Roma Community Legally Challenges the Urban Renovation Project in Sulukule
29 January 2008
The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and its partners in Turkey, the Helsinki Citizen's Assembly (hCa) and Edirne Association for Research of Romani Culture and Solidarity (EDROM) have initiated a court case aiming to cancel the urban renovation project targeting Sulukule, a historical district in Istanbul that is also one of the oldest Romani settlements in Europe. The complaint was filed on 31 December 2007 at the Istanbul Administrative Court by Sulukule's own residents, represented by attorney Hilal Kuey in cooperation with the ERRC. The plaintiffs accuse the Fatih Municipality implementing the project and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism that approved its implementation of breaching domestic and international laws, including Turkey's Constitution. The ERRC supports the litigants financially within the framework of an European Union funded project entitled "Promoting Roma Rights in Turkey", in partnership with the aforementioned NGOs. The work of the ERRC in Turkey is sponsored by the European Commission, Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Open Society Institute.
The urban renovation project, in effect since November 2007, foresees the transfer of Sulukule's Roma population to social housing at the Tasoluk district located 40 kilometers away from their current residence. Though local Roma theoretically have the possibility to buy homes from the condominium complex planned to be built on the site of their quarter in Sulukule, the overwhelming majority of them cannot afford the prices of the new housing and will be forced out of Sulukule.
The complaint asks the court to annul the urban renovation project on the grounds that it is in contravention of the national Constitution, a number of domestic legislative acts, as well as international human rights law. In particular, the applicants claim that the implementation of the project is in violation of the Constitutional protection of the right to property and heritage as well as the protection of historical, cultural and natural assets. Furthermore, the complaint asserts that the project violates rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms -- the right to private and family life (Article 8); the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14) in connection to Article 8; as well as the right to peaceful enjoyment of one's possessions (Article 1, Protocol 1).
The representatives of the Sulukule Roma community challenge the legitimacy of the project on grounds that "the project has been planned without involving the local community and taking into account their concerns and the historical as well as cultural heritage of the area." Their representative attorney Hilal Küey, also points out that the plaintiffs' legal rights were breached due to a conflict of interest in the composition of the body which approved the project.
The ERRC has engaged in advocacy action to protect the rights of the Sulukule residents since the news of the Urban Renovation Project first broke in 2006. Letters of concern to authorities in Turkey against the destruction of Sulukule and other actual or threatened violations of housing rights can be accessed at:
ERRC Calls on Prime Minister of Turkey to Intervene to Halt Forced Evictions of Romani Communities
Wave of Racially-Targeted Housing Destruction in Turkey
For further information:
Sinan Gökçen – European Roma Rights Center
Phone: +36 1 4132200
Sevgi Özçelik – Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
Tel: 0 212 292 68 42-43