Tuesday, January 08, 2008

gypsies face the boot in Istanbul

Another example of eviction via redevelopment. Istanbul wants to spruce up for its 2010 debutante outing as "European Capital of Culture" by flattening the ancient and historic (and, admittedly, run down) area called Sulukule, which is occupied principally by the Roma. The plan calls for removing the historic homes on the land abutting the 1600-year-old Theodosian Walls and building $77,000 townhouses. "We are buying the houses from the present owners and they can move into brand-new lodgings as soon as they are finished, and pay off the difference over 15 years," the local Mayor crows.

But Sukru Punduk, a Sulukule resident who opposes the plan, thinks the municipality’s aim is to clear the area of its current Roma inhabitants. "Look at the models they’ve made of the new houses, little model people carrying laptops, middle-class people, not people like us," he says. It's a logical suspicion, considering that half the residents of Sulukule earn less than 500 lira ($427) a month.

Oh, wait, perhaps Countrywide Financial and Citibank can come in and give these good Turkish citizens some no documentation subprime mortgage love, then foreclose on them and ....

What's even more suspicious is that the government is also seeking to destroy nearby Gulsuyu, a former gecekondu (squatter) neighborhood that was legalized two decades ago. Why push Gulsuyu residents out? Because that neighborhood occupies a potentially prime piece of real estate high on a hill overlooking the Marmara Sea.

Eurasianet has the sordid details.

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