"Get your hands off the pockets of Istanbul's residents"
Following ambiguous remarks by Turkey's minister of environment and urbanization that 1.5 million residences in Istanbul "will be moved elsewhere" in the context of a preemptive response to a earthquake, imprisoned urban planner Tayfun Kahraman reacted saying the government has other plans.
Minister Murat Kurum disclosed on Tuesday government's plan to "move 1.5 million earthquake-vulnerable residences to two reserve areas on the Asian and European sides of Istanbul," without elaborating on the possible impacts of the said "movement" on property rights of the residents, what would happen to evacuated residences, and how issues like commuting are to be solved after a displacement on such scale.
Government media daily Sabah presented the plan as a major move to protect Istanbul's residents against the risks of an earthquake, citing a civil engineer who said the said plan is likely to involve 6 million citizens and that "they expect the government to take quick action."
Tayfun Kahraman, a prominent urban planner who formerly served as the head of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality's Earthquake Risk Management and Urban Reform Department, said on Twitter:
"The minister said there are 1.5 million vulnerable residences in Istanbul and they will move these to reserve areas. How did you manage to assess which buildings, and how many were vulnerable to a possible earthquake without first carrying out surveys? Or do you have other intentions? Since you say that you know the number of vulnerable buildings without assessing which ones, this is an indication that you've already determined which properties you are planning to seize. And please tell, to which desolate reserve areas are you planning to move the citizens whose properties you will seize?"
"Either you're intending to build residences in remote areas on both sides of the city and in exchange seize the citizens' properties in central districts, or you'll move the citizens to reserve areas that have been rendered worthless because of the failed [Istanbul] Canal project and seize the [evacuated] lands around the center! We are quite familiar with this type of discourse and we know you well. You had said after the Magnitude 5.9 earthquake in Istanbul in 2019 that you were planning to build 100,000 residences. How many have you built? And if you knew 1.5 million residences were vulnerable, why did you declare amnesties for illegal buildings in the past 20 years instead of reinforcing them?"
"Raising demands for rights in the process of urban transformation is irresponsible, you say. Isn't it equally so, to give precedence to economic rent over right to life? But this time you will not be able to deceive people as you try to seize their properties under the pretext of taking preemptive measures against the earthquake. Get your hands off the citizens' pockets! You should first be held accountable for the 50 thousand lives lost, in part because of the construction amnesties you declared. And you cannot simply say, 'Sorry, we were unable to reach out in the first couple of days' to people who you left waiting under the rubble! You cannot simply claim that you will do in a single year everything you were unable to do in the course of 20 years! We know your intentions and your frame of mind all too well!"
Kahraman has been imprisoned since April 2022 after he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on charge of "aiding to overthrow the elected government" over his participation in 2013 Gezi Park protests, which millions of people had taken part in to prevent a government attempt to destroy the park located at the center of the city.