belgeseLAB Presents

New Scene in Exile


Photographer: Murat Şensu, Metin Ofluoğlu
Project Editor Altan Bal 

According to Wikipedia, Urban Transformation in modern Turkey’s history is often times a public study to determine the earthquake risks of the current structures in the scope of a project of a large city, which aims to stop the usage of risky grounds and buildings, re-constructing those buildings with the appropriate fundamentals based on the ground quality; thus, minimizing the loss of lives and economical damage at possible earthquakes.

There’ve been three different transformation processes in Istanbul since 1950. The second phase starting at the year 2000 and finally the third attempt with the help of fast track law nr 6306 in 2012 has started being implemented first for Fikirtepe.

"Also, according to Wikipedia, it has been said that there weren’t any other houses in Fikirtepe except math teacher Refik Apa’s house until the end of 1950s."

Scene of an intensive domestic migration and fast becoming a shantytown, Fikirtepe became an official neighborhood of Kadıköy District in 1965. Thus, it received its share of domestic migration for years, just like all the other neighborhoods of Istanbul.

Benefiting from the lack of inspection, residents of Fikirtepe built the buildings as they wished with no plans of development and housing. Shanties consisting of one room first became multi-roomed, and then became multi-storied buildings in time. They became the owners of those buildings with the deeds distributed during the election periods and they started to let the lower stories of their buildings hence generating income.

Once upon a time a neighborhood in the outskirts, Fikirtepe, has become nearer to the center in time. Especially after the opening of Anatolian Side metro line it became a valuable neighborhood and naturally attracted attention from the construction companies. Development layout started in 2010 by Kadıköy Municipality goes on first by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and then by Ministry of Environment and Urban Development. Fikirtepe with its 60 unregulated blocks has whetted the appetites of greedy real estate firms.

"Promised huge sums easily convinced Fikirtepe residents as well. As they were calculating the amounts they were going to get from the skyscrapers to be built, they mostly ignored the apparent dangers. As goes by the saying, Istanbul with gold pavements has chosen to make them rich."

However, dreams of making millions from the future rents has been cut short. Confiscations were imposed with the help of pinpoint laws. Construction companies easily blindfolded residents who were not sophisticated enough to make deals with them. Old residents of Fikirtepe, became renters in other neighborhoods after their buildings were demolished has started waiting eagerly for the promised skyscrapers to rise. With some of the construction firms going bankrupt, the projects that couldn’t even start has caused the first sufferings. Empty buildings stayed like ruins on the ground, and area turned into a deserted place. Although Fikirtepe residents’ dream of getting rich got much smaller, today they are still waiting with that diminishing hope for the projects to be finished.

"They were all aware of the situation as one Fikirtepe resident put into words: “They won’t even let us empty an ashtray here, brother!”"

Starting from winter of 2012 and continued through 2015, New scene was in exile: Fikirtepe3 project aims to document the change in Fikirtepe with photographs and voice recordings.

Mrs. Meryem, a resident of Fikirtepe, tells:

My father came in ‘68. He bought the lot and built that house with his earnings from shoe shining. Years later he started to do it. I came to Istanbul in ’72. I grew up there, in Fikirtepe. It was stout but up to what degree? It survived other earthquakes but if I should state openly, it might not survive the coming ones. Many homes were like that, anyway. Therefore, I wrote to the Prime Minister too, from internet. After that I went to the municipality. I presented my complaints. Give us building permits, I mean.

We didn’t want it like this. Essentially, my idea was this; four, five neighbors would come together, give it to the contractor, everyone would get his one flat and would live there. I mean we didn’t want any part from that Fikirtepe. If you ask me, “Are you going to live there now?” no, I won’t. Why? Because I can’t live there. It’s above me. Expenses are above me. It’s everything is an expense. I could have sold it and bought two, three flats from a more remote place and live...

But, what happened? I lost my father’s place. I lost my Fikirtepe. Many people like me think same and they’ve already sold, I mean most of them. Primarily my brothers.

Besides, that place is now unfamiliar to us. Fikirtepe has become unfamiliar for us. This is really saddening, I’m saying this sincerely. This is not a joke I mean.

