Writer: Murad Uçaner
In one of the moments when recently there was no sound in the blind darkness of the night, from the dripping rustles of papers and sacks blown by the light wind blowing in the unmanned square; I was struck by the words of a song I heard. My square, which now people say to me, I heard the song rising from the music player of the car, which is moving slowly from the street in the west, a woman shouted, “If they give me my lost years …”I realized that in that car, there was only a young man who was not even in his late twenties. I said to myself, what more could you have lost? I said these young people want their lost years also I were immersed in my memories. Yes, as I just said, people call me square today, but until fifty-sixty years ago I was the most important bazaar of this city and I was known as Balıklı Bazaar.I will not go back to the old times, not spend too much of your time, or not disturb my depressed morale any more. Briefly how I was brought from my old state to this state. And I want to share the years of experience with this opportunity.
In the south of the building, which was used as the Government Mansion until recently, they used to call the Balıkli Bazaar, which was once called the “Kız Sattıran Park” among the public. So they gave my name to the area I was in a hundred years ago.Now, I feel that you ask yourself why they call the Balıklı Bazaar and what do you think the fish has in a place like Antep. Let me explain.Three or four hundred years ago, the north of my area was used as a quarry. There was a spring to the south of the quarry and the water of that spring would go to waste. A castel was made to use this water where the spring was. In this castel, the water of the spring was collected in a large pool and the water overflowing from the pool was distributed to nearby houses and gardens through canals.The biggest feature of this large pool was that it was one to one and a half meters below ground level. Those who wanted to take advantage of the water of the pool would have to descend five or six steps down the stone stairs on all four sides of it. Also people said that fish come from the fountain, they were swimming in the pond. Although the fish left this pool many years ago, the people of Antep called Balıklı Bazaar because of this pool. More precisely, if we say locally, he continued to say “Balıklağan”.
Once upon a time, I was the biggest bazaar in Antep, people could find whatever is wanted. Also, I was called small Antep because I have shops and houses for people from all religions and sects living in Antep.Let me tell you about the past one hundred and twenty years ago so that you can know me better; At that time, there was a place called ÇukurBostan in the north, a place called Çukur Oba in the south, Eyüboğlu neighborhood on the west side, and a narrow street extending towards Alaybeyi Mosque on the east side of the square, and shops forming the bazaar to the left of this street.It was once one of the three main roads of the city, which I thought of as a main road and don’t think of it as a wide street, just two, three meters wide narrow road. Passing through the my bazaar, it would start from Arasa in the east and stretch to the place called Zerdalilik, which is the western border of the city. Come on, let’s walk from east to west in this narrow road, like a hundred and twenty years ago. If we start to walk west from the place called Alaybeyi and formerly Alaybeyi Bazaar, we will walk on today’s Gaziler Street. This road was called Balıklağan road. As I just said, this road, with texting, grocery store, photographer, watchmaker, baker, roasted chickpea, sherbet, halva and ice cream shops on both sides, was very narrow. Before coming to the building, which was used as a City Library until about forty-fifty years ago, he had a next door to the Balıklı Mosque. The door of the masjid was at Park Sokak on the back. There was a road extending from the door of the mosque to the west and running parallel to Balıkağan. This road would extend towards the Eyüboğlu mosque. In the meantime, I have to point out that this masjid would not be visible from the Balıkağan road. There were houses between Balıklağan road and the mosque.The masjid was big enough to hold one hundred and fifty, two hundred people, and had a garden for pray in good weather. There was a square with mulberry trees between the street starting from the Mescit gate, which runs parallel to the Balıklağan road and going west. This square was a place where people meet and chat on holidays.To the east of this square, at the corner where the park street and the Balıklağan road meet, there was the Balıklağan Police Station, which faces the square. This police station, which has small shops around it and four cylindrical columns in the form of white marble on the front, would be entered from the square.The upper floor of this beautifully built building serves as the School of Mahmudiye Balıklı and was called the Mahmudiye school among the people. To the west of Balıklağan square, there was a famous coffee house run by a man named Sarkis who was Armenian, who could enter whichever side of the city came from. In the meantime, before I came here, I forgot to say, there was the Basmacı Madrasa opposite the gate of the Balıklı Masjid, overlooking the park street, to the north of the square.One of the two gates of this madrasa, surrounded by a wall from a narrow street in the north, went to Çukur Bostan, a flat area overlooking the Park Street, usually boiling bulgur in late summer.The part to the south of Balıklağan road was called Çukur Oba. In this part of the road, there were shops, and houses with tiled roofs, as well as the Keyvan Bath. From Balıklağan bazaar to Suburcu Street, which was once the most famous street in Antep, could be reached by passing through today’s Dr Mecit Barlas Street or M. Tevfik Uygunlar street road. At that time, there was no road called Hürriyet Caddesi today.Although in the First World War period, many houses and shops were demolished in order to connect Paşa Street in the south and Suburcu streets in the north direction in the direction of the south, to create a road. Due to financial difficulties, this attempt was made fifteen and twenty years later. It was almost divided into two in the east-west direction.
