SOS Istanbul comes to Tarlabaşı

The urban activist group SOS Istanbul (more about their previous activities can be found here and here)  issued a press statement on the renewal project on September 23, 2010 during a small protest on Tarlabaşı Boulevard.

Whereas interest from the local and international press was higher than usual, only very few of the actual residents were present, mostly because they had not been informed about the event. One property owner said that many of his neighbours hesitated to participate in a protest in front of TV cameras and journalists.

A translation of the press statement can be found below:

Press Statement, SOS Istanbul Initiative

Tarlabaşı sends out an SOS signal! We are about to lose another piece of Istanbul’s historical area and identity…

In Tarlabaşı, the plans are to demolish 278 buildings, 210 of which are officially on the list of protected historical monuments. In three streets the work has already started with the recent destruction of unprotected buildings. The property owners who refuse to leave their houses are being threatened with imminent expropriation.

According to the programme, all historical buildings inside the renewal area will be demolished in order to build the planned structures. Unlike what has been done at other historical sites, neither the layout of the houses nor their height will be protected in the new developments. Only the façade of the new buildings will serve as a reminder of the historical houses.  None of the property owners have been allowed to renovate their own homes, because all property in the area is being handed over to one developer, which will unify the old parcels in huge, isolated apartment blocks, each surrounding an interior courtyard.

Property owners say they have not been allowed to update and renovate their own homes and that they will not benefit from the increased property values created by the renewal project. Those who wish to stay in Tarlabaşı after the renewal will be saddled with debt in amounts approaching the new sales prices. Renters are not being presented with any alternatives that would protect their right to housing. While the local populace is being evicted under law No. 5366, the Law on “Preservation by Renovation and Utilization by Revitalizing of Deteriorated Immovable Historical and Cultural Properties,” these expropriated parcels are being opened up to speculation and profit.

The SOS Istanbul Initiative believes that this project area is a part of Istanbul and a part of history. We believe that perfectly intact historical buildings are being demolished, and their inhabitants evicted without having been given a real choice, in order to make huge profits for the municipality. With our initiative, we seek to inform all of Istanbul about the people of Tarlabaşı and the historical buildings there that are without protection. Today, on September 23, 2010, we are sending out a SOS signal from Tarlabaşı Boulevard. We call out to all concerned institutions and all attentive citizens to protest against this secretly and quietly conducted project that will lead to the destruction of important physical and social structures in the very centre of the city.

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