Call for solidarity: A new step in Sulukule - a chance to revise the process (vom 04.08.2009),
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[04. Aug 2009]

Call for solidarity: A new step in Sulukule - a chance to revise the process

In Sulukule, a Romani settlement of Istanbul, after heavy public pressure it seems that the responsible housing administrations department now give the solidarity groups the chance to propose a reconstruction plan. We urgently need international support!

The Situation in the Sulukule Neighborhood

As you may know, in the renewal process of the Historical Peninsula of Istanbul, the Roman community that has been living in the quarter of Sulukule for over 500 years has been forced to leave the neighborhood. The neighborhood was demolished almost entirely by the Fatih District Municipality in order to enable TOKI (The Mass Housing Institution of Turkey) to start constructions. Around 10% of the existing housing units are still under the threat of demolition and the decisions by the Renewal Committee as well as the finalization of the court case are expected in the following months.

An Alternative Plan

Opposing the forced evictions, demolitions and sales to the third parties under the pressure of the Law 5366, an alternative project, STOP, was prepared by a group of volunteers in September 2008 with the decision of the Sulukule Platform. The STOP project was developed in consideration of the local community's way of living and needs. It was based on the understanding that any intervention in the area must not be limited with physical renewal but must be developed on the basis of economic and social enhancement of the locals and cultural sustainability of the Roman community.

The experts and concerned civilians, who developed the STOP project, have managed to present their alternative project to the Fatih District Municipality and the Renewal Committee of Istanbul, however, the negotiations did not last long. Nevertheless, the Sulukule Platform did not stop their efforts to communicate to the local and international institutions and the media insisting that the district municipality's plan was a violation of the housing rights and in particular, the housing rights of the vulnerable Roman community.

A Hope for Sulukule

The pressures by the local and international media and institutions, including the threat of UNESCO about taking Istanbul out of the World Heritage List due to the violations against conventions, raised an interest in the alternative efforts spent by the volunteers of the STOP project.

In June 2009, the president of TOKI invited the volunteers of the STOP project to Ankara in order to present it. Upon this request representatives of the volunteers had a meeting with TOKI in Ankara and explained the main approach of the project. TOKI asked the volunteers to revise the project in one month time according to the current situation of the neighborhood, which was demolished almost entirely by then. After the meeting, a new workshop (Sulukule Studio), initially consisted of Sulukule Platform and Solidarity Atelier but open to any participation and support, has started to work on the alternative project. At the moment, this workshop is in full progress for an alternative plan that aims to regain the housing rights of Sulukule residents and minimize the damage that has been caused so far. The initial decisions were shared with a larger public and the media in two meetings and a huge support was received.

As the volunteers of the alternative project, we would like to make an urgent call to the concerned institutions to give their support at this critical period in order to encourage TOKI to consider the alternative project seriously. We have prepared a sample letter for the institutions to fax the president of TOKI, Erdogan Bayraktar, at (0090) 312 266 77 48.
However, we would like to stress that we would appreciate the institutions prepare their own versions of this letter.

Please forward a copy of the fax to the e-mail provided below.
Thank you very much for your support.

Kind regards,
Sulukule Studio

Aysim Türkmen
e-mail: aysimt (at)


Sample letter

. August, 2009

Dear Mr. President of TOKI,

I / We have been informed that TOKI, the Mass Housing Administration of the Republic of Turkey is considering a re-evaluation of the urban renewal process for the Sulukule neighborhood in the historical peninsula of Istanbul. I / We appreciate this intention, as I / we have been following the process in Sulukule since 2006 with great concern. Up to now I / We observed the process as evictions and demolitions, in addition to sales to the third parties under the pressure of Law 5366 that I / we do not approve at all. I / We understand this as a violation of housing rights, in particular of vulnerable groups.

I / We have been informed that upon TOKI's intention to revise the process, a new workshop (Sulukule Atölye) was initiated by concerned citizens and experts to prepare an alternative plan which aims to regain the housing rights of Sulukule residents and minimize the damage that has been caused so far. I am / We are happy to learn that the workshop process and its initial outcomes are being discussed with academic, civic and official institutions and until now enjoyed a very high degree of support, participation and enthusiasm.

I / we strongly support TOKI in its intention to reconsider the process in collaboration with the representatives of the SULUKULE ATÖLYE. We also expect TOKI to continue and strengthen the dialogue with them. I / We will continue to follow the process and look forward to the implementation of the alternative plan that resettles the Sulukule community into its neighborhood.

I / We hope to see these public-private partnerships that promise participatory processes in the following TOKI projects, too.

Kind regards,