Council of State approves the cancelation of Istanbul’s Sulukule transformation project
Ali Dağlar - ISTANBUL
HÜRRİYET PhotoThe Council of State has approved the cancellation of the controversial urban transformation project in Istanbul’s Sulukule neighborhood, which was historically populated by Roma people, years after the project was completed.
The Council of State anonymously approved an Istanbul administrative court’s ruling from 2012 stating that the project constructed in Sulukule, located on the city’s historic peninsula and surrounded by ramparts, was “not beneficial to the public.”
The decision comes after Sulukule has undergone an extensive change in recent years due to a project funded by the Turkish Housing Development Agency (TOKİ), which replaced the neighborhood’s traditional buildings with “modern settlement blocks.” The changes forced the local Roma residents to resettle about 60 kilometers away, as they were unable to afford the newly constructed houses built on valuable real estate.
The project in Sulukule is “not beneficial to the public,” an Istanbul administrative court ruled on June 14, 2012, adding that the construction of new villas “must be stopped.” However, the Fatih Municipality did not revoke its plans and continued with the construction of the project.
Hilal Küey, the lawyer of the Roma community of Sulukule, said they could go as far as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for the demolition of the project.
“It has been ruled that the project does not benefit the public. With the cancellation decision, the project needs to be legally demolished, but this is de facto not possible. When the legal process is finalized, we will take the case to the ECHR,” said Küey.
In April 2006, Sulukule was declared a “Recreation Field” with a cabinet decision. Despite objections from locals, scientists, lawyers and international organizations, the preliminary project for the transformation of the area was approved by the Regional Preservation Board in November 2007.
In February 2008, the Chamber of Architects’ Istanbul branch opened a lawsuit for the stay of execution and cancelation of the project, but the demolition of the houses and the neighborhood started in May 2009, while the legal process was still ongoing.
Istanbul’s fourth administrative court rejected the stay of execution of the project in June 2009 without giving a reason.
TOKİ offered a tender with revised preliminary projects in September 2009 and the construction of the area was handed over to the construction company in October 2009.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the area took place in May 2010, attended by Fatih Municipality Mayor Mustafa Demir. The subsequent building of the area was unable to be halted by three expert reports or by archeologist Şeniz Atik, who threw herself in front of the bulldozers in order to prevent work.
The newly constructed houses, the sites of which were purchased from their original owners for 15,000 to 50,000 Turkish Liras, were put on the market for around 450,000 liras.
Currently, most of the houses are being rented by Syrian refugees.