16 Mayıs 2011 Pazartesi

Canım Sulukule International Alliance of Inhabitants sitesinde

International Alliance of Inhabitants

Canım Sulukule.. / My Beloved Sulukule..

 This photo-reportage witnesses the last 2 and a half years of Sulukule, a gypsy neighborhood in Istanbul now completely demolished as part of an urban transformation project carried out by the Fatih municipality, during the years 2005-2010. The people of Sulukule themselves wanted to have their pictures taken and they posed for the camera desiring to have one last memento of their homeland.

In the background is the voice of Gulsum Abla, whose house in Sulukule was under the threat of demolition at the time, but now also demolished. She tells us her feelings about being a gypsy, living in poverty and discrimination. She talks about the old happy days of her childhood in her beloved Sulukule. Her song at the end sums it up: ‘I’m All Alone’.

Nejla Osseiran My Beloved Sulukule..

The first time I visited Sulukule was the summer of 2007. A friend who was working for the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in Budapest had asked me to go there and take a few pictures for an article to be published on their web newsletter.

I knew I would go there again and again. At the beginning some people approached me with caution. ‘They come and take our pictures and we never see them again!’ they said. I promised I would bring their pictures the next time. And I did. Gradually, I had fewer reluctant residents. Some wanted the pictures as a ‘keepsake’, some wanted to send them to their husbands or sons in the army or prison. Most of the people knew they were going to be evicted and they wanted some kind of souvenir or memento.

In each of the following times that I went to Sulukule, there were fewer houses, fewer families and children. Among the ruins the dark shadow of joylessness was spreading time and again. Some families were hopeful about the place they were going to move to. Some, especially the children, hated the idea. Sometimes I was not able to give the pictures because I could not find the people or their houses there. They would be gone. During this period I learned so much from them and about them. I realized that in time I had become their ‘Nejla Abla’. They would be so happy to see me when I went. They invited me in their houses and posed for me. I would be giving them either their pictures or pictures of people they knew and loved. Each time I went, my heart felt heavier. It was steadily taking the shape of a disaster area. Most of the houses were in rubble or completely gone. Each time I went, I felt more hopeless and helpless... Still I went - I felt I could not let them down. I knew they would be waiting for their pictures and the light I saw in their eyes overshadowed the shame of humanity, the brutality of poverty. I tried to keep my distance but after you get to know those people it is very difficult to forget them.
I never did.

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