Sulukule was declared a target area for “urban transformation” by the Turkish cabinet in 2006. Six years, four lawsuits, and many evictions later, an Istanbul court has finally declared the project not to be in the public interest, reports Turkish independent media center Bianet. In the meantime, however, irreparable demolition and damage has occurred to the area and its residents. “Social ostracization, gentrification and urban profiteering” Turkey’s Housing Development Administration (TOKİ) began construction in Sulukule in May 2009. Since then, large areas of the old neighborhood buildings have been demolished to make way for 640 villas. The new houses have all sold out at prices far beyond what a typical Roma family can afford. At most, 50 Roma families would be able to stay in the neighborhood. TOKİ promised the displaced Roma families new housing in a neighborhood much farther from the city center. But some 300 of those families had difficulty making their payments to TOKİ on time, and have been forced out of those houses as well. The whole project has been condemned by Turkish and international civil society groups and termed a ”social ostracization, gentrification and urban profiteering” scheme by the World Heritage Committee. Now, thanks to the court’s verdict, a new plan will have to be devised: one that accommodates the Roma and doesn’t ruin the historical skyline.
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