Court says no to disputed report on 5,560 Istanbul houses
Fatih Yağmur ISTANBULAn annulment decision by the Council of State has revealed that a large urbanization decision about a central Istanbul neighborhood of 5,560 houses was made upon the inspection of only 14 buildings and almost no scientific examination.
A Cabinet decision last year affirmed that Tozkoparan, a neighborhood amid rising construction projects, was a “risk zone,” which paved way for the demolition of houses there within the scope of an earthquake measures law.
However, the Tozkoparan Association, the residents’ civil organization, carried the case to the Council of State, the country’s highest court.
The court canceled the Cabinet decision, ruling that the related report was based on “visual inspections, not scientific,” quoting the European Convention of Human Rights on housing rights.
The report covered only 14 houses, the court also highlighted, calling for a further and proper report.
It also said the report had failed to mention any destruction in buildings, particularly after the large Aug. 17, 1999, earthquake.
Ömer Kiriş, who speaks for the association, said in a press meeting that the report covered five-story state-made buildings which sit on gardens, but it neglected some 1,200 30-year-old, 13-story houses that are located on a stream bed. “This is nothing but an effort to transform the [potential] effects of an earthquake for the purposes of land speculation,” he said.
The shady report came at a time when another Istanbul municipality has made a crucial decision on Okmeydanı, a hotspot of political protests in the city.
Beyoğlu Municipality Council members have declared a large area in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı an earthquake “risk zone,” which, just like Tozkoporan, gives way for the demolition and rebuilding of 5,600 buildings in the Fetihtepe, Kaptanpaşa, Keçecipiri, Piripaşa and Piyalepaşa neighborhoods.
A report, prepared by the municipality’s development commission, said unsafe housing units had been built without a formal plan and without necessary oversight and engineering, thus becoming a serious risk for residents in the event of a widely expected earthquake, Doğan news agency has reported.
The report awaits Cabinet approval.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said such a decision for Okmeydanı also required proper reports. “Even if you have a certificate of ownership, you cannot do any construction once the area has been named a ‘risk zone.’ You cannot take a loan out from a bank. You need to evacuate, they want to make you follow their urban transformation rules,” said Ertuğrul Gülsever, a municipal council member from the CHP.
Okmeydanı is one of the most sensitive areas of Istanbul, and is home to a large community of Alevis and many leftist groups, including the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).
In an incident that increased tensions, two people were killed after a police crackdown on a demonstration on May 22. One of them, Uğur Kurt, was murdered by police while attending a funeral procession at the local cemevi, the Alevi house of worship.
The neighborhood is also the place where 15-year-old Gezi victim Berkin Elvan was fatally hit by a tear gas canister last year.
The Council of State has canceled similar decisions in several areas while cases in the Bağlarbaşı, Yenidoğan and Sarıgöl neighborhoods of Istanbul’s Gaziozmanpaşa district and Cumhuriyet in nearby Sultangazi district continue.