ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
The human rights board of the Istanbul Governor's Office has issued a call to relevant institutions to take necessary measures to prevent human rights violations in the neighborhood of Sulukule, long inhabited by the Roma people. The board did not, however, take into account a call by its own subcommittee to end an urban transformation project to take place in the area and to stop demolitions there.
The subcommittee that examined any human rights violations in the Sulukule neighborhood due to at urban transformation project that began there in 2005 had launched a preliminary report after its first visit to the neighborhood. The committee of experts called for the project to be halted immediately and urged that demolitions be stopped. It also said urgent measures needed to be taken to protect and repair damaged buildings. The subcommittee also requested an official statement to alleviate the fear of neighborhood residents and ensure they stayed in their houses.
In a meeting June 11 the human rights board negotiated about the preliminary report and decided on a series of urgent measures for the area. The demands by the subcommittee did not, however, form a part of that call made to various institutions, from the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to the waterworks authority.
�Other measures would not be worth it, without stopping the demolitions there,� said Dr. Hüseyin Demirdizen, a member of the subcommittee. �Measures apart from that will be like dressing [a wound],� he said.
�Our demands were very pretentious. We might leave the administrative authorities in a difficult situation,� said committee member Benan Baykal, highlighting that Zafer Üskül, the head of the parliamentary commission on human rights, said there were no human rights violations in Sulukule, contrary to the determinations of the subcommittee. �This is a very inexorable contradiction,� Baykal said.
It is the will of the vice governor, Mustafa Altıntaş, to exclude those demands, Baykal said, continuing that it is not within the authority of the governor's office to make demands of the Prime Ministry or the Mass Housing Administration, or TOKİ, which is running the urban transformation project. Probably he thought that this is beyond his authority, Baykal noted.
Instead of calling on authorities to halt the urban transformation project or the demolitions, the board demanded a prefabricated health center in the neighborhood, along with social facilities for children. Removing the rubble in the neighborhood without causing any harm to the remains of historical buildings and preparing an inventory to protect the historical and cultural assets of the Roma people in the area are among the other urgent measures advocated by the board.