HLRN has received updated reports from local sources about the ongoing demolitions and forced evictions in the remaining neighborhoods of Sur District, Diyarbakır, in southeastern Turkey.
The focus now is on the present situation in Alibey and Lalepaşa neighborhoods. For more information on the context, consult the latest report on Sur by former coordinator of the Cultural Landscape Area Administration (Kültürel Peyzaj Yönetim Planı Onaylandı), Nevin Soyukaya, in August 2017. That report reveals what has taken place since HIC-HLRN has documented the situation in its World Habitat Day report presented at Habitat III. Relevant excerpts are reprinted below:
Forced evictions and displacement
``Starting from 9 September 2015, curfew has been declared in Sur six times with brief intervals, and the city blockaded. In this period, the security forces have forcibly removed the residents from their houses. Finally, on 10 December 2015, the curfew was lifted for a few hours and the residents were forced to leave the area. Thousands of people were thus reduced to refugees in their own city, without any provisions made for housing or essential amenities.
The population of Sur was 50,341, according to the 2015 census. Of the six neighbourhoods where armed clashes took place and where curfew was declared, the population there was 22,323, and this total population has been evicted from the area.
In May 2016, the blockade was lifted in Cevatpaşa and part of Abdaldede neighborhoods and the residents returned to their homes; however, in the five other neighborhoods the demolition that took place during the blockade has turned these quarters into stretches of barren land (see pp. 11–12; Photos 21, 22).
After the cessation of armed conflict, the Council of Ministers passed a decree on 21 March 2016, requisitioning 6,292 parcels out of 7,714 located in Sur, and the expropriation of their owners. By this decision, 82% of the parcels in Sur will be requisitioned by the state. A large part of the remaining 18% is in the possession of the Housing Development Administration and the Treasury. As a result, Sur will be entirely passed into public ownership. This also means that the residents of these quarters will most probably not be able to return (p. 12 and Map 5).
Adverse impacts on the social, economic and demographic structure and collective memory
Freeholders [i.e., property owners] in Sur are being forced into selling their properties through expropriation threats violating their property rights and their right of choice regarding where to live. A damage assessment of the registered structures heavily damaged as a result of conflict in Sur needs to be conducted by a team consisting of representatives of the people living in Sur, scientists, the Area Management Department for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Diyarbakır and municipal experts. This has not been done. Moreover, the principle of participation by the inhabitants has been totally disregarded in the replanning of Sur, and decisions are being made in a highly centralized manner.
With the latest armed conflict and subsequent deliberate devastation of the walled city, the original street fabric and the integrity of the city block-parcel structure have been irretrievably erased. The expropriation by government decree, and the subsequent forced exodus that have taken place threaten to change the social, economic and demographic structure, break the cultural continuity and wipe out the collective memory of the city formed over thousands of years (p. 19).”
As for Alipaşa and Lalebey neighborhoods, the urban renewal project (2009) that was later suspended as a result of resistance and opposition of the community is on the table once more; thus, demolitions and forced evictions have started again.
At the time when the project was first implemented, about half of the parcels were vacated in return for new housing provided by Housing Development Administration (TOKİ). As unveiled by another HLRN report in The Land and Its People (2015) and analysis by Cihan, relocation to TOKİ housing sites violates all seven adequacy criteria of the human right to adequate housing, while also triggering displacement of inhabitants to the fringes.
Citing from a recent report of Peace Bloc:
``These abandoned houses have been partially demolished and made inhabitable. Those who refused to give up their houses continued to inhabit them until 2016, when forced evictions were put into effect and (un-negotiable) indemnities deposited in bank accounts in the name of the homeowners, regardless of their lack of consent. At the moment, about half the original residents have been continuing to live in their houses, in spite of the cuts of basic amenities like water and electricity and even the disruption of sewers since the end of May 2016 (beginning of the month of Ramadhan), as well as continual harassment...The indemnities paid to many residents will be far short of ensuring equivalent housing. The neighbourhood network, strongly based on family relations, will be completely disrupted; the livelihood of these families, partly based on tilling the Hevsel Gardens skirting the city walls, will be completely cut off.``
The relevant communities are mostly IDPs so this means another forced eviction and displacement after 20–25 years. These neighborhoods also comprise populations living under the poverty line and hunger threshold (Lalebey: 2,853 people; Alipaşa: 2,963 people).
Starting this week, the situation has worsened. The the riot police have blockaded and closed off the neighborhoods with barriers, and the residents are harassed and otherwise forced to leave their homes without giving sufficient time to collect their belongings. Even those who have petitioned the courts against the administration are forced to leave and their homes demolished while the cases continue. Today, two children were injured by construction equipment.
HLRN calls for solidarity with the inhabitants of Sur, Diyarbakır, and your renewed support for the Urgent Action appeal in this case.
For further background and developments, consult the following sources:
Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal and HIC-HLRN, “Privatizing the Land in Turkey,” The Land and Its People (HLRN, 2015)
Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal, “Kentsel Dönüşüm Söyleminin Gizlediği Gerçekler”
Turkey: Forced Eviction and Urban Transformation as a Tool of War (HLRN’s World Habitat Day report), 3 October 2016
UN Special Rapporteurs’ joint communication to Permanent Mission of Turkey, 21 September 2016
Permanent Mission of Turkey response to UN Special Rapporteurs, 20 January 2017
Nevin Soyukaya, SUR – The Walled City of Diyarbakır: Conflict, Dispossession and Destruction Damage Assessment Report, 1 August 2017
Peace Block letter, 19 August 2017
Photo: Kurdish women looks on at the destruction of her home in Sur, Diyarbakır. Source: HLRN file.