Istanbul’s Gentrification Wars

by cominsitu

The mass protests surrounding Gezi Park, the corruption scandals, the Soma mining accident—none of these incidents will stop the majority of Turkish citizens from electing Recep Tayyip Erdogan as president. Among other things, this means that ambitious development projects and the AKP party’s controversial policies will likely multiply.

Last year’s Gezi uprising was sparked by a government project to transform the park in central Istanbul into a gigantic mall. While a relentless police crackdown has led many of last year’s protesters to abandon hope, the problems at the heart of Erdogan’s vision for Turkey’s urban development have not gone away. People directly affected by the development of certain neighborhoods are often left with only two options: to abandon hope or to fight.

One group that has decided to take the fight to the government is the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front, or DHKP/C. This extreme-left party—which is labeled a terrorist organization by the EU—is entrenched in many of the disenfranchised neighborhoods that have become targets for ruthless urban development. To stave off the forced relocation of inhabitants, the DKHP/C militants are prepared to combat not only the police, but also violent drug gangs that terrorize their neighborhoods, which they believe are collaborating with the state.