TURKEY tr-national

Volunteers issue SOS over Istanbul's threatened heritage

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 7/22/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Academics, students and others concerned about the fate of Istanbul's world heritage sites will hold a protest Saturday at Galatasaray Square.

Academics, journalists, students and others concerned about the fate of Istanbul’s world heritage sites will make their voices heard Saturday in a protest at Galatasaray Square, in the city’s central Beyoğlu district.

“The people of Istanbul, who are asleep, must be awoken and must see they do not have enough knowledge regarding where undersea tunnels or construction projects are being conducted,” Hande Akarca said Wednesday in the opening speech of the Istanbul S.O.S. meeting held at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University.

“Our goal is to create responsibility and encourage people to ask questions about what we can do to contribute to this process,” Akarca said, adding that the group began its campaign July 5.

Istanbul’s historical sites risk losing their place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List due to negligence. The Istanbul S.O.S. platform aims to motivate people to act together to protect the city’s heritage.

Ordinary citizens do not have knowledge about what world heritage actually means and how it can be protected, Prof. Zeynep Ahunbay said at the meeting, emphasizing that the government promised it would take care of Turkey’s cultural-heritage sites when submitting them to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“Turkey has eight more cultural heritage sites, including Mt. Nemrut National Park and Xanthos-Letoon [ancient Lycian cities in southern Turkey, near Fethiye and Kaş], in addition to the historical peninsula in Istanbul,” Ahunbay said.

In its 2009 report, UNESCO said a reformed management plan needed to be created by the beginning of 2010, and the Haliç Metro Transition Bridge should be revised, along with the second undersea tunnel being built beneath the Bosphorus, Ahunbay added, noting that these conditions have not yet been met.

“Even if the Council of Monuments had been rejected, the bid for the [tunnel] project was made and the construction site was built,” Ahunbay said, adding that the municipality is responsible for the metro construction currently disturbing the area around the historical Süleymaniye Mosque.

Supporters of construction projects say they are necessary to build a modern Istanbul, but Tayfun Kahraman, the head of Istanbul Chamber of City Planners, said some companies are provided unfair benefits by the municipality. “Some privileged people will pay nearly 20 Turkish Liras per day to drive through a VIP tunnel,” Kahraman said.

The second tunnel, a $1 billion joint venture between Turkey and Korea, called the Wheeled-Vehicle Transition Project, will start from the Kazlıçeşme area along the Florya-Sirkeci coastal road on Istanbul’s European side and end at the Ankara state road’s Göztepe crossroad on the Anatolian side.

Saying that world heritage sites should not be treated just as museum objects, Prof. Deniz İncedayı, head of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects, said society should embrace and keep heritage sites alive by sharing common responsibility.

“The UNESCO issue is perceived as a fight to save protection for the year, and the issue is viewed in the short term. However, it should not be about Istanbul’s being added to or withdrawn from the list,” İncedayı said, noting that the city can share in the pride of its heritage through regulating the process in the long term.

Dr. İclal Dinçer said the protection mission assigned to the historical peninsula does not take into account the fact that its residents are often poor people and immigrants who do not have the resources to maintain the site. This human factor, he said, does not appear anywhere in the law.

“The law says if individuals do not negotiate, their property will be expropriated, which means it will be seized by force,” Dinçer said, underscoring that the municipality’s approach is about demolishing and reconstructing new buildings instead of protecting old ones.



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