Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Erdogan shows hypocrisy on gecekondu issue

Turkey's Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan, who is presiding over massive squatter demolition in Ankara, was himself a land invader in an Istanbul squatter community. That's the word from Mustafa Mutlu, a columnist for the newspaper Vatan, as translated by the Turkish Daily News.
Vatan's Mutlu examines Erdogan's latest condemnation of those who build and dwell in illegal gecekondus (shanties) this week. Speaking at the 6th Congress on Housing, Erdogan was quoted as saying: "And to those who try and raise sympathy for these people by saying, 'Those poor and miserable people had a house, and now it's been taken away from them,' I say how are these people poor and miserable by your account? This [gecekondus] is a racket. We are providing homes for YTL 200 monthly payments. Let them go and use these apartments." Mutlu notes that this is by no means Erdogan's first tongue-lashing of gecekondu owners and builders. He recalls words from Erdogan in October of 2004, when the premier announced that gecekondus in Ankara were to be razed to the ground.

Noting that he will stand by the veracity of these words by Erdogan, Mutlu goes on to highlight the particular hypocrisy contained in this stance, asking: "Who was the politician who built a gecekondu on forestland in Sultanbeyli? Does anyone remember? Yes, it was the prime minister himself." Mutlu then recalls a court case against Erdogan for illegally constructing a villa in Sultanbeyli in 1986. He also reminds readers about how Erdogan received a 10-month prison sentence for violating the Forest Law in 1990 but that the sentence was converted into a fine and in 1998 the entire episode was expunged from the record.

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