Residents of İstanbul’s Tozkoparan district evicted from homes by police

Residents of İstanbul’s Tozkoparan district, where a gentrification project is underway, were evicted from their homes on Friday by the police, the Evrensel daily reported.

The police evicted the residents despite an injunction pausing the process. Residents of the district had previously protested the project in front of city hall, saying their homes had been taken away from them and would be re-sold to them for higher prices. Haluk Çavuşoğlu, a resident, said they would continue protesting the confiscation of their properties.

“We are not against urban transformation, but rather the violation of our rights,” said residents, who criticized authorities for not including them in the planning phase of the project.

In a presidential decree in April 2020 some areas of Tozkoparan were declared to be at high risk in the event of an earthquake. According to the decree residents were required to leave their homes in 30 days. It said if they failed to do so, their utilities would be cut off.

Alaettin Aktay, an alderman and a member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said the process had not been handled with full transparency by authorities. “People are asked to leave their homes, but they don’t know what they will receive as compensation,” he said. “People are left to deal with an uncertain future. What will happen next? Where will they go?”

Mehmet Akif Hamzaçebi, a lawmaker from the CHP, said gentrification projects could not take place by force. He added that residents needed to be properly informed and included in the planning phase.

Urban transformation projects, which gained pace in the early 2000s, have been criticized for becoming an industry benefitting big companies. According to activists, although these projects were initially meant to renovate buildings that were at risk of destruction in an earthquake, they have become an excuse to tear down any building that is old or aesthetically unappealing. Activists have also argued that previous residents were left homeless after their houses were confiscated by authorities.

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