Too late for Sulukule

Sulukule is a neighbourhood in Istanbul. Or, you could say, a town in Istanbul. Located against the old city walls bordering the old historical centre of the city, it has been home to Roma for hundreds of years. For a long time nobody cared to maintain the sometimes beautiful old wooden houses, and now Sulukule is not so beautiful anymore. At least, when you look at it from the outside. When you get inside it, they say you will find a rich culture of music, dance and strong community life. The community centre is typical: on one hand it looks like an average Turkish teahouse, but when you take a closer look, Roma culture is clearly visible. On the walls traditional Roma clothing is displayed, there are gaudy pictures of women dancers, and there are lots of birds in cages singing their hearts out.

Perhaps the Sulukule culture will not survive much longer. The city of Istanbul decided to invest in improving the area, and big investors seem to have taken over. The people who have lived in Sulukule for generations can probably not afford the new cost of housing, they will disperse all over the city and gradually the ancient community will fall apart. There are several groups that try to get the municipality to more seriously take into account the needs of the Sulukule people, but they feel ignored. Some of them have even lost hope: it might, they say, be just too late for Sulukule…

4 replies
  1. Osama
    Osama says:

    My house in Sulukule was demolished within the Sulukule renewal (urban transformation) project. We strongly support it. You can not even imagine how a filthy area it was. You do not have any idea and thus all your comments quite funny.

  2. Fréderike Geerdink
    Fréderike Geerdink says:

    @osama, what’s funny about it? I’ve seen Sulukule several times before it was pulled down, it was sad and totally dilipidated, true, and I say that in my blogpost too. Something needed to be done, but in my opinion also destroying the old Roma community was not part of what needed to be done. Poor people had to go so rich people could come in. Or do you not agree with that?


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  1. […] No, look at the history of Sulukule, once the living, thriving heart of the gypsy community in Istanbul. The neighbourhood has been torn down, the people living there spread over the city and nearby […]

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