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Ayazma, Istanbul: Solidarity tent waiting for solution after demolition

In the morning of November 13th 2008, the municipal forces of the Kucukcekmece District, accompanied by the police, broke into Ayazma where the huts and tents of the 18 families- the previous tenants of the area before the urban transformation process took place- were forcibly taken down, broken to pieces and completely demolished.

The families had been living in the area since the ‘90’s. Mainly a Kurdish population, they had come from the East or South East of Turkey, eitheir as a result of internal migration triggered by state pressure and human rights violations during the era or to find jobs in the big city. Their roads intersected in Ayazma and so did their fates later! When the area was taken under urban transformation process, the slum owners were recognized as title holders and were given apartments at mass housing blocks nearby and were asked to pay the apartments on a long term basis.

However, Kucukcekmece Mayor Aziz Yeniay, forgetting his earlier promise of the same oppurtunity for the tenants, started the eviction of the tenant population right after the landlords had signed the contractual obligations.

In Ayazma,there were about 200 tenants, hence, they were left with no choice but to leave the area. On the other hand, the 18 families, having no place to go and not having the means to afford renting houses out of Ayazma-since the rent rates at Ayazma were very low- stayed in the deserted neighbourhood till November 2007.

It was almost dawn when the police forces broke into and bulldozers started demolishing the houses while people were already in the houses, most of them sleeping!

18 families were left on the street thus! They did not give up, building up their homes out of hardboards and using tents as well, they chose to stay in the area, demanding the mayor to keep his promises.

Almost after a year, they are left on the streets once more, this time under harsher conditions because the forces did not leave a single plank or a piece of wood this time, completely demolishing every potential building element into pieces.

No matter what, the families are resolved and will not leave the area till the mayor keeps his promises. When negotiations started right after the demolitions, Aziz Yeniay once more declared that he would keep his word and would materialize his promise as soon as he returns from Ankara where he goes to talk to the PM on the issue. This declaration was kept at a private level though and not announced officially.

So, the families wait, human rights defenders and activists together with the Local NGOs Platform also wait for the mayor to return from Ankara and bring good news to the tenants. Meanwhile, a group of young urban planners called the IMECE Group, who had recently won the award of İstanbul Chamber of Architects with their documentary ‘Migration’- a magnificient film about the urban transformation at another district, Basbuyuk, of İstanbul- used the money for a big and furnished tent where the families can cook and stay for the time being.

Solidarity for Ayazma population from other districts as visits to Ayazma continue.

In Ankara, the population of Dikmen Valley, another urban transformation area, lit fires last night to show their solidarity to Ayazma Population.

Cihan U. Baysal