Memories and dreams under the backhoe in Sur

DİYARBAKIR – The project of demolition and pillage being referred to as “urban transformation” continues in the neighbourhoods of Alipaşa and Lalebey in Sur, in the city of Diyarbakır. Women say they will not quit Sur and ask: “Is it only houses that are going away?”


The demolition in the Sur district of Diyarbakır, ongoing since May 23, advances by the day. In Sur, which carries seven thousand years of history and the memories of the city, the digging machines strike not just lives, but history. The demolition began with empty houses; now, nearly 400 houses have been demolished. The most recent report by the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects says that 300 families have been forced to leave their homes due to electricity and water cuts over the course of a month. The people, tested to their limits by thirst and demolition, sleep and wake to the sound of the digging machines every day, and still resist for the sake of their homes. The people frequently refer to the six neighbourhoods demolished in the conflict in Sur. They stand fast by their homes and continue to say, “Let them do what they want; we’re not leaving.”


‘Not a home, not a shadow, not a neighbour to be seen’


Zayide Taş spends every day witnessing the demolition of the neighbourhood where she has lived for years. She begins: ‘’In the past all of this area was houses. Now there is not a house, not a neighbour, not a relative to be seen. After the demolition, this place has become empty and meaningless. In the past there were houses that cast a shadow on my house, but now there are none! It was all destroyed in just one week.” Zayide repeated that she has lived in Sur since she was a child. “ I  can’t remember ever suffering this much before,” she says.  She says for the record that she will not leave Sur no matter. Finally, Zayide calls on everyone to increase their struggle.


‘It’s not just houses missing’


Tülay Atıf says that she has lived in Sur for nearly 25 years. She expresses that she has not felt this unhappy for years. “I would never have guessed that I would see the main avenue when I looked out the window of my house,” says Tülay. “It’s not only houses that are missing, it’s our memories, our children, our dreams…. They have all gone missing and they still are. I want the houses back. When I look out the window, I don’t want to see that main avenue. I want to see the children running, and I want to see the houses again,” she concludes.


‘More people need to make noise’


The last woman we speak with, Semra Çetin, claims that on a daily basis, the authorities tell people who do not leave their homes that they will be “forced out.” The police accompanying the demolition daily say to her, ‘”Why are you here? Get out of here.” Semra says, “”Every day, every morning I say to them, ‘Hey, we won’t leave this place and ’we won’t give up our houses.’ But still, nothing happens. They just look at my face and smile as they pass. It must mean my voice is not enough. More people have to say the same thing. We have to say, ‘Hey, what business do you have in Sur?’ Semra calls on everyone to take action.