"I wanted it this way when urban transformation said, you know, I naturally got happy when they said your homes will be renewed. But when big things happened, I mean when things got out of control, I didn’t want it, no lies."

And I was one of the last signees. It doesn’t come to my mind but there is such resentment in me. Really, I am saying, got being able to go to Fikirtepe ever again, those roads...

And I was one of the last signees. It doesn’t come to my mind but there is such resentment in me. Really, I am saying, got being able to go to Fikirtepe ever again, those roads...

Or, how should I know, men should renew. You can renew an old dress too. You can renew it. But you can’t do it either. I mean it doesn’t matter for me if you can’t wear it if you can’t go there. Because I won’t live there again. I mean... Hard.

Muharrem Akkoç, one of the older residents of Fikirtepe speaks.

We were hurt I mean. State has left us alone with contractors. Commissioners came in between. Swindlers came in. Selfish guys came in. They all came in. And then we went to the dogs. I’m in this block. This side is Anka, that side’s Nuh, the other Ekşioğlu. We got stuck (`ve stucked) in between. Graders, roads, dust, smoke, thief... We were done I mean. We are restless. It’s been three-four years, we neither receive any rent nor any yield. What do I know, I am really exhausted. I bought this home 22 years ago. I have been (am) in this neighborhood for 45 years. We changed three contractors. Do I give contractors’ names? We gave it to Anka. Former ones gave it to Usta. Usta went (down). They found Şua. We already, majority went to that side. We signed on Şua. Now, our lower side, Ekşioğlu, demolished. Our side is Anka. Demolished, they’re building. This side is Nuh’s. It’s also demolished. We stayed in between. We called the contractor. He said give us eight months. There’s lots of gossip here. Some say he doesn’t have money. Some say he isn’t working. Some say like this. Some say like that. We’re so messed up I mean.

"Graders, excavators, noises, dust, smoke... We can’t find peace of mind. The state didn’t come and open a bureau or something here to protect us."

I mean when I say state, I am a man who loves the state. I mean I don’t want it to be understood in a wrong way. But it didn’t protect us. It made us struggle with the contractors. Middle men came in. Loan sharks came in. Thieves came in. Commissioners came in. We were messed up big. I mean as Fikirtepe citizens we no longer have peace of mind. I can’t live here. Ninety percent can’t live here. Some has five children. Some has 6 children. Some has a partner. But he’s only got a 300-meter place if he’ll have two children maybe people like him can live here. Maybe ten percent can live here. My view. “Heh” we said, we’ll live a luxurious life. We’ll have everything. Our park, our sauna, our Turkish bath... Plans, projects are all like that. And we see Anka build four pillars to four corners.

"I mean I don’t think anything beautiful comes from it. Since we can’t live here our dreams are also finished."

One of Fikirtepe’s popular old shopkeepers, older brother Celal Nadenler the glass-seller speaks.

I have a place here. One of them was (has been) demolished, it’s being built now. We gave it to the same contractor, we gave it to Anka. Oh, hasn’t he promised a lot? (But what he hasn’t promise us).

"He promised such things... Contractor Efendi even said –sorry for saying out loud- that he’ll even install a TV in the toilet."

I mean, he told us so many things. Well, I mean in the end we gave it. We gave our place in the lower part. I gave the place which I inherited from my father. In the beginning, Mr Contractor paid us the first year’s rent in a normal way. In the second year he faltered a little. But of course, I don’t find any malicious intentions in that I mean. Because he was the first contractor to start building here. Our contractor became the first one to start the motion here. But lately, my greatest problem, I, as a person, am sick from the heart. He doesn’t pay the rent money. Now, at this moment, he still hasn’t paid (didn’t pay) this year’s rent.

Will the neighborhood friendships survive? It won’t. Because everyone will go to some (other) place. Some of them, we speak here. (Burada şu anda gidiyorlar demek istiyorsa, some of them are leaving as we speak demek lazım) We’re all like brothers. Some are going to their birth places. Some are hurt. You get it? In the end very few (little) people will stay here. Nobody forced us. I mean nobody said you must absolutely go away from here. We have the deeds. They didn’t have the authority to say it anyway. But as I just said here, since the possibilities aren’t enough we’ll have to go.