Turkish Authorities Destroy Romani Neighbourhoods for Urban Development
13 November 2006
According to ERRC documentation undertaken in July 2006, Roma families living in the Nesislah and Hatice Sultan Romani neighbourhoods of Istanbul's Fatih District face forced eviction in September 2006. In October 2005, the Fatih District authorities considered plans to renew the area known as Sulukule. Nearly 4,000 people, including many Roma, live in this area. According to ERRC documentation in the community, the decision to demolish the existing housing was made without consultation or input from community members. In addition, the affected Romani families were not told of the possible destruction and eviction. Instead, they learned what would happen from local news reports and television broadcasts. On 13 July 2006, the Türkiye Toplu Konut İdaresi (TOKI) and Fatih District authorities signed an agreement for immediate demolition of the housing in this area. The Roma community members were not informed of this meeting, in which it was determined that 529 apartments would be demolished. To date, there has been no mention of any compensation or assistance for families who rent apartments and cannot afford to buy new houses.
According to information published on the Internet by the Turkish non-governmental organisation Accesible Life Organisation (ALO), the fate of the Romani residents of Istanbul's Sulukule neighbourhood is shared by many others. Information published by ALO points to the fact that Romani neighbourhoods in Turkey are systematically being destroyed to make way for urban development projects. The following is a list of neighbourhoods already destroyed or slated for destruction in the coming months published by ALO:
- In August 2006, Ankara's Aldındağ District authorities destroyed the homes of approximately 170 Romani families living the Gültepe (Çinçin) Romani neighbourhood and a further 400 homes are slated for demolition. The demolitions are part of a project by Ankara's Aldındağ Municipality to construct 776 flats within the scope of Çinçin Mass Housing Project. ALO reported that the municipality had finalized talks with Turkey's Mass Housing Administration (TOKİ), according to which 14 storey apartments will be built, and the protocol has been signed.
- In July 2006, municipal authorities destroyed two buildings housing 45 Romani individuals in Zonguldak Blacksea/ Ereğli’s Müftü neighbourhood following a decision of the Municipal Council. According to ALO, police were called in when residents of the buildings resisted the destruction of their homes by municipal authorities. Soon after the police arrived, the resistance stopped and the authorities proceeded to remove personal property then demolish the building.
- In July 2006, within the scope of the Bursa Province's Osmangazi Municipality's "History and Culture Park" project, 22 buildings were expropriated and destroyed in the Kamberler Romani neighbourhood, according to ALO. ALO reported that the project is intended to renew the neighbourhood through the expropriation and destruction of existing property. Rapid Force police officers reportedly attended the demolitions, in which 106 houses were destroyed. ALO reported that Osmangazi Municipality had expropriated more than 150 buildings. Under the Kamberler History and Culture Park Project, Osmangazi Municipality foresees, as a first step, 40,000 square metres of land will be converted to green space.
- ALO reported that, in July 2006, municipal authorities destroyed 120 houses owned by Roma in İstanbul’s Kadıköy Küçükbakkalköy District within an urban transformation project of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, just two months after the residents were given notice. According to ALO, representatives of the Metropolitan Municipality and more than 100 police officers, from the Metropolitan Police Force, the Kadıköy Police Force and Turkey's Rapid Force Teams, were present during the action. Tensions reportedly broke out between Roma who refused to leave their homes and police officers, though no information was available as to any injuries sustained.
- In June 2006, representatives of Istanbul's Metropolitan Municipality demolished 20 shacks inhabited by Roma in Gaziosmanpaşa District's Cebeci Romani neighbourhood, according to ALO. The residents, including women and children, reportedly protested as municipal authorities arrived to tear down their homes, and they were carried off by police forces. Once the Romani residents had been removed from the area, police officers from Rapid Force and Special Team Units searched the shacks as well as surrounding houses, then municipal authorities proceeded to destroy the shacks in which the Roma were living. ALO reported that approximately 30 people were detained for not having ID cards during the incident.
- In May 2006, municipal authorities from Istanbul's Kağıthane District destroyed 11 Romani homes in the Gültepe Yahya Kemal Romani neighbourhood, ALO reported. Romani residents of the neighbourhood reportedly protested against the destruction of their homes, setting them on fire to prevent the destruction. Residents were then removed by Rapid Force police officers, who were present.
According to ERRC research, residents of Istanbul's Kuştepe Romani neighbourhood face similar fates. On 21 September, the ERRC and partner organisations sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to express concern at a wave of housing destructions and threatened housing destruction targeting Roma in Turkey.
(Accessible Life Organisation, ERRC)