The central Istanbul neighborhood of Tarlabaşı has long been labeled a no-go area, a safe haven for shady business, even a “terrorist’s nest” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party. An ambitious urban renewal project hopes to scrap that image and introduce five-star hotels, upscale shopping facilities and office lofts. But as evictions get underway, a fierce debate is emerging about how to reconcile residents’ rights with the government’s desire to beautify Istanbul.
The project zone’s current 3,000 inhabitants, all of whom will be displaced, have long protested the project, but resistance is likely to fade as residents are gradually forced out.
“I was at the hospital with my sick mother,” recounted one woman, who asked not to be named. “They called me and told me to come home immediately. When I arrived at my apartment, they had already kicked in the door and thrown all my things on the street. I have nowhere to go.”
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Jonathan Lewis is a freelance photojournalist based in Istanbul. Constanze Letsch is a freelance writer also based in Istanbul.