Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Sulukule under threat

Sulukule, the historic Roma district of Istanbul, is to be destroyed in the name of "urban renewal" and the community living there are to be resettled outside the city.

The neighbourhood, situated in the peninsula of Istanbul, is being depopulated through a gentrification project implemented by the Metropolitan and Fatih municipalities. As it stands, the project is in its last phase and in February this year the remaining Roma houses will be bulldozed.

Despite the efforts form locals, the Sulukule Association for the Enrichment of Roma Culture and for Solidarity, leading academics and NGO’s, the project was developed without consulting the community and without considering their demands.

The urban renewal project is a plan which involves the complete demolition of the neighbourhood, home to more than 3,000 Roma, and its replacement with housing which is unaffordable for most of the original inhabitants.

One of the oldest Roma communities in the world, the Sulukule population is being drvien out of their historical neighbourhood.

The Roma first came to Istanbul from India in the 11th century when the city was still the capital of the Byzantine Empire. They spread around the world from here. Following the conquest of the city by the Ottomans in 1453 and with the permission of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror, they were settled near the city walls in Sulukule as well as nearby Ayvansaray.

For hundreds of years, Sulukule acted as a place of pilgrimage for Roma from all over the world. It is one of the most important cultural centers of Roma music and dance as it continues to be a crucial worldwide resource for training musicians and dancers.

The Roma will be forcibly moved from their thousand-year-old neighborhood to an area 40km outside the city. Moreover, as the municipality wants them to pay for the public housing they will receive, this move is accompanied by a debt obligation that they will not be able to meet.

Because it will evict the Roma from their homes, and annihilate and assimilate the Roma culture in Istanbul, the project needs to be stopped. Your support is crucial to do this.

Your support is needed for the cessation of the "urban renewal project""

• The Sulukule urban renewal project is a non-transparent non-participatory project.

• It is against the clauses of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

• It is implemented in the buffer zone of the ancient land walls of Istanbul, which are on the World Heritage list. As such, it fails to abide by the principles of the Vienna Memorandum and the Convention regarding the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

To help prevent the forced exile of the Sulukule Roma, and protect the historical and cultural values of Istanbul, which are on the World Heritage List, and ti express your objection to this project by writing to the following officials,

Abdullah Gül
President of Turkey
T.C. Cumhurbaskanligi

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey

Ertu_rul Günay
Minister of Culture and Tourism
Mail Address:
T.C. Kultur ve Turizm Bakanligi
Ataturk Bulvari No. 29
06050 Opera

Kadir Topba
Mayor of Istanbul
Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediye Baskanligi

Mustafa Demir
Mayor of the Fatih district of Istanbul
Büyük Karaman Cad.
No. 53

For more information caontact Hacer Foggo:, Derya Nüket Özer: or Viki Ciprut Izrail:

Thanks to Ron Margulies for this report

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