Tarlabasi is one of the poorest area in Istanbul. His population is mainly composed of Kurdish (95%) and a mix of Rom, Greek, African also compose the immigration image of the area. You can find a flat at a very low cost or even buy a house for the equivalent of fifty thousand US dollar. So, Tarlabasi always been a place of predilection for Kurdish family coming from the Turkish east block and trying to escape the violent confrontation between the PKK and the Turkish army or for now, trying to find work and build a new life in Istanbul. Tarlabasi also has it own Kurdish deputy at the parliament, Mrs Sebahat Tuncel. The Tarlabasi renovation project was establish in 2005 and will enter in his final phase in 2014. According to the municipality of Istanbul, this renovation project going to bring life, prosperity and tourism in the area. But when you ask them “what about the thousand of kurdish and Rom who live in the area? What’s going to happen with them?” The answer is direct and incredible: “Were just going to move them outside Istanbul where they can find a flat at a reasonable price”.
So, the municipality of Istanbul is going to evicted close to 5000 people, demolish their inhabitations (20 000 square meter of demolition) and built instead, luxury residences, hotels, restaurants, shopping mall, etc. There will be some apartments to be builds but it is hard to understand how the actual residents of Tarlabasi will be able to afford them. For the most, they are unemployed or immigrants waiting for visas. So in mid-october, I walk the street of Tarlabasi, a not very safe area, I must agree. Even when accompanied with my translator, Ogus, some people threat us, asking us to leave the area, that we don’t belong here. Very few have accepted to talk to us and when they did, they were very nervous every time someone came across. Part of the reason is, that drugs dealers have establish their headquarters in abandoned houses in the area and don’t welcome outsiders neither accept that local people speak to them.
Yves Choquette is a freelance photojournalist living in Montreal who focuses on social and humanitarian issues.
More information and images can be found at www.yveschoquette.com