Chief Organizer Blog: Roma Evictions in Face of Development in Istanbul

When the Organizers’ Forum visited with various unions and community-based organizations in Ankara and Istanbul in 2006, one of the most experiences we shared was a visit to a Roma community on the east, Asian side of Istanbul across the Bosporous.  There we met Hacer Foggo, a young woman organizer and activist who was deeply involved in the efforts of this and other Roma communities who were being uprooted by upscale residential and commerical development throughout the area.  Standing in the camp, everywhere we looked we could see the highrises leaping into life from the arc of the cranes.

Several weeks ago, I reached out to Hacer to introduce friends traveling in that direction.  She caught me up to date with the continuing forced, and perhaps illegal, evictions and land taking particularly in the Roma community of Kucukbakkalkoy.  Though this is unusual for this space, I’m including Hacer’s pictures and commentary below, because of both its power and tragedy.

Human rights of families and communities deserve respect and attention regardless of the “manifest destiny” of development, where this can mean life and death to some and only more money a couple of days earlier to others.

 

 

Here are Hacer’s photos and her annotations:

photo 1Photo 1: 19  Haziran 2006: 240 houses in the Roma neighbourhood of Küçükbakkalköy, in the Atasehir district of Istanbul  were demolished by anti-terror police teams and police forces from the Metropolitan Istanbul Municipality and Kadikoy municipality. Tear gas was used on protestors.

photo 2Photo 2: They didn’t even let people to remove their belongings before demolition. Police used force against those who wanted to evacuate their houses to keep their belongings safe. 10 were taken to custody and some of their relatives, who fainted during the row, were carried  away brutally.

photo3Photo 3: 2008. Roma houses were bought by investors at very low prices to construct appartment building complexes for a housing society of jurists, causing the former owners to live in ruins for two years deprived of  electricity and  city water. Some of them moved to their relatives homes, some of them went to other sections of the city and some set up tents under viaducts.

 

photo4Photo 4: One of those who refused to sell their homes was Yuksel Dum and his family of 18 members. Yuksel Dum built a shed amidst the ruins of his demolished house and brought a legal action against the municipality. He sells flowers to earn a living for his family.

photo 5Photo 5: Although the legal action opened by Yuksel Dum is still under way Kadikoy Municipality sold his land to a businessman by way of tendering. Yuksel Dum opened another legal case against the sale.

photo6Photo 6: 28th June 2011

Sheds built by 15 families living in the Roma neighbourhood of Kucukbakkalkoy who have nowhere to go were also demolished. One of these sheds belonged to Aydogan Dalkoparan who has a lung disease causing difficulty in breathing and walking. Dalkoparan and his family live in the street since 28th June 2011. Social democrat Ataşehir Municipality in charge of Kucukbakkalkoy provided no solution other than sending the family food three times a day with the exception of  weekends. The land where once Aldogan’s house stood is now sold to an investor who will build there a luxury villa.

photo8Photo 8- Ataşehir, the district of Istanbul where the Roma neighbourhood is located has become in recent years one of the most prestigeous places of the city. Very soon  Istanbul Stock Exchange will move there, with the result that Ataşehir will become the finance centre of Istanbul. There will be no room for Yuksel Dum

 

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Save the Khimki Forest Action in Toronto

A delegation of five ACORN Canada members arrived mid-morning on Monday, April 25, 2011 to the very well appointed and fancy offices of Toronto subsidiary of Vinci Corporation of France.  

A representative of Vinci came out to greet us, and ACORN leaders explained that we were there to demand that Vinci NOT accept the contract to build a highway through the Khimki Forest and cease being a part of the violence to organizers, community members, and the environment outside of Moscow.  

To our members surprise and shock he refused to accept or fax our letter our letter of support, claiming that he cold not fax anything that the CEO wasn’t expecting.   We believed this was a blatant lie, and it angered ACORN members even more and they renewed and repeated the demand that the letter be sent. Again he refused.

Our members held strong and asked for his name and a business card. He refused again. The whole thing was super shady and indicated an utter lack of transparency on their end.   After a final attempt we left in frustration, shouting our demands as we returned to Toronto.

 


 

 

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Press Release: ACORN International Calls on Russian Government to Protect Khimki Forest

On Monday ACORN International affiliates in Toronto, Buenos Aires, Prague, Tegucigalpa, and Mexico City along with other organizations acting around the world to demand along with community organizations and environmentalists in Moscow a halt to any efforts to build a highway through the protected Khimki Forest.

The Khimki Forests is one of the last protected woodlands anywhere near the vicinity of Moscow and proposals to build a wildly expensive highway through 15 kilometers of the Khimki has been a contentious debate between citizens and the Russian Federation government for years. After initially be green lit under President V. Putin, his successor President D. Medvedev, had ordered the project shelved for study given the huge opposition to the project in Moscow. The controversy has been marked by human rights violations including the police beating and crippling of a journalist opposing the project and the frequent harassment and arrest of community organizers and activists petitioning the government for caution and consultation on this project.


At the end of last year in a sudden reversal Medvedev, allowed the project to once again move forward. Vinci Construction, the global construction company, has been negotiating to undertake the project but has not yet signed a contract. The global action is intended to call attention to need to protect the Khimki Forest and to ask the Russian Government to re-examine the alternative routes for the highway that would continue to protect the environment and the community. ACORN is also calling on Vinci to walk away from the project in order to protect its own environmental, social, and human rights records which the company trumpets in its own annual report.

Actions in Toronto are focusing in Mississauga, where the corporate offices are located for Vinci in Ontario.  Actions in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, are scheduled at the Russian Embassy where ACORN Honduras is asking that a message be sent to Moscow about the worldwide concern for these abuses.  Actions by ACORN in Mexico City and Buenos Aires are also demanding that Vinci not sign the contract. Vinci has a controversial reputation already in the Czech Republic and ACORN-CC there is raising the issues that the same mistakes should not be made in Russia that have been made previously in the Czech Republic.

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Save Khimki Forest: Stand with Russia’s Human Rights and Environmental Activists

Russian activists and journalists have survived beatings, arrests and intimidation during our campaign to save one of Moscow’s last old-growth forests from destruction. Our movement to reroute the toll highway that would cut through Khimki Forest has become Russia’s most inspiring and largest activist movements in a long time.

It is about more than just a forest.

We are fighting a legacy of corruption and bribery among government officials, law enforcement and industry that has allowed this project to move forward. Last year, after thousands of citizens protested in Moscow’s center, we won a huge victory when President Dmitry Medvedev temporarily halted construction. One of our lead organizers, Yevgenia Chirikova, is a mother of two who lives in Khimki and who has bravely spearheaded this campaign since 2007 at direct risk to her family’s safety.

Now construction is set to begin again.

As soon as this month, the French multinational construction company Vinci is authorized to begin the first phase of the highway.

This is the best chance for us to stop the project before construction crews arrive. We are turning to you to increase our international support.

Since the Russian government has failed us, we are targeting Vinci, which could make a huge profit from this project. It is the only Western company involved in the construction.

We are asking Vinci to end its involvement in the Moscow to St. Petersburg highway until an alternative route that spares Khimki Forest is selected.

We are also organizing an international week of action from April 24th to April 30th. We hope cities around the world will participate in demonstrations in solidarity. One action you can take to stand up for the environment and human rights in Russia is to support this petition. 

Please sign now. You may also leave a personal message when you signhttp://www.change.org/petitions/save-khimki-forest-stand-with-russias-human-rights-and-environmental-activists

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ACORN International organizes expertise abroad ESPAÑOL

ACORN Internacional fue constituida para compartir experiencias organizativas de base con familias y amigos en sus países de origen y mejorar las condiciones de vida de la gente alrededor del mundo.

 

Dado que los trabajadores de bajos recursos se ven generalmente forzados a migrar por mejores oportunidades de empleo y mantener a sus familias, muchos tienen conexiones en otros países. Las corporaciones también cruzan las fronteras en busca de mano de obra más baratas y políticas gubernamentales más flexibles.Por esta razón, ACORN Internacional quiso compartir estrategias exitosas en la lucha contra corporaciones explotadoras y políticas económicas abusivas

ACORN Internacional se ha expandido a través de América e India, defendiendo a los ciudadanos y los trabajadores en este nuevo siglo. Las corporaciones generalmente en las diferencias entre las naciones para abusar de los trabajadores a pesar de las similitudes en sus problemáticas. ACORN Internacional hace foco en los desafíos que enfrentan todas las comunidades de bajos y medianos recursos, independientemente de su nacionalidad.

La historia de ACORN Internacional comenzó hace 38 años en Little Rock, Arkansas,en los comienzos de la lucha por los movimientos civiles de 1970 en Estados Unidos. Ahora, ACORN Internacional lleva esa experiencia a distintas partes del mundo

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CLUB ACORN

ACORN International is currently running a community education center that provides free after school homework support in english, art, theater, and dance classes to children and young adults from the low-income southern cone neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The center is entirely run and funded by ACORN members (families in surrounding neighborhoods) and volunteers. Every day, there are anywhere between 20 and 50 children and 5 to 8 volunteer teachers and helpers at the center.

Not only does the center function as a “safe space” where kids can attain useful skills, expand creatively, and work on their schoolwork provided, but it also does something unique that not many other educational programs provide—it provides a space where parents, children, and other neighborhood residents collaborate on projects that benefit the overall community. ACORN members who are working on ACORN Campaigns—for example our campaign to increase communication and trust between residents living in dangerous areas and local police —bring their children to the ACORN Center, where, amongst other things, they make colorful posters pertaining to the campaign that can be used as visuals in meetings or other actions. In this way, the children feel like they can contribute to an important project that their parents, and other members of the community, are also involved with.

We need your help to expand this valuable program.

Please consider volunteering, donating, and making Club ACORN International possible!

We are already a success in Argentina and we have all of the energy for Dominican Republic, India, Perú and Mexico, but we need your support.

CONTACT AT rossiacorn@gmail.com and esahores@gmail.com to learn more on ways you can share the experience!

 

 

 

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ACORN International needs your help!

ACORN International needs your help!

ACORN International needs your help to keep its offices abroad going strong!

We are doing great work organizing low-income members to demand improvements in their neighborhoods and to achieve improvements on important issues such as housing, healthcare, security, and education.

A dollar may not go a long way here anymore, but in Argentina, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and India; ACORN International can stretch it to make a difference. $300 would pay half of an organizer’s monthly salary. $150 would pay half a month of rent for our office. $60 would pay for a month printing and copying at our office. Even $10 or $20 would pay for an organizer’s monthly transportation.

Your donation is tax-deductible.

CLICK HERE to be redirected to our secure online processing center

OR

Mail your contribution to:

ACORN International
1024 Elysian Fields Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
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