The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and ISBAK (Istanbul IT and Smart City Technologies Inc.) recently initiated a new project designed to increase the quality of life style of 15 million Istanbulites. This project aims to make Istanbul the world’s premier “smart city” in the next decade.
ISBAK, currently working as the Architect of the Smart Cities idea in Turkey and around the world, has developed several key projects which are already active, such as creating solar energy for houses instead of relying on dams or nuclear stations in addition to Intelligent Lighting Systems, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Electronic Detection System (EDS) and much more.
This project also aims to turn Istanbul into a woman-friendly city aiming to reduce the incidents of violence and abuse against these important members of the society. For example, women will be able to provide proof if there is a crime committed against them on public transportation through cameras installed in the public transportation system’s vehicles; this will be an important tool to reduce criminal activity and increase overall security in the city.
Regrettably, Turkey witnessed a very tragic event in 2015 where a 20-year old college student, Ozgecan Aslan, was murdered savagely as she resisted rape attempt by a minibus driver. Her murder sparked protests throughout Turkey and for the first time in Turkish history, women from 81 cities were in the streets. This was considered the first mass movement of Turkish women and these marches were highlighted in the coverage of prominent international media outlets.
Following this terrible incident, placing security camera systems in public transportation vehicles was prioritized. This system came into operation the mid-2017, first by starting with a test region in Istanbul – within the scope of the smart city project – and it has been carried forward at a remarkable pace. The number of minibuses with security cameras are expected to be over 6,000 at the end of the year and the aim is to ensure that any and all public transportation vehicles (buses, minibuses, dolmush, etc.) have security cameras. Additionally, cameras are being installed in the yellow taxis, with an aim to provide security for both drivers and passengers.
Many public transportation drivers are satisfied with this new practice stating that it will be a means to intervene in incidents such as theft or mitigate terrorism; this will facilitate the duties of the Security Forces. People will be able to be reunited with their property should they forget any expensive items inside the vehicles. According to the Public Transportation Management and Supervision Center, this move will provide non-stop visual reporting, location and speed information, accident or emergency situation intelligence and route control.
Even though there are some citizens who are not entirely convinced with the system, as they do not want to be under surveillance when they choose to travel in a private yellow taxi ; in general, however, most people are happy with this new security practice. For example, Ramis Yılmaz of the Harem Gebze Bus Owners Cooperation Association said, “In order to prevent a repeat of such incidents (referring to the Ozgecan murder), it is crucial that surveillance systems are installed in vehicles. We believe that the cameras will be [a] deterrent.”
One bus passenger, Damla Yildirim, also said that it would be great for all mass transportation vehicles to be equipped with the system and that it would be especially good for female passengers. Yildirim said that she has typically refrained from using shared taxis and added, “As a woman, I have always been nervous about using shared taxis. I was afraid that something would happen to me or my stuff would get stolen. So, it’s great to hear this new surveillance system is being installed inside the vehicles. I think all the female passengers will be happy about this development. I think it will prevent women from being sexually harassed in those vehicles. And if something does happen, the police will easily identify the culprit.”
This system will no doubt raise the level of security and overall quality, both for the drivers and the passengers and hopefully reduce the crime rate by serving as a deterrent to crime in mass transportation vehicles, where 10% of assaults against women were recorded in 2016. We believe that this woman-friendly practice will soon be found in every vehicle in Istanbul and ultimately spread swiftly all over Turkey.