Suriçi, Diyarbakır

Home| Sitemap | Contact Us

Suriçi, Diyarbakır

What is affected
Housing private
Land Private
world heritage
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 11 December 2015
Region MENA [ Middle East/North Africa ]
Country Turkey
Location Suriçi, Diyarbakır

Affected persons

Total 50341
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution
Details UA_TUR_26052016_Details.pdf
SUR_Report_7April_2016 SONN İNGİLİZCE.pdf
Development BarcelonaCondems.pdf

Forced eviction
Housing losses
- Number of homes
- Total value €

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Brief narrative

While the centres of cities are redesigned for high-income groups, wealthy, transitory tourists and CEOs, it is not exaggerated to state that 70% of the population living in the redeveloped areas is expected to migrate to the periphery. Concerning the development plans of slums, often the inhabitants are moved from so called “unhealthy, “unsafe” and “filthy” places, turning “development” into a latent forced-eviction mechanism, since the relocated populations, unable to pay the housing in the “redeveloped” areas end up by moving out, most probably more impoverished than before and also losing all their social networks and solidarity ties, vital mechanisms of their survival.

Taking into account the recent Turkish urban transformation history and the historic conflict between Turkish governments and citizens in Kurdish-populated areas, it is not unthinkable that the intentions of the central Government of Turkey are to change the demographic character of Diyarbakır.

V. Official Reasons and Critique

The expropriation decree of Sur on 21 March 2016 relies mainly on the Article 27 of the Expropriation Law No. 2942. The law allows the Cabinet of Ministers to issue a so-called Immediate Expropriation Decree, pleading national defense or an emergency. In this case, seemingly the decree was request by the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning. According to the Minister of Environment and Urban Planning, the decision was made as a “last resort” to protect the area.[1] In addition, Turkish authorities also expressed that the decree was issued to speed up assistance.[2] However, the immediate expropriation does not protect nor assist the owners and the inhabitants of Suriçi and, what is more, the Turkish authorities did not speed up any provision of alternate housing for displaced inhabitants of Sur and the Metropolitan Diyarbakır, which would have been an indicator of the intent to render assistance instead of dispossession.

Another publicized reason for the operations is urban transformation of Suriçi. While urban transformation and development are legitimate reasons when carried out in meaningful consultation with, and participation of local inhabitants and their representative bodies, among human rights-related preconditions, authorities who pursue such transformation through displacement caused by armed conflict commit illegal forced evictions that aggravate the conditions of displacement, poverty and homelessness.

[1] “Turkey seizes six churches as state property in volatile southeast,” World Watch Monitor (6 April 2016), at:

[2] Commissioner for Human Rights, Turkey: Security trumping human rights, free expression under threat, Council of Europe (April 2016), at:

Protected buildings, such as Kurşunlu Mosque, Sheikh Muhattar Mosque, Pasha Hamam, Mehmed Uzun Museum House and other historical civil buildings and historic shops at Yeni Kapı Street were partially or totally destroyed. The Directorate of Environmental Protection (Municipality of Metropolitan Diyarbakır) officially reported that the Culture and Tourism Ministry formed a commission with local institutions and extracted ruins without any examination of the demolitions, including physical parts of registered historical buildings, and removed and piled them in an area that is not officially a dump site. Moreover, according to the Municipality, around 70% of the buildings in the eastern part of the old city, composed by six neighborhoods have been destroyed fully or partially by the police and military operations between August 2015 and March 2016.[1] Estimates determine that 1,100 buildings, partly damaged during the clashed, were demolished during the following two months after the end of the operations. The process of removing wreckage still continues as per end of May 2016, and the toll is expected to increase day by day. As the area is still under confinement, it is not possible to know the exact extent of the destruction or to determine the distribution of registered historical buildings, civilian architecture and households among those 1,100 demolished buildings. Hence, any assessment of the damage is done through analyzing satellite images.

The recent Turkish history of urban-development plans of cities augurs the harmful trajectory of the government as well.[2]Through top-down planning without consulting affected communities or consideration of the social dimensions and cultural practices, historical neighbourhoods whose residents own legal titles, such as happened in Sulukule, Tarlabaşı or Ayvansaray, became subject to destruction through urban renewal. In these examples, the areas targeted for urban development hosted Roma and Kurdish populations. Planners and developers have replaced those communities with unaffordable luxurious projects on local populations, compelling the original low-income inhabitants to leave. Because they now cannot pay the inflated prices of their properties and those in the development project, they cannot contract to sell to third parties and simply leave in order not to face expropriation. They end up impoverished, further deprived and, eventually, displaced.

[1] Diyarbakir Fortress and Hevsel Gardens Cultural Landscape site management, Damage Assessment Report on Sur, Diyarbakir, 30 March 2016, Diyarbakir.

[2] See Cihan Uzunçarşılı Baysal and HIC-HLRN, “Privatizing the Land in Turkey,” in The Land and Its People: Civil Society Voices Address the Crisis over Natural Resources in the Middle East/North Africa (Cairo: HIC-HLRN, 2015), at:

Following large-scale military operations since December 2015 that displaced 23,000 inhabitants in the historic fortress area of Metropolitan Diyarbakır known as Suriçi (Walled City), the Council of Ministers of Turkey have issued a decree ordering the immediate expropriation of all non-state-owned parcels of Suriçi[1]. The mass dispossession would appropriate a total of 6,292 land parcels. Application of the Decree will entail the forced eviction and dispossession of another 27,000 inhabitants of Suriçi, affecting 14,764 households and Suriçi’s entire population of 50,341.

Since the cease-fire between the Government of Turkey and the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) ended in July 2015, armed conflict has displaced at least 355,000 people (February 2016) and curfews have affected some 1,642,000 residents in at least 22 districts of seven cities across Turkey’s southeast.

Suriçi, and currently Metropolitan Diyarbakır, is considered to be the historic and cultural capital of Turkish Kurdistan. Demolition of the quarter is ongoing, with some 1,100 buildings partially or completely destroyed in the military operations, including precious world heritage. These acts contravene international law, including treaties ratified by Turkey and raise the specter of ethnic cleansing. In light of Turkey’s urban transformation history under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) since 2002 and the historic conflict between Turkish governments and citizens in Kurdish-populated areas, two party doctrines converge in the dispossession and destruction of Suriçi. Local inhabitants have expressed their conviction that the security operations seek to empty the historic center of its indigenous population ahead of an urban-transformation drive, rather than battling the PKK.

II. Victims

During the military operations on spring 2016, curfews were declared in six neighborhoods of the 15 total neighbourhoods of Suriçi (Cevat Paşa, Dabanoğlu, Fatih Paşa, Hasırlı, Cemal Yılmaz and Savaş). The Sur District’s all-day-long open-ended curfews (confinements) were declared on 11 December 2015 and still partly ongoing. The Municipality of Diyarbakır estimates 50,000 displaced people from Sur District. Particularly 23,000 people from Suriçi fled their homes when the curfew was lifted for a few hours before the still ongoing confinement. After military operations in confined areas 70% of the buildings of the curfew’s affected Suriçi neighborhoods were totally or partially destroyed. The expropriation decree affects the whole Suriçi area and the total 50,341 inhabitants; hence, its immediate victims are 23,000 already displaced and a potential 27,000 forcibly evicted. Concerning the whole southeastern region, at least 1,642,000 residents have been affected by the 65 round-the-clock curfews declared and carried out in at least 22 districts of seven cities in the region. During curfews and confinements, fundamental rights of the inhabitants