This is an open letter on behalf of the Romanies in Sulukule, Istanbul, Turkey

Dear Friends,

Despite all our efforts, internal and international reactions and solidarity, demolitions in Sulukule, Istanbul, the most ancient Roma neighborhood in the world, started once again on August 28th, this time at 6 am in the morning much crueler and inhumane, without any warning before.

The next day, in spite of the wide reactions from the NGO’S and Turkish media, Mustafa Demir, the Mayor of the concerned municipality, Fatih, declared that this fatal “urban renewal project” will go on and the land will be handed to TOKI, the public construction company as if nobody was living there. He also announced they have signed contracts with all inhabitants, owners and tenants except 70 owners. And this is not the case, as you will see below.

In June 25 2008, Istanbul Governorship Human Rights Council Chairmanship
had announced the situation at Sulukule alarming, calling attention to the
unsanitary conditions of the residents and the danger of all rubble and
debris left over from previous demolitions, for people and specially children
of Sulukule (Attachment 1). Fatih Municipality took no notice of the Human
Rights agenda at Sulukule. Instead it seems that the Mayor is determined to drive out Sulukule inhabitants, no matter at what humane cost.

We, as members of the Sulukule Platform, ask that the Fatih Municipality should immediately:

*Stop the demolitions until an alternative project is produced on the basis of a participatory model.

*This alternative project must take into consideration the tenants who want to remain in Sulukule, most of whom have been living among the rubbles, as they don't have any other option. No alternative housing has been proposed to them till now.

There are 2 groups:

-The first group consists of those tenants whose right to house ownership in one of Mass Housing Administration's housing project sites has been recognized by the Municipality. However, many of these right holders have not been entitled to housing since there is no room left for them in Tasoluk. Even though the municipality assures that those tenants who couldn't be accommodated in Tasoluk will be sent to Kayabası (another mass housing site) construction in this location have not even begun. This effectively leaves many families homeless. In total there are 100 families of such status.

-The second group of tenants has not even been considered as right holders from the very beginning. At the beginning of August, these tenants applied to the Fatih Municipality, demanding their entitlements. As of now they are still waiting for an official response. There are 200 families in this second group.

In short, currently there are 300 families in Sulukule, who do not have any place to go. Moreover, the recent demolitions have been carried out so hastily and carelessly that the municipality demolished not only the emptied houses but also the homes of the families who belong to the groups mentioned above. The bulldozers ended up destroying even the homes of people, who signed a contract with the municipality waiting to move to their new homes in Tasoluk. (None of the right holders have yet received their keys for their homes there)

Finally we must add the 70 families (mentioned also by The Mayor Mustafa Demir in his declaration of August 29th) who are owners that refused to sign a contract with the municipality.

All of this adds up to 370 families which means that more than 1500 people have no place to go, even in the determined exile lands, Tasoluk or elsewhere. And this without mentioning that those who singed any kind of contract with the municipality or sold their homes to the speculators have been obliged to do so by fear of becoming homeless and because no other option has been given to them.

We demand that:

* All those who were tenants in the year 2005 when the project was announced must be accepted as right holders without any discrimination. So far the determination of the right holders by the municipality has been totally arbitrary.

*Public service provision in Sulukule must go on until the last inhabitant leaves. Currently, around 2000 people are living among the rubbles of the demolished houses for months, which pose major risks especially for children. The rubbles must be removed urgently. There is no water, no electricity and phone lines in some parts of the neighborhood are cut off. No sanitary precautions are taken. Rats and all kind of pests have infested the neighborhood threatening the public sanity.
All of these public service duties, which are also mentioned in the Istanbul Governor's Human Rights Report must be fulfilled very urgently by the Municipality.

*The new academic year begins on September 1st for primary school students. Children of Sulukule cannot attend schools neither in Sulukule nor in Tasoluk. They cannot do so in Sulukule, because their homes are either demolished or will be demolished soon. And they cannot go to school in Tasoluk, because they are not allowed to move to those houses yet. Thus, their right for education is being violated. And next week the secondary schools will start and it will
be the same for Sulukule youth.

Please show your reaction in solidarity with Sulukule Roma people by calling the authorities to stop demolitions and urging an alternatif project…

Viki Ciprut

In the name of
Sulukule Platform