Turkey urged to halt heavy-handed evictions in Istanbul

A number of vulnerable families in the Tarlaba?? district have already been evicted

The Turkish authorities should halt a series of heavy-handed forced evictions which have already resulted in a number of vulnerable families in central Istanbul effectively being made homeless, Amnesty International said in a statement.
Of course the authorities call this “urban regeneration project” but indeed it is a “cleansing” operation. It happened before, under the AKP government, in Sulukule, traditionally a Roma neighbourood, one which inspired bards and film directors for its legendary atmosphere. But it was unbearable for the authorities to keep the Roma visible, in the very center of the city. Now is the turn of Tarlaba??.

Dozens of families in this district are facing forced eviction as a result of an urban regeneration project. They told Amnesty International they have been subjected to intimidation and threats by the local Beyo?lu municipality and law enforcement officials.

In some cases those officials forced them to sign eviction notices without being allowed to read them, or told them that failure to sign the documents would result in their immediate eviction.

Some residents have already been evicted. On 24 June, Besra, a single parent, returned from visiting her mother in hospital to find her door broken in. Officials forced her to vacate her home immediately, throwing her belongings out onto the street.

Other families threatened with eviction include Roma, Kurds who settled in Tarlaba?? after being displaced from south-eastern Turkey in the 1990s, and transgender women, who already face considerable difficulty accessing housing.

“The municipal authorities in Beyo?lu must suspend the imminent forced evictions immediately, and not proceed with any eviction until safeguards consistent with international human rights standards are in place,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

“Most of those facing eviction have not been given adequate notice. They have not been consulted, provided with legal remedies, or offered adequate alternative housing or compensation. This is a violation of their human rights. There must also be an investigation into the allegations of harassment by public officials.” he added.

Amnesty International spoke to another Tarlaba?? resident, a disabled and unemployed 60 year-old man who said he had been forced to sign an eviction notice which he was not allowed to read. Although police postponed his eviction until 18 July after neighbours intervened, he has not been offered any affordable alternative housing.

While the authorities have made no formal approach to them, residents told Amnesty International that the only alternative housing which could be made available by the authorities was on the outskirts of Istanbul, more than two hours away by public transport.

Many Tarlaba?? residents, who work for very low wages, would find these properties unaffordable, and the cost of commuting back to their jobs in central Istanbul prohibitive.

Amnesty International raised concerns about the forced evictions in a meeting with the Mayor of Beyo?lu, Ahmet Misbah Demircan, last month, pointing out they violated the municipality’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The mayor confirmed that no studies had been undertaken by the authorities to assess the impact of the regeneration project on at-risk groups such as transgender women.

URBAN REGENERATION PROJECT, OR THE CLEANSING POLICY OF AKP

The urban renewal project Tarlaba?? Yenileniyor was first mentioned in 2006, and slated for completion in 2010. The possibility of demolition has dangled over the neighbourhood like Damocles’ Sword for five years now, with rumours of eviction constantly present: they will come after school is out, after the municipal elections, maybe after school starts, surely after the referendum? While people had started to trickle out of the project area in Tarlaba?? by late 2009, many decided to test fate – and the likelihood of evictions starting just a tad later than official statements made believe.

The last rumoured estimate – that things would get serious after the national elections on June 12, that this time, they would start without any doubt, proved true, and to the surprise of many: After the AKP secured a majority of almost 50%, the AKP-ruled Beyo?lu Municipality has started evictions inside the project area in Tarlaba?? in cooperation with GAP In?aat, and this time, they move fast. Eviction orders have been distributed to all those residents – both tenants and home owners – whose flats or buildings have been sold, and most residents who have found a home, workshop or shop elsewhere have moved out.


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