblock whenever he comes across one of these “monstrobuses” -- a name given by islanders in Buyukada -- the largest of the Princes´ Islands, in the Sea of Marmara.

“I saw a bus on the way to my home yesterday. I had an appointment but I froze in front of it for half an hour,” Aycan said.

Eight protesters were detained on the first day, and locals have staged demos daily and spontaneously since.

Kamer Alyanakyan, 58, has spent every summer on Buyukada since his childhood, which is home to white wooden villas with gardens filled with colourful Bougainvillea plants.

“Nobody asked our opinion. The island´s streets are pedestrian, and we don´t want to lose that identity,” said Alyanakyan.

He has been knocking on doors to persuade residents to sign a petition calling for the removal of the minibuses.

Mehmet Can, whose cafe is a 40-minute walk from the pier, admits the new buses could have been “smaller” but he says they are “more comfortable”.