I’ve been following the out-of-control gentrification bulldozer rolling through some of Istanbul’s oldest neighborhoods, many of which were populated by poor, “ethnic” populations. (click here for the Sulukule saga) The bulldozers banished the residents to the outskirts of the city, where many were unable to find work and pay for replacement homes, and thereby “freed up” prime downtown real estate for middle class development. The argument was often that the ‘new’ would look just like the ‘old’ — modern buildings with Ottoman references — that would improve the living and tourism experience, presumably by sanitizing away any view of actual poverty, ethnic diversity, or crumbling ancient buildings, to be replaced by faux multiculturalism and vague historical reference. No more laundry hung across the street.
Sulukule was a Roma-populated neighborhood against the Byzantine land walls that dated to Byzantine times. It was ratty and its houses desperately needed to be restored or replaced. The poverty, however, was in part the result of the AKP’s shutting down of the area’s entertainment centers where the Roma had plied their traditional talents in music and dance. In any case, on this blog, you can follow the destruction of the neighborhood, literally bulldozed to scorched earth, the people hung out to dry. City plans showed small middle-class villas that would take their place. So what has been built?
So much for luxury Ottoman-themed villas. How about Trash Ottoman? I’m inventing a new word.
The news is that Istanbul’s Fourth Administrative Court has ruled that the transformation project that razed old Sulukule and built this new trashy project was “not beneficial to the public” and that construction must be stopped. Who knows whether that will actually happen. In any case, it’s too late. Sulukule and the Roma culture it nourished is gone, their protests fallen on deaf ears. Now the people who had planned to move into the Trash Ottoman houses are protesting the court decision. (click here)