Mahalle and Urban Struggle

Maltepe Valley as the microcosm of the glocal urban development: Two informel ‘mahalle’s and the urban struggle.

June 27 & 28, 2009

Organizers: Gülsuyu and Başıbüyük Associations, Murat Cemal Yalçıntan, Erbatur Cavuşoğlu

The ‘mahalle’s

The two major gecekondu dwellings of the Anatolian site of Istanbul, Gülsuyu and Başıbüyük, are situated in Maltepe township, holding by the same order the left and the right humps of the valley facing the Marmara sea and the princess islands. According to the 2004 development plan concerning the north of the main highway E-5, most of the working class areas of the Anatolian part, including these two neighborhoods, are announced as urban transformation districts. These two mahalles (neighborhoods) are firmly established dwellings with all the necessary infrastructure and average services also available in other “formel” parts of the city. The mahalles are somewhat 50 years old and have provided the main labour force for the import-substitution factories like Singer, Renault, Otosan etc… Now they are ‘not needed’ anymore.

The Vicinity

But the phantasmagoria of the government-municipality-investers trinity goes well beyond the destruction of the working-class districts and the replacement of them with condominiums and upper-class residences. The vicinity of Maltepe-Pendik line is blessed with plans of techno-parks, a phantastic Zaha Hadid project (the archtitect openly admitted that she did not know that a considerable amount of people are living around/in the project area), whispers of amusement parks including a Disneyland etc… In the middle of this patchwork-style planning, closely related to the new transportation projects, first signs of the future disneylandification of the area are visible around these two gecekondu districts. The valley of Maltepe between Başıbüyük and Gülensu mahalles are experiencing a hectic construction, including the informal private university campuses, Metropolitan Municipalities’ public-private partnerships for residences (KİPTAŞ) and mega-gated communites like Nar City.

The Struggle

Although facing the same threats and coming from the same social class, Gülsuyu and Başıbüyük are, from a sociological perspective, radically different urban settlements. Başıbüyük, as one of the leading conservative areas of the megapolis, was literally shocked when the construction machines escorted by about 2000 policemen and several hunderd special forces arrived. But the resistance gave the population a new dimension, ending up in a moderate decrease of conservative votes in the neighborhood. Although the illegally constructed mega-blocks of the government are high-rising in the old park of Başıbüyük, the habitants are still living in their houses and securing that the mega-blocks are empty.

In contrast, with nearly 40 thousand habitants, Gülsuyu is one of the prominent “leftist” parts of Istanbul. Unlike the other hill of the valley, they were well aware of the future plans up from the beginning. Therefore they have defended the livelyhood within a broader range of posibilities. The “right to the city” is a well-known idea in Gülensu. But, nonetheless, the two neighborhoods are now and then acting under the same umbrella.
The Visit

For the Inura visit, we are going to give a brief information about the agents responsible for the demolition plans and will present a rough history of the two mahalles. The presentation will also include the details of the compensations offered by the state. Afterwards the visit will focus on these main locations:

*Visit to Başıbüyük Association, one of the main figures in the resistance. We will walk up to the hill of Başıbüyük with people from the area and have a look to the valley from above.

*Visit to Gülensu Association, walk up to the fountains which have inspired the name of Gülensu.

There, we will have a broader view of the gated communites getting nearer and nearer to mahalle.

*A meeting with officers from Maltepe municipality, especially from the Development Comission.

*A possible visit to Nar-city upper-class condominiums, we might manage this visit as disguised as customers.

*A possible visit to the informal Maltepe University within the forest area next to the valley.
The time schedule will be announced after consulting the afore mentioned associations. But to meet the people, weekend is the proper time. On the 26th we can have a half-day travel around the valley, to observe the ongoing transformation. On the 27th, we can arrange the meetings in the neighbourhoods.

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“the left side of Maltepe Valley”
Gülensu with a view of Princess Islands and the Marmara Sea

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The TOKİ housing comlex, built in the middle of Başıbüyük, the court recently announced the buildings as illegal. The area was a former park, at the back we see the silhouette of mahalle…

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Nar City condominiums. The upper-class gated-comnunity is between Gülsuyu and Başıbüyük.

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A typical day of resistance… The police guards the TOKi construction area. The man with the megaphone is from the Başıbüyük Association, calming down the inhabitants. Photo: Cem Tan

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The civil police is taking away the spokesman of the Başıbüyük Association, Adem Kaya. After the last elections, he became a member of the town council. Photo: Evrensel Newspaper

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The top of Başıbüyük. Youngsters are flying their hand-made kites.

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