Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09ANKARA1102
2009-07-31 04:46:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKEY: URBAN POOR LEERY OF MODERN COMFORT

Tags:  PGOV PREL TU 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO0821
RR RUEHDA
DE RUEHAK #1102/01 2120446
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310446Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0373
INFO RUEHDA/AMCONSUL ADANA 4046
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 6085
RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001102 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: URBAN POOR LEERY OF MODERN COMFORT

REF: A. 08 ISTANBUL 435

B. 08 ISTANBUL 166

C. 06 ANKARA 6580

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001102

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: URBAN POOR LEERY OF MODERN COMFORT

REF: A. 08 ISTANBUL 435

B. 08 ISTANBUL 166

C. 06 ANKARA 6580


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Urban renewal remains problematic in
Turkey. Today's gecekondus (illegally built shanty houses)
are a visible reminder of the rapid influx of rural migrants
into the cities. The GOT wishes to develop the land occupied
by these gecekondus into modern high rises with the aim of
beautifying, modernizing, and urbanizing low-income
neighborhoods. The GOT has directed Turkey's Mass Housing
Authority (TOKi) to provide alternative housing to gecekondu
occupants that it deems suitable for today's Turkey. Many
gecekondu residents, however, are opposed to centralized
urbanization since it disturbs their traditional lifestyle.
As a result, they resent the GOT initiatives. Despite the
ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) attempts to
parlay this free housing into political support, many
gecekondu residents appear unwilling to fall in line. END
SUMMARY.


2. (SBU) Behiye Taskin is a hairdresser in Ankara. She was
born in a Turkish village and raised in an Ankara gecekondu.
(NOTE: "Gecekondu" is a term for illegally built slum housing
and literally means "built overnight." END NOTE) Behiye's
family sold their gecekondu to a contractor and moved into an
apartment. Her parents, however, grew to detest apartment
living because it was so removed from village traditions. It
did not have a garden for fruits and vegetables, friendly
neighbors, or room for farm animals. Behiye's parents, like
many other rural migrants, returned to their village in hopes
of reclaiming their old lifestyle. Behiye, however, remained
in her family's apartment in Ankara and opened up a beauty
salon. She is resigned to living in the city center, but
wishes she could return to the old days. Behiye's story
resembles that of many ex-gecekondu residents. Few families
return to their villages. Many gecekondu families who sold
their homes and relocated to a high rise apartment eventually
moved to another gecekondu in search of their previous
lifestyle.


3. (SBU) Turkey began to see major squatter settlement
trends in Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir in the late 1940s and
again in the 1990s. These urban centers lacked the proper
infrastructure for rural migrants, which forced them to
construct illegal shanty houses in both the outskirts and

centers of the cities. The typical gecekondus were made of
stone or brick and consisted of a single floor, a garden, and
a wooden roof. This eased the new migrants' transition to an
urban setting by allowing them to be self-sufficient in
village-type housing. Behiye Taskin said she remembers
family meals on the floor, the produce her mother grew in
their garden and the overall sense of community she
experienced in the gecekondu neighborhood.


4. (SBU) Women at the Yildiz Literacy Center shared similar
viewpoints with us on their quality of life as gecekondu
residents. One woman at the center said she was born in
Ankara, moved to a village and decided to return to a
gecekondu in the outskirts of Ankara. She said that the
quality of life in gecekondus was relatively high since,
unlike her village home, it had water and electricity.
Despite these women's fond memories, however, GOT officials
view gecekondus as an obstacle for political and economic
development. They contend these houses are of lower quality
and lack basic utilities. PM Erdogan has routinely
criticized squatters and has advocated for the elimination of
"ghettos," especially those surrounding the Ankara airport.
(Ref C)


5. (SBU) In 2000, the GOT assigned all housing projects to
Turkey's Mass Housing Authority (TOKi). TOKi's primary
mission is to tear down gecekondus and replace them with
modern apartments. In a recent discussion with us, Head of
Strategy and Development at TOKi Gul Deliktas noted that
TOKi's key goal is to work with the GOT to create a model
framework for quality low-cost housing. He said municipal
governments remain resolute about tearing down gecekondus and
transferring their inhabitants into new TOKi apartments.


6. (SBU) Still, many gecekondu residents have had a
difficult time making the transition. Sincan Sub-Province's
Municipal Assembly Member Orhan Kaya told us that adaptation
to life in high rises is difficult. There is a lack of
space, new neighbors are strangers, the apartments are
unsuitable for raising animals and growing produce, and the
residents quickly become aware of social class differences.
Deliktas added that TOKi has built 360,000 apartments for

ANKARA 00001102 002 OF 002


low-, middle- and high-income classes nationwide. (NOTE:
TOKi reported building over 36,000 luxurious apartments in
order to subsidize the costs of building low-income housing.
END NOTE) Many ex-gecekondu residents claimed that life in
high-rises is financially unsustainable. Former squatters
are expected to pay the difference between the value of their
old property (sold to contractors or the municipalities) and
the new apartments. They often borrow large amounts in loans
from private banks in order to provide the municipality with
a required ten percent down payment as well as additional
monthly installments for the remaining price difference (Ref
C). In the end, despite TOKi's and the GOT's efforts, many
of these new residents sell their modern apartments and move
into other gecekondu areas.


7. (SBU) Despite the apparent inclination of the urban poor
to vote for the Justice and Development Party (AKP),
gecekondu residents are often critical of the system and its
failure to provide adequate support. During the last local
elections, opposition party members alleged that AKP
distributed refrigerators and other big ticket household
items to gecekondus and rural households in exchange for
their votes. Despite this largesse, however, many gecekondu
voters seem unusually quick to blame the ruling party for any
deficiencies in their lives. (NOTE: A poll by a well-known
research company, Konda, indicates that neighborhoods where
new migrants first settle do not support a single political
party. END NOTE) Behiye Taskin told us she felt insulted
when AKP members passed out basic needs goods (such as cake
and pasta) in exchange for her vote. Cake, she said, was
something she could afford on her own.


8. (SBU) COMMENT: TOKi President Erdogan Bayraktar ranks
gecekondus as Turkey's third largest problem after terrorism
and foreign debt. Many gecekondu residents, however, take a
different view and argue that the GOT is disturbing their way
of life. Urban transformation advocates continuously attempt
to urbanize gecekondu residents, but face an uphill struggle.
Sincan Sub-province's Municipal Assembly Member, Orhan Kaya,
a previous gecekondu resident himself, stressed the
importance of education and alternative housing. He
recommended low-density housing, such as one- or two-level
townhouses with enough yard space for a garden. Cities like
Ankara certainly have the space on the outskirts for such
housing, but the overall costs would certainly be higher.
For the moment, TOKi appears undeterred from building more
high-rise apartments, creating a cycle that reinforces
poverty and isolation.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

JEFFREY