Sensitive Istanbul neighborhood declared ‘risk zone’

Sensitive Istanbul neighborhood declared ‘risk zone’

ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
Sensitive Istanbul neighborhood declared ‘risk zone’

People march to protest the "risk zone" desicion. DHA Photo

Beyoğlu Municipality Council members have declared a large area in Istanbul’s Okmeydanı district an earthquake “risk zone,” paving the 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 control and engineering, thus becoming a serious risk for residents in the event of a widely-expected earthquake.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has appealed the decision, saying the necessary reports should have been prepared before such a decision was made.

A council member from the CHP, Ertuğrul Gülsever, said there was no scientific data to support the declaration of the sensitive neighborhood as a “risk zone.”

“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,” Gülsever said.

The head of the Okmeydanı Environment Protection Association, Erasrlan Alkılıç, said they were not against urban transformation, but claimed that the authorities were trying to evacuate the area for other purposes.

“Why have they chosen these five neighborhoods? They want to evacuate the area. They want to make people to leave in order to make the new Archers Lodge [Okçular Tekkesi] a protected area,” Alkılıç said, adding that his association had filed a lawsuit against the plans.

He also said the “risk zone” announcement would lead to the loss of rights of those in the identified neighborhoods who had first settled there without registering.

“People don’t want joint-owned ownership certificates, they want independent certificates,” Alkılıç added.

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). Tensions occur daily, and the neighborhood is regularly targeted in police raids.

In an incident that further increased tensions, two people were killed after a police crackdown on a demonstration on May 23. One of them, Uğur Kurt, was shot by a police bullet while attending a funeral procession at the local cemevi, an Alevi worship house.

The neighborhood is also the place where 15-year-old Gezi victim Berkin Elvan was fatally hit by a tear gas canister last year.