With these, I think that I have told you briefly about the my situation before the First World War and the war years. Let me tell you now, the my situation after the war. At the end of the First World War, I started to regain my old life, which was occupied by the British and then the French. I can say that I did not have a lot of negativity during the British occupation period. But during the French occupation period, especially with the start of the armed struggle, my life was also turned upside down.In this period called the Battle of Antep, one of the three fronts where clashes were intense was called by the name of the region I was in. The others were the Kozanlı and Çınarlı facades. In fact, my west side was destroyed during the World War period due to the roadmap activities I just mentioned. It was covered with buildings and their debris; In addition to these debris, when the wreckage of the buildings damaged during the Battle of Antep period were added, the western side of the bazaar at the end of the war had become impossible to pass through the wreckage.Fortunately, these debris was cleaned up in a short time, so don’t be afraid to say it in a short time, after almost a decade. When my old buildings were repaired and regained the appearance of a bazaar that could meet the needs of the people, it was filled with bittersweet joy. The reason for the bitterness of my joy was that my old multiculturalism disappeared. My Armenian residents, who had many bitter and sweet memories, and my customers were now gone, and no one even wanted to mention their name. Also, my road was named Gaziler Caddesi, which runs from east to west. After a while, I was very upset that the name Alaybeyi Çarşı was forgotten and it could not predict what would happen to me later. How could I know that in the 1950s they would open that narrow road to motor vehicle traffic. When we came to the 1970s, almost all of my beautiful stone buildings, each of which had a history and reflecting the traces of the past, were destroyed. Instead of those buildings; I did not know that they would build impersonal concrete buildings, which they thought represented modernity and civilization. If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t have worried myself about changing my name. In the 80s, neither pedestrians nor motor vehicles were able to move smoothly on that narrow road due to the increasing urban population and the number of vehicles. And in the early 90s, the road from Arasa to the west was closed to motor vehicle traffic and the road was able to breathe a little easily. And I also learned not to be happy or sad about something immediately. The uncertainty of when and what to decide when those who ruled this city taught,me that. As a matter of fact, if you say that they tried to even run a tram on my narrow road, please do not be surprised. Yes, they tried that too. First they dig the road and put the rails, then the tramway. I don’t know what they think, but to me, a tragicomic situation had arisen. But this situation did not last long. I saw that the tramway was lifted first and then the road was dug again and the rails.For a while, the administrators who pitch the keystones on my way; after a while, they removed the keystones and laid basalt and marble. I got into such a mood that after almost every election of mayor, I was beginning to think about what else would happen to me.
You all see my latest version, they made me look uncertain. But still, I find consolation, at least by seeing that you have not done anything to a couple of buildings with traces of my past, and occasionally hearing people talking about me as they come and pass by those who remember my beautiful days or read and learn from somewhere.