A bucket dangles on a string from a top-floor window in one of Istanbul’s older neighborhoods; inside it, within grasp of any passerby, lie a couple of crumpled banknotes. After a while, a shopkeeper takes the money and replaces it with an order of groceries.
It’s handy way for the busy or the elderly to save themselves a walk to shops, this everyday scene demonstrates the deep community bonds that still exist in Istanbul, a metropolis of 12 million people and Turkey’s largest city. But a growing number of experts warn that Istanbul’s social fabric is being torn apart by a massive urban renewal program, in which communities are being uprooted and shunted into isolated tower blocks on the city’s fringes.
“In social terms, the choices made by Turkey today will cost it a lot in the near future,” said Professor Yves Cabannes, a former United Nations advisor on forced evictions and now chairperson of the Department of Development Planning at University College London.
Istanbul’s relatively low crime rate could be one of the first aspects to change, Cabannes and others suggest.
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Alexander Christie-Miller is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.