Residents in historic Ankara neighborhood battling to save their homes

Residents of Ankaraand’s Saraandcoilu neighborhood are putting up a fierce battle to protect their neighborhood against redevelopment plans that are aimed at taking aantage of the economic potential in the area but will apparently ruin its spirit.
Saraandcoilu, which is a three-minute walk from Kizilay Square, was designed by German architect Paul Bontz in the 1940s and was Turkeyand’s first public housing development, featuring residences, a library, parks, large green spaces and other social amenities.
Recently, the Saraandcoilu neighborhood has been making the news, with reports of police evacuating residents from the area early in the morning, sometimes using force. Skirmishes have broken out between police and residents who do not want to leave their houses. While police had been coming to evacuate residents after the official working hour, they have now started to come as early as 7 a.m.
Asim andOzcan, a lawyer representing a solidarity association established by Saraandcoilu residents, described the police tactics, saying: andquotWhen the police officers came after the official working hour, we were able to go to the Administrative Court immediately and, due to the urgency of the matter, receive a stay of execution and stop the evacuations before they started or just as they were beginning. Officials now avoid this by coming at 7 a.m., as the court doesnand’t open until 8:30 a.m. In that time theyand’re able to enter homes and evacuate residents. Itand’s like the public officials are working around the law by operating outside of work hours.and”
At least 50 police officers in riot gear are present during the evacuations. Those residents who resist evacuation are dragged on the ground from their homes. Police have even forcefully entered homes by breaking through doors with an axe.
The battle to protect Saraandcoilu began in 2013, when the Cabinet declared the area with properties belonging to the Treasury a and”risk zone.and” The Council of State then canceled the decision on the grounds that the available reports did not actually show the area to be and”at risk.and” Later in the same year, the Cabinet once again declared the area and”at risk,and” a decision that was challenged by citing the report lacked reputable scientific evidence. The Council of State subsequently ruled for a stay of execution after an expert examination of the area found there to be no risk.
Last year, however, the Cabinet revoked the neighborhoodand’s status as a public-use area, a decision published in the Official Gazette. Critics said the decision came after authorities discovered the economic potential of the area and thus pushed for the alternation of its status.
In August of last year, the neighborhood was officially given to the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKi) and the Privatization Administration (andOiB) in order to enable its redevelopment.
The decision, made behind closed doors and thus denying residents the opportunity to publicly comment on the redevelopment plans, has been a source of frustration and unease among the neighborhoodand’s residents.
There have also been claims that the rights to redevelop Saraandcoilu were transferred to the Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TanduRGEV), an organization in which President Recep Tayyip Erdoganand’s son Bilal Erdogan is an executive board member.
In March, Tezcan Karakui Candan, the chairwoman of the Ankara office of the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architectsand’ Chambers (TMMOB), claimed in a press statement that the neighborhood had been transferred to TanduRGEV.
TanduRGEV is among the groups at the center of the Dec. 17, 2013 corruption investigation, which includes allegations of bribery and irregularities within the foundation. Prosecutors claimed Bilal Erdogan abused his fatherand’s influence to help TanduRGEV purchase valuable land in several provinces at prices far below market value. Various news reports have emerged over the past months noting the donation of plots of land and recreational facilities to TanduRGEV by some municipalities.
Simultaneous operations were launched on Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 as part of a major investigation into alleged bribery linked to public tenders, corruption and bribery. The sons of three ministers, bureaucrats and prominent businessmen, as well as the son of Erdogan, were implicated in the scandal.
Earlier this year, Saraandcoilu was addressed in Parliament, when then-main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) deputy Atilla Kart submitted a parliamentary inquiry asking if the rights to develop Saraandcoilu had been transferred to TanduRGEV.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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