CHP to apply to UNESCO over contentious urban restoration law

CHP to apply to UNESCO over contentious urban restoration law

Ömer Erbil – ISTANBUL
CHP to apply to UNESCO over contentious urban restoration law Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul deputy and parliamentary group deputy chair Gürsel Tekin has said he will carry a controversial Istanbul Municipality decision to sideline the approval process conducted by the Cultural Heritage Preservation Board regarding historical buildings in Istanbul’s old city to UNESCO.

The decision to “bypass” the board for fortification, maintenance and restoration projects of 50,000 buildings in Istanbul’s historic Fatih district passed unanimously on Dec. 16.   

According to the new regulation, registered structures on the archaeological site and in first-, second- and third-degree protected areas will be evaluated by the Conservation Board as they were before. But the other structures located adjacently to registered ones will be evaluated directly by the municipality.

In reaction to the decision, Tekin said the CHP would apply to UNESCO. 

“For a long time, there have been problems about UNESCO in Istanbul regarding some practices. For example, a historical Turkish bath is a case on UNESCO’s agenda now, and it says that if the problems about it are not solved, they could drop Turkey’s membership in the body,” said Tekin.

He also noted the case of a historical mosque being run as a dessert shop. 

Tekin also said that despite a legal decision and a directive from the president, buildings which distort the “silhouette” of the historic peninsula of Istanbul are not being “trimmed down.”   

Meanwhile, according to a letter sent to the second and fourth preservation boards a month before the decision was passed by the council, the Turkish Culture Ministry asked the bodies to hand over their cases to Fatih Municipality.

The mayor of Fatih, Mustafa Demir, said projects regarding land parcels near registered structures would be made by the Directorate for the Inspection of Conservation Implementations (KUDEB), which has been established under the aegis of the municipality with the participation of architects, city planners and archaeologists who are trained in preservation.

“Now we have KUDEB instead of the Conservation Board,” he added.

But a council member speaking on condition of anonymity said municipalities other than Fatih also possessed a KUDEB but that the change in authority was enacted only for Fatih Municipality.