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The settlement of Baltalimani was built illegally by workers employed by three mines close to the Bosporus. These spontaneous settlements are known as gecekondus, which means literally "built over night" (gece = night). Baltalimani was part of the Rumeli Hisari mahalle and only in 1997 it became an independent neighbourhood.

Rural migration to Istanbul started to accelerate in the early 1960s.  Istanbul almost doubled its population in the following 20 years.  The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge was completed in 1988.  The TEM Highway, linking Ataturk Airport to the Bosporus bridge, was completed in the 1987. Both accelerated urban development in this part of the city.

As house owners of squatter settlements do not have title deeds, there is a threat of evictions as the Istanbul Municipality implements new road projects. The authorities also aim to replace gecekondus in the long run, with new flats which are safer in case of an earthquake.

In 2007 more than 450 houses of the two squatter settlements Armutlu and Baltalimani were destroyed in order to construct a new road.  The owners of the houses were compensated with YTL 12 Million (€ 6.3 Million). 242 social housings (council flats) were also built on the outskirts of Istanbul for the resettlement.

Baltalimani squatter settlement, partly destroyed for the TEM road

One part of Baltalimani which was not destroyed can still be found near the the new road. This small settlement, which has less than 30 houses, has seen its fortunes improve recently as authorities invested in infrastructure, including new canalization, a modern playground and sports facilities. For residents such as Gazanfer Oygur, who remember living conditions here even a decade ago, this is no less than an urban revolution.

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Story of a gecenkondu (in Turkish). © 2008 pre tv. All rights reserved.

October 2008

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