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Istanbul: A new step in the fight for housing

ISTANBUL (July 28, 2008) - The Popular Front for the Fight against Demolitions assembled the working class citizens who are faced with the threat of their houses being demolished at the Congress for Housing Rights in Okmeydani, in the city of Devren Dü—ün Salonu.

At this Congress, where ideas on the future of this mission were put up for debate and experiences of this conflict were discussed both on local and international levels, the name “The Popular Front for the Fight against Demolitions” was changed to “The Popular Front for Housing Rights”.

Workers united at this Congress for Housing Rights to campaign against the destruction project that, under pretext of being an Urban Reconstruction Project, is in fact tearing down their homes.

Present at this convention were representatives of Kurtköy, Derbent, Aydos, Sulukule, Ayazma, Gülsuyu, Maden Dereiçi, Güzeltepe, BaÕibüyük, Okmeydani, Karanfilköy, Izmir KuruçeÕme and the International Alliance of Habitants. This assembly opened with the registration of all participants and the presentation of a documentary made by the cinematography production company BEKSAV

The destructions create a health concern

Hüseyin Demirdizen, general secretary for the Istanbul Medical Association, declared at this function that the planned destruction of these working class communities is the result of neoliberal politics. Demirdizen, upholding that all of this havoc will create new opportunities for the greater good of the country, also realizes that housing and health should be basic inherent rights, adding: “How can a child live a healthy life threatened by the demolition of their village?” To support the greater good of the economy people are being put in these detrimental situations.

Tores Dinçöz, spokesperson for the Union Chambers for Turkish Architects, and Provincial Commission Assembly (TMMBOIKK) , stated that the objective was to evict these hard working people from their communities where they live in the midst of the destruction. Dinçöz recalled that the goal is to distance the inhabitants under the pretext that they are unable to maintain the area, and to then take over these neighborhoods. According to Dinçöz, as far as housing is concerned, it is unnecessary to distinguish between those who are able to pull through economically and those that can’t: everyone should have the right to a place to live. Dinçöz addressing the Congress stated: “We must fight for all people to be able to live humanely, we have to propagate this idea.”

Ottolini: The demolition project hinders human rights.

The international host of the Congress, the Italian Cesare Ottolini, made a declaration on behalf of the International Alliance of Habitants: “The working class continues its fight against this phenomenon in various parts of the world, we are in contact with more than 350 organizations in 40 countries, we will inform the international press about these acts against housing rights in Turkey”, adding that “we consider these displacements and evictions as a violation of human rights. He then voiced several suggestions like having events hosted by the international organizations when the city is nominated European Cultural Center for 2010. We have to show the true face of Istanbul and create a new cultural movement. He specified that in 2010 the Worldwide Assembly for Habitants will take place joining in this campaign for housing rights and concluded by saying: “You are not alone.”

Çiçek Otlu, president of the Feminine Workers Association in Istanbul, took the floor stating that the females of the working class, throughout this struggle in the communities taken over by all the destruction, overcame the obstacles and concluded by stating that “we will continue the fight against the destruction of these neighborhoods”.

Workers from Çapa who were forced into being laid off also participated in this Congress and addressed themselves to those being threatened. One of these laborers, Saniye Aydin declared that while communities are being torn down and people are subjected to lay offs, they are requesting the joint effort of everyone to appeal to this fight. The public supported this by chanting “The workers from Capa are not alone”.

Following the speeches were stories about experiences lived by those that came from areas already destroyed. Intertwined in all these stories was the common thread of this struggle that they were all battling.

Establishing the campaigns

The Congress was also presented with ideas that had been meticulously thought out: build a rapport with international organizations that advocate housing rights; take advantage of local elections to spread the cause; publish the official newsletter for laborers on life and the individual and housing and its approval of the public worker; and to build committees of workers who have experienced these threats first hand. The Popular Front for the Fight against Demolitions, introduced to Congress three years ago, has changed its name, becoming The Popular Front for Housing Rights.

At the end of the meeting The Front announced that a press release of the happenings of this Congress would be made public at the press conference being held on July 30 at the Union Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Mechanics (TMMOB) headquarters.

Entertainment in the streets of Okmaydani

Various activities and demonstrations organized by BEKSAV, such as Resistance in the Neighborhoods and Art Days of the Streets, took place in Okmeydani on July 26 in the working class community. Loud speakers announced information of the Congress and invited residents to the attend, leaflets were distributed, and relevant initial information was given out. In the evening in front of the clinic, a photography exhibit took place along with actors and actresses from Tiyatro Baydin and Tiyatro Imge. Dozens of laborers that had been following the demonstrations with great interest gathered together. Nazim Sarikaya, a comedian from Tiyatro Baydun, in his act following the highlights of the evening announced that support is needed for Izmir who’s house is being threatened by the demolitions. The Socialist Platform for the Oppressed (ESP) declared that all laborers were invited to the Congress for Housing Rights the next day.