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A Street Corner in Tarlabasi

John Toohey | ISTANBUL, TURKEY, Turkey, Lebanon,Palestine, Syria


On one side of Tarlabasi Boulevard in the centre of Istanbul sits Beyoĝlu with its restaurants and bars. On the other side is Tarlabasi itself, a slum that has become a Kurdish and Roma quarter. Emigres from the east of the country have brought traditions that sit uneasily in a contemporary metropolis. Political tensions frequently turn violent. Gang shootings are frequent. This is not a study of Tarlabasi itself but one small area, 50 metres on either side of my apartment on the edge of the district.

This exhibition is not so much about Tarlabasi, the Kurdish enclave in the centre of Istanbul, but one street corner in it. The photographs were taken over a three year period, none more than 50 metres from my apartment.

Modern Talabasi was born in violence. On September 6, 1955, Turkish nationalists rioted against the city's Greek citizens, effectively driving them out of the Istanbul. Up to then it had been a Greek quarter, not especially wealthy but genteel and quiet. After the riots it fell into neglect until the 1980s when emigres from the East settled. The area remains a slum with all the blight associtaed with the word. Many Istanbullis actively avoid the place.

The Government has plans to renovate the area, which on paper at least, is a prime section of real estate. Progress is essential but once again it will involve the displacement of its inhabitants, by force if necessary.




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