Evacuated Sulukule to be restored as ‘heritage'

Evacuated Sulukule to be restored as ‘heritage'

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Evacuated Sulukule to be restored as ‘heritage

The Sulukule transformation has been a controversial urban transformation project of Turkish government over Istanbul districts. AA photo

Some 24 different historic buildings in Istanbul’s Sulukule district, which is at the center of a contentious urban renewal scheme, will be restored by Turkey’s state-run Housing Settlement Administration (TOKİ) in a bid “to maintain the original look of the Roma neighborhood.”

Sulukule, famous for housing Istanbul’s Roma society, has been undergoing extensive changes in the past months, with TOKİ-funded projects replacing the neighborhood’s houses with “modern settlement blocks.”

The administration yesterday announced that it aims to restore the remaining historic buildings in the area, with 24 locations included in the upcoming restoration project.

‘Historic value’

“TOKİ has focused on the historic value in Sulukule after restoring it with a modern look,” TOKİ said in a press release. The project, which was approved on Feb. 7, is based on relief, restoration and restitution for 24 historical structures.

“When the project is completed, those structures will regain their fresh state and the region will be refined from derelict, non-planned buildings,” the statement read. The Sulukule transformation has been the most controversial during the government’s urban transformation project over Istanbul districts, with court rulings against the construction in the area. The court even halted the building of new villas in the neighborhood; however, local authorities have drawn lotteries despite the decision.

Many have criticized the project for allegedly forcing long-standing Roma residents out of their homes, which occupy valuable real estate. The project in the predominantly Roma neighborhood of Sulukule is “not beneficial to the public,” an Istanbul Administrative court ruled on June 14, 2012, adding that construction of new villas “must be stopped.” However, Fatih Municipality did not revoke its plans appealed the verdict to the Council of State.