News / Middle East

Istanbul's Unprecedented Property Boom Causes Concern About Citizens' Rights

Zorlu Center, under construction - a mixed use project which will include five different functions for the first time in Turkey with the culture and art center, hotel, business center, shopping center and residences - is seen in the district of Zincirliku
Zorlu Center, under construction - a mixed use project which will include five different functions for the first time in Turkey with the culture and art center, hotel, business center, shopping center and residences - is seen in the district of Zincirliku
TEXT SIZE - +
Dorian Jones

Turkey's economy is booming, led by construction in its largest city, Istanbul. Supported by foreign investment, city authorities are embarking on massive redevelopment. But concerns are growing that citizens' rights have become victim to the projects.

In the Tarlabasi district in central Istanbul, houses are being destroyed as part of a major redevelopment by local authorities. Most of the thousands of people living here have been evicted, even if they own their homes like Mehmet Tas.

He says his children grew up in Tarlabasi, their friends are there and their school is there. Tas says if he moves from the area, he will lose his job because he will not be able to pay for his commute to work.

Tas, like many others in the Tarlabasi district, has been offered state accommodation 40 kilometers away. The plight of the Tarlabasi residents has become a focal point of growing concern about the redevelopment of Istanbul.

On Sunday, hundreds of people protested the redevelopment plans in Taksim square in the center of Istanbul, close to Tarlabasi.  

Although occupying a prime location, Tarlabasi is one of the city's poorest districts. Its dilapidated but cheap housing has made it the traditional home to some of the most vulnerable sections of society.  

The mass evictions of its residents have drawn growing criticism. Andrew Gardener of the British-based human-rights group Amnesty International recently published a report strongly condemning the project.

"Tarlabasi is a particularly outrageous example of the way urban regeneration is being carried out, resulted in people being evicted without alternative housing, adequate housing, being provided," said Gardener. "Frequently, [the] people most at risk, as in Tarlabasi, people from Roma families, transgender women. People who find it very difficult to get accommodation in the private sector for a number [of] reasons."

But local Mayor Misbah Demircan strongly rejects such criticisms. He says the regeneration project is as much about helping the local residents as the city as a whole.

He says most of the 278 buildings being razed are condemned buildings. Three days ago, he says, a building was burned down because it was so old and dangerous. The buildings are fire hazards, and some even collapse in heavy rain. He says people living there live under risk of death. There is no safety of life or property. He says authorities are offering safe and new houses in exchange.

The new homes Demircan is referring to are state housing, most of which is located far away on the city outskirts. Critics claim most who accept such offers invariably lose their jobs, being unable to afford the commute to work, or are unable to afford the rent of the alternative housing.

Professor Yves Cabannes of the Development Planning Unit of University College London has been studying Istanbul's redevelopment. He says the experience of a previous redevelopment project in the city supports such concerns.

"Three-hundred-sixty [families] were put 60 kilometers away," said Cabannes. "Do you know how many out of the 360 are still in the blocks? Two. All the others are just roaming over the city, homeless, and our conclusion is that the renovation, which is claimed by the government, is minimum. It's about 1 million homes, which is massive. It's a massive project."

Throughout Istanbul, construction projects are speeding ahead throughout the center of the city, with the building of high-quality housing aimed at middle and upper classes. Istanbul is at the center of the country's booming economy, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth for the past decade and continues to flourish despite the world economic turmoil.

The city is in the grip of a property boom supported by investment from across the region from Russia to the oil-rich nations of the Middle East. Istanbul's city skyline is cut by rising skyscrapers and construction cranes. But critics warn the people of Tarlabasi and many more of Istanbul's poor are likely to pay a very high price for such redevelopment.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid