18 Feb 2013
Until a recent urban renewal project that forced most residents to leave, the Tarlabaşı neighborhood was home to a wide range of Istanbul’s minority populations.
At the start of the 20th century, the winding streets and colorful buildings of Tarlabaşı were home to many of the city’s Greek inhabitants. After the violence against the Greek population, their massive emigration from Turkey, Roma and Kurdish families moved in. But today, a municipal plan to turn the area into a richer, more traditional neighborhood has forced most families out – and makes life miserable for residents who refuse to leave, independent media agency Bianet reports. .
Forced to collect rainwater to drink
The Ber family presented by three journalists from Bianet are, like many modern residents of the neighborhood, recent immigrants to Istanbul from the eastern regions of Turkey.
Their house is certified as a cultural heritage by the municipality of Istanbul. But because this hinders urban renewal plans, they were offered around 35,000 euros two years ago to leave and move to another part of the city. For a family of ten, it will be impossible to find a suitable home for that amount on the market today, so they declined the offer and stayed.
Other residents of Tarlabaşı who asked for more money for their homes were personally threatened, so most of them gave in, took the money and left, says Ali Ber.
The city is already sending threatening messages to the Bers. Recently, their water was cut off, forcing the family to collect rainwater for drinking. When Ali Ber asked the municipality why, he was simply informed that the family “could already have been evicted”.
More information on the ongoing gentrification of Tarlabaşı can be found at Tarlabaşı Istanbul.
A recurrent issue
Istanbul “urban renewal” projects rarely renew their target areas.
The district of Sulukule was also predominantly inhabited by Roma until the city expelled most of the inhabitants to make way for planned gentrification. By the time an Istanbul court overturned the project last year, claiming it violated the region’s heritage protections and residents’ rights, most of the houses had already been destroyed and hundreds of new villas were in construction.
In the city’s main square, Taksim, a more publicized, controversial renovation has begun. The Taksim project, as it is called, will replace the park adjacent to the plaza with a reproduction of former military barracks and a shopping mall, and isolate the plaza from surrounding neighborhoods by turning the streets into highways.
Construction of the Taksim project is now underway, despite protests from many planners, environmentalists and citizens, none of whom have been consulted on the project.
Learn more about the controversial urban planning in Istanbul:
Controversial renovation of Taksim Square in Istanbul has begun
Istanbul’s main square will become lifeless and isolated in new urban plan, warn opponents
Istanbul court cancels near-completed Roma neighborhood project
Image via m-lodious