The İstanbul 4th Administrative Court has canceled a renovation project in İstanbul's Sulukule neighborhood, home primarily to the Roma, citing that the project is not beneficial to the public.
The ruling, which said the construction of new villa-style houses must be halted, came after a four-year court case brought by the İstanbul branch of the Chamber of Architects, the Chamber of Urban Planners and the Sulukule Roma Culture and Solidarity Association.
The renovation project of the neighborhood was launched in 2006 with a Council of Ministers decision which declared Sulukule a renovation site. The project, which envisaged the relocation of Sulukule inhabitants, mostly from the Roma community, and the construction of 620 new houses, a hotel and a culture and entertainment center in the neighborhood by the Fatih Municipality and the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ), drew the ire of Sulukule residents as well as that of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Academics, artists, activists and ordinary citizens objected to the project. UNESCO authorities paid a visit to Sulukule and made statements defending the integrity of the existing historical and cultural fabric of the area. However, hundreds of houses were demolished and replaced with modern buildings while the court case against the project was still under way. The former inhabitants were relocated to Kayabaşı TOKİ houses, 60 kilometers away from their old neighborhood.
Commenting on the recent ruling, Mücella Yapıcı from the İstanbul branch of the Chamber of Architects said the ruling is very important and sets a precedent, although it was a belated one because much of Sulukule was torn down before the court case was even concluded. All the new buildings in Sulukule are illegal and must also be torn down, Yapıcı added.
Sulukule Roma Culture and Solidarity Association lawyer Hilal Küey said the construction project should be stopped immediately.
“There needs to be a new project which is in line with the law and public interest,” she said. “People who have suffered as a result of the project must be compensated.”