Opposition party member questions 4 ministers over responsibility for destruction of Istanbul’s historical Yedikule Allotments

Melda Onur, a member of the CHP (Republican People’s Party) has sent official parliamentary questions to ministers over the responsibility for the bulldozing of the historical Yedikule Bostanları (Allotments) inside the 1,500 year-old UNESCO-listed Yedikule fortifications

As part of the Istanbul Historical Peninsula Management Plan agreed by the Municipal Council in 2011, the fortifications and allotments would remain under protection but started being razed in early July to make way for a park as part of the Yedikule Recreation Project.

Onur’s questions highlight the illegality of the demolition works taking place in the Yedikule allotments, drawing attention to the fact that none of the four ministries (Environment and Urban Planning; Culture and Tourism; Food, Agriculture and Livestock and Education) to whom she addresses her questions have  shown any kind of response to the destruction of the allotments, which, as history of architecture lecturer Tuğba Tanyeri-Erdemir from the Middle East Technical University indicates, “have been part of the urban landscape of Istanbul for arguably longer than the Hagia Sophia itself. The gardens are part of the cultural heritage of Istanbul, of the identity of the city itself, and should be preserved for that reason.”

Onur also goes on to state that the demolition that took place between 3-5 July  inside the fortifications was carried out using work machines and without the supervision of an archaeologist, and demands that responsibility be taken as well as legal action against those responsible.

In her questions, Onur draws attention to the ministries’ complete disregard for the environmental and sociocultural impacts of the Yedikule Recreation Project. The people who cultivated and made a living off the plot before the destruction have clearly not been compensated, as an article on ‘The Atlantic Cities’ website reports a woman who works the land with her husband and sells the produce to the Istanbul wholesale market saying: “I don’t know what we’ll do, where we’ll go if our land gets destroyed as well. We don’t have anything else”.

That the demolition of the historical Yedikule Allotments started at the beginning of July, at the same time as the aggression against Gezi Park is for many a sign of the government’s active indifference to the city’s cultural and historical heritage and for the precious green space that is already so rare in the city.

Original articles:

(Turkish): http://www.bianet.org/bianet/toplum/149078-melda-onur-yedikule-bostanlarini-dort-bakana-sordu

(English):  http://www.theatlanticcities.com/politics/2013/07/centuries-old-gardens-are-latest-battleground-rapidly-developing-istanbul/6192/

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