Turkey: Amnesty Criticizes Large-Scale Evictions in Istanbul
Amnesty International is strongly criticizing an ongoing "urban transformation" project in the heart of Istanbul which is leading to the forced eviction of dozens of low-income families. The project is taking place in Tarlabasi, a historic neighborhood in Istanbul's Beyoglu district, which used to be home to Greeks and Armenians but over the decades became a low-income area, populated by a large number of Kurds from southeast Turkey who had been displaced from their homes there during the height of the Kurdish conflict in the 1980's and 90's.
The "transformation" plan for Tarlabasi includes demolishing many of the area's historic, through rundown, buildings and replacing them with newer, more expensive, housing units. From Amnesty's release about the issue:
Eviction notices seen by Amnesty International indicate that the Beyoğlu municipality is intent on carrying out forced evictions in Tarlabaşı with the assistance of lawyers and law enforcement officials. The notices do not give definite timetables or provide details of opportunities for legal or administrative challenges to the evictions. Dozens of families in the area have been affected. Some have made serious allegations of intimidation and threats by the authorities. Many residents have reported that they were made to sign eviction documents around six months ago without being able to read them. They were threatened that they would be evicted immediately by the police if they did not sign them. There has been no adequate consultation process with the affected people, and they have not been provided with alternatives to eviction or with an adequate plan for alternative housing.
Amnesty International spoke to a number of residents, including a single mother, Besra, with a small child, who was forcibly evicted on 24 June while she was visiting her mother in hospital. Neighbours telephoned her to tell her that a large number of officials from the municipality had arrived to evict her. She told Amnesty International that she went home and found her door broken down. She said she pleaded with the officials not to evict her, but was told she had to leave that day. Her furniture and other belongings were thrown into the street, causing irreparable damage to them. Another resident, an unemployed 60-year-old man with a lung condition, told Amnesty International that he had been forced to sign eviction notices that he was not allowed to read. He was threatened with forcible eviction by police on 12 July, but after neighbours intervened he was given until the 18 July to leave.
Under international law, evictions may be carried out only as a last resort, once all feasible alternatives have been explored in genuine consultation with the affected communities. The authorities then have a duty to provide them with adequate notice; legal remedies, adequate alternative housing and compensation. They must ensure that no one is made homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights as a consequence of eviction. The municipal authorities in Beyoğlu are not fulfilling these obligations.
A great blog about what's happening in Tarlabasi can be found here. A recent Eurasianet story about Turkey's rapid and frequently unfair urban transformation process can be found here.[UPDATE: There's a new Eurasianet photoessay about the evictions in Tarlabasi. You can find it here.]