Buildings of historical value have been and are being demolished with the claim that they pose a danger to the public in the district of Sur in Turkey’s south-eastern city of Diyarbakır (Amed). The demolition process that dates back to the curfew starting on 2 December 2015 continues, quarter by quarter, block by block.
According to MA, six quarters have been razed already, with thousands of houses and offices demolished, including those buildings under protection due to their historical value. In their place, new buildings have been built, which the architects in the city say reflect ‘prison architecture.’
It has also been reported that the old stones that were left in the demolition sites were later hauled away and sold. The Chamber of Architects warns that this may be the final phase in the destruction of the old city’s cultural fabric. The co-chair of the Diyarbakır branch of the Chamber of Architects, Ferit Kahraman, is closely monitoring the demolition of a building that is supposed to be under protection.
The building in the Ziya Gökalp quarter is among the 63 buildings that are planned to be demolished within the next few months. “This building, according to the registration map,
is a building under protection. There is no demolition order for this building as far as we know. But the demolition is to be carried out without supervision and the status of this building seems to have been neglected,” Kahraman said.
Kahraman states that the situation that led to the demolitions started when the people living in Sur were forced to abandon their houses and leave more than five years ago. Diyarbakır and mainly the Kurdish south-east in general suffered a violent crackdown in 2015 when the ceasefire between the Turkish armed forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), known as the ‘peace process,’ was broken. Curfews were also imposed in Sur, which led to violent clashes.
“The state of these abandoned buildings is not an issue of today. People had to leave their houses during the clashes in the past,” Kahraman said. “They were displaced and the buildings remained deserted for a long time. There were cases of break-ins, events which resulted in damage … Power and water networks were destroyed. This all made it even more difficult for people to return.”
Kahraman believes that the state could and should have acted in another way to solve the residence problem in Sur. “As a matter of fact, the owners and residents should have been provided financial support for the repair and restoration of the buildings. That was what the government should have done,” he said.
The elected mayor of Sur, Filiz Buluttekin, from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was replaced by the Turkish Government with a trustee in December 2019. So, the mechanism of local control over the demolition work in the city has been removed by Ankara.
The history of Sur, the oldest part of Amed, dates back to 7500 BC, with many civilisations settling in the region, including Hittites, the Assur, Persians. Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire also influenced its history.
Today’s Sur, as well as the whole city of Amed, is of central significance to the Kurdish people socially, economically and politically and the cultural heritage it represents is priceless.