Megacity Istanbul: Rapid Development's Consequences on Marginalized Ethnic Groups
The Social Justice Issues:
Turkey’s metropolis Istanbul is listed among the largest cities in the world and the fastest growing city in Europe, but this rapid development has serious consequences for its poorest residents. In a city where free markets rule, however, the construction developers and the bureaucrats who sanction their mega projects, pay no heed to the social costs of this uninhibited urbanization.
This grievance developed from mutterings in the tea shops to shouts on the streets of Istanbul during Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013 as the whole world looked on. Though the uprisings ultimately developed into a wholesale critique of the conservative regime, they began as a simple protest against the demolition of a park and the construction of a shopping mall in its place; a kind of street referendum to reinforce the idea that redevelopment needs to be responsive to real community needs.
This trip will focus on the residents of Istanbul’s shantytown communities and the social consequences of forced evictions, which take place all across the city to make way for new development. There will be a special focus on the impact on disproportionately-impacted ethnic minorities such as the Kurds, Roma, and recent African immigrants.
The focus of the program will be education about and in-depth interaction with Istanbul’s marginalized groups. We will conduct direct service with our main partner the Tarlabasi Community Center, a neighborhood center which works to empower and educate the most vulnerable community members, especially women and children. At the center, we will hear the stories of Tarlabasi residents, and have the chance to serve as mentors in after-school English classes.
Another key component of the trip will be bringing the concerns and the needs of the marginalized communities to the table by meeting with officials from the government, non-profit, and private sectors. We hope to use our own privilege to advocate for the needs of the city’s poor migrant communities, using channels that representatives from those communities can not normally access on their own.
Through interaction with local activists and organizers and direct service to help an underfunded, yet valuable community resource we hope to create awareness about the social consequences of development and identify comparisons with Washington, D.C. and other urban cores.
About the student trip leaders….
Alison DiDonato is a senior International Studies & Art History double major with concentrations in International Communication and Arts Diplomacy. She just returned from studying abroad and spending the summer in Istanbul. During her time in Turkey, she fell in love with the city of Istanbul and witnessed the Tarlabasi neighborhood as well as the effects of gentrification on the community.
Erin Wuebbens is a senior studying international relations and art history. She studied abroad in Chile her sophomore year; she spent last semester abroad in Istanbul and stayed for the summer to teach English to children. She is excited to return to Istanbul on this Alternative Break.
TENTATIVE ITINERARY (subject to change)
March 8 – March 15, 2014
Arrival in city and dinner on Galata Bridge
Union Church of Istanbul’s East African Worship Service and Q&A with Migrants
Tarlabasi Farmer’s Market and Community Dinner
Visit Tarlabasi community
Tarlabasi Community Center welcome and introduction
Mentoring in children’s after-school English lessons
Explore Taksim Square and Gezi Park
Meeting with activists from “Istanbul Solidarity”
Tarlabasi Mutfak Soup Kitchen Community Dinner
Sultanahmet and old city tour (Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque)
Sulukule Neighborhood visit
Evening in Ortaköy at lounge
Day of Service at Tarlabasi Community Center
Policy Advocacy Day -- Meetings with officials from: Istanbul Municipality, TOKI Istanbul, UNDP’s Istanbul International Center for the Private Sector in Development, GAP Insaat Construction Company – Tarlabasi 360 Project