Until a recent urban renewal project that forced most residents out, the neighborhood of Tarlabaşı was home to a diverse array of Istanbul’s minority populations.
In the early 20th century, Tarlabaşı’s winding streets and colorful buildings were home to many of the city’s Greek residents. After violence against the Greek population their mass emigration from Turkey, Roma and Kurdish families moved in. But today, a municipal plan to turn the area into a wealthier, more mainstream neighborhood has forced out most families — and is making life miserable for the residents who refuse to leave, reports independent media agency Bianet.
Forced to collect rainwater for drinking
The Ber family profiled by three Bianet reporters are, like many modern residents of the neighborhood, recent immigrants to Istanbul from Turkey’s eastern regions.
Their house is certified as cultural heritage by the Istanbul municipality. But because it stands in the way of the urban renewal plans, they were offered approximately 35,000 Euros two years ago to leave and move to a different part of the city. For a family of ten, it will be impossible to find a suitable house for that amount on today’s market, so they refused the offer and stayed.
Other Tarlabaşı residents who demanded more money for their houses were personally threatened, so most of them caved in, took the money, and left, says Ali Ber.
The city is already sending the Bers threatening messages. Recently, their water was cut, forcing the family to collect rainwater for drinking. When Ali Ber asked the municipality why, he was simply informed that the family “could have already been evicted.”
More information about the ongoing gentrification of Tarlabaşı can be found at Tarlabaşı Istanbul.
A recurring problem
“Urban renewal” projects in Istanbul rarely renew their target areas.
The neighborhood of Sulukule was also predominantly inhabited by Roma until the city evicted most residents to make way for planned gentrification. By the time an Istanbul court annulled the project last year, saying it violated the area’s heritage protections and the residents’ rights, most houses had already been destroyed and hundreds of new villas were under construction.
In the city’s main square, Taksim, a more high-profile controversial renovation has begun. The Taksim Project, as it’s known, will replace the square’s adjacent park with a reproduction of old military barracks and a shopping mall, and will isolate the square from surrounding neighborhoods by transforming streets into highways.
Construction on the Taksim Project is now underway, despite the protests of many urban planners, environmentalists, and citizens, none of whom were consulted on the project.
Read more about controversial urban planning in Istanbul:
Image via m-lodious