Authorities start demolition in Istanbul’s Tozkoparan district despite residents’ resistance

Authorities have started demolishing houses in Istanbul’s Tozkoparan district despite residents’ objections and resistance, Turkish media reported.

Riot police and water cannon were deployed to the neighborhood in the early morning hours of Monday. Some 500 police officers closed off the neighborhood’s entrance and exits, while police buses were ready to transport any detainees.

Journalists were also prevented from entering the neighborhood.

Tozkoparan has been at the center of tension as residents have been resisting the demolition of their houses due to an urban transformation project. Authorities declared it a “disaster area” in April 2020, due to the possible devastation that could occur in the event of an earthquake.

Residents were given eviction notices, but they took the decision to court. The Istanbul 10th Administrative Court issued a temporary injunction against the evictions, a decision that was reversed a few months later. Authorities then cut water and power to the neighborhood in an attempt to make the residents leave more quickly.

Opposition politicians have criticized the demolitions, saying the consent of locals had not been obtained and that their homes were literally being wrecked.

Gürsel Tekin from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) visited the neighborhood and expressed his solidarity with the residents. Ümit Beyaz from the İYİ (Good) Party also wanted to enter the neighborhood but was prevented by the police.

Beyaz insisted on entering the demolition sites and was eventually allowed to stand with the residents.

Lawyer Onur Cingil, who represented the neighborhood residents, said he was also prevented by the police from standing with his clients.

Last week two neighborhoods in Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district were demolished as part of another urban transformation project. Despite much resistance, police officers were stationed in the Hacıhüsrev and Tokatköy neighborhoods, and many houses were pulled down.

Opposition politicians have criticized the eviction of residents for urban transformation projects. Erdoğan Horlu, from the CHP, said that during local election campaigns the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had promised an end to evictions but was now resorting to illegal methods so residents will abandon their homes.

Although authorities said these projects aim to make the neighborhoods safer and more habitable, critics argue that they leave the residents “homeless.” Although residents were compensated for relinquishing their homes, the amount received was much lower than the original value of their homes, meaning they had difficulty finding housing elsewhere.

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