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İstanbul: Caferağa Mahalle Evi, squatted community centre in Kadıköy, evicted

Caferağa Mahalle Evi declaration about the eviction and evacuation of the house:

On the 1st of December 2014 we were notified that Caferağa Solidarity’s Mahalle Evi – where we’ve been living since January 2014 – would be evicted on Friday the 5th of December, at 10am, due to an inquiry of the General Directorate of National Property (Real Estate/Milli Emlak), with the assignment of the district governorship and by execution of the police forces.

As soon as we heard this news, we tried our best to reach you through all means of communication. We used social media, email, phone calls as well as posters, banners, videos and texts. We called for a solidarity gathering with the squatted community centre on the 5th of December, at 9am.

From a conversation that one friend had with local authorities, we learned that the state forces couldn’t take action and evict the building on behalf of the neighbourhood, also due to Istanbul folks’ response and reaction. People claimed the building.

Consequently, we called the district governorship asking for an appointment. The district governor Birol Kurubal responded to our request by sending police forces to the Mahalle Evi at around 6.30-7am of December 9th in order to evacuate the building.

During this operation, which we may call “raid at dawn”, one of our friends was taken from their house by force, mistreated and brought to the Mahalle Evi. Hacı Şükrü Street and the surrounding streets were blocked by anti-riot police. Residents were not allowed to enter not only the Mahalle Evi but also their neighbourhood.

Police forces entered the house without the presence of a law agent. They (somehow) took out all the furniture, equipment and more than one thousand books that were collected over the past months. They (unnecessarily) tore apart all archive documents, such as posters and notes. Upon leaving the Mahalle Evi, they welded the historical exterior door and the metal door after that, in order to shut the building to the community. They went away without leaving behind any formal document or seal that would indicate the legality of their act.

We were not able to witness the evacuation, but their vandalism (exposed on social media with “before and after” photos) was visible through the ground-floor windows. Nobody has entered the building after the eviction, so we don’t know the extent of damages caused to people’s effort.

Meanwhile, starting from the early morning hours, locals, Kadıköy residents, İstanbul folks, Turkish-born and world citizens, many individuals and groups declared solidarity with us. On the same day, in the evening hours, people gathered at the street where the Mahalle Evi is located to demonstrate against the repressive attitude and non-negotiating approach of governor Birol Kurubal and state forces, and staged a protest action which included music and dance.

During the demo, as solidarity group, we tried our best to prevent police intervention that could have occurred violently against the crowd, such as happened to the building earlier. We stood for all the words we have spoken, all the things we have done. The Mahalle Evi’s door was opened partway, but to our knowledge nobody entered the house.

For us, the Mahalle Evi is not an issue of “property strife” as the State wants to see it. While the State abandoned the building and left it in disuse for several years, the house evolved into a “common space” that opened doors to everybody who desired to use it.

We have no doubts about the rightfulness and legitimacy of what we have done. All the brave hearts that stood by us and defended the Mahalle Evi proved it once more.

We thank everyone who supports us. This struggle does not belong only to us, but also to all people that are eager to defend common and public spaces.

And this process is not over yet. Caferağa Solidarity will continue its activities in the Caferağa neighbourhood. The community house has been shut to the locals. But the ideas that have kept that house alive are expanding with the participation of those who support us.

We know that the doors that were brutally shut by the authority are going to be opened with solidarity and struggle, until freedom.

Like we all together say, this is just the beginning. Keep on fighting!

December 11th, 2014, Caferağa – Kadıköy/İstanbul/Turkey/Earth

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