Constructor destroys shacks in Istanbul, leaves Roma people homeless in winter cold
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
Since their evacuation, the Roma families have been lighting small fires outside in order to keep warm in Istanbul's freezing weather conditions. AA PhotoA construction company has demolished a small number of shacks inhabited by Roma people on the outskirts of the gigantic construction site of Istanbul’s new financial center, leaving them homeless in the winter cold.
The Roma people who had been living in the makeshift shacks for two years said police arrived with heavy construction machines early on Jan. 5 and proceeded with the demolition on the grounds that the land was private property.
Nebahat Bilgiç, the head of a local association to help Roma people, said the police raid came after the landowner sold his land to a construction company, but no evacuation order had been given yet. She also slammed the oppressive tactics used by the municipality to evacuate the area.
“They came only three days ago and told them to leave. But we didn’t know that [police] would come this morning. They came at 5 a.m. while people were still asleep and destroyed the shacks without giving them enough time to pick up their clothes. Let alone socks, many don’t even have even shoes with them,” Bilgiç said.
Meanwhile, the Ataşehir municipality denied any responsibility regarding the demolition. “Neither the demolition order nor the land is ours. Police only accompanied the demolition to ensure security,” a spokesperson for the municipality said, adding that a total of 24 shacks had been destroyed. “People living there haven’t asked us to find a place to relocate them,” he also claimed.
The raid came just after meteorology forecasters warned late Jan. 5 that freezing cold and snow would come to the city during the week.
Since their evacuation, the Roma people have been lighting small fires outside in order to keep warm in the freezing weather conditions, as a "Siberian front" of cold weather hits Istanbul.
Hanife Bayır, the mother of a small baby, said most of her modest goods remained under the debris. “I don’t even know how I can give my baby what she needs,” she said.
Mother of two and pregnant with her third child, Nefiye Yüksekova pleaded with the authorities to provide them with shelter, even a temporary one. “We just had time to get out from our house with the kids during the demolition. We need somewhere to stay, it is freezing,” she said.
Many of the Roma families living there had settled eight years ago after a shanty in the nearby neighborhood of Küçükbakkalköy was demolished to make room for yet another residential complex project.
The Ataşehir district, which saw huge residential complexes popping up in the early 2000s, had a traditional population of Romani who used to live in shanty houses when the area was still on the outskirts of the central Kadıköy district.
Many have been evacuated during urban development projects, with some of the families relocated to different parts of the city, while others have resisted forced evacuations.