Saturday, June 6, 2015

A legal challenge to Hasankeyf resettlement guidelines

Last month the Turkish Government issued a declaration (published 5 May 2015 in the Resmi Gazete) defining eligibility requirements for housing in the future settlement area of Hasankeyf. (An English translation is available here.)

Rather than ensuring “the equal enjoyment of the right to adequate housing by all” as required by international law, this declaration appears to exclude certain segments of the Hasankeyf population and prevent many residents from taking advantage of measures intended to ease the transfer to the new settlement area.

Specifically, only households that enjoy the status of “family” as defined by Article 17 of Housing Law 5543 are eligible to purchase residential units with state-supported financing. In addition, business owners who do not have adequate documentation of business operations, including commercial tax payments, will not be eligible to purchase commercial space in the new Market Center. One Hasankeyf business owner estimated that these criteria would disqualify 60 percent of Hasankeyf business owners.

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive (HYG) argues that the declaration is inconsistent with constitutional guarantees of equal rights and has filed a lawsuit in Batman to have the declaration annulled. Local and regional activists speaking at an HYG press meeting in Hasankeyf last Sunday described the Ilısu Dam project, which is expected to flood Hasankeyf and require residents to relocate, as the continuation of government policies that have forced Kurdish villagers from their homes and driven them into poverty. 

The Initiative to Keep Hasankeyf Alive announced a lawsuit
against the recently published guidelines for
property purchases in the new settlement area.

While construction of residential units in the new settlement area has resumed after a pause of nearly two years, there is no clear timeline for the purchase and occupation of the new housing. Once qualifying families take possession of their new homes, they will be required to vacate their present homes within 30 days.

Construction of residential units in the new settlement area
has recently resumed.
The declaration also states that the cost of new units in multi-story buildings will range from 54,000 to 116,000 TL (not including taxes and the value of land). As one Hasankeyf resident noted, the typical Hasankeyf family accepted 70,000 TL from the government for a 2-bedroom home with garden and must go into debt to buy a home in an apartment building. “Where is the land, where are the gardens?” he asked.

It’s a valid question. The United Nations’ “Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-Based Evictions and Displacement” categorically reject the use of cash compensation to “replace real compensation in the form of land and common property resources.” Paragraph 60 of the UN Guidelines also state, “Where land has been taken, the evicted should be compensated with land commensurate in quality, size and value, or better.”

The topography, soil and town plan of the new settlement area
(foreground) cannot match the verdant gardens of Hasankeyf's
current residential neighborhood (visible in the distance). 

-- HK Matters team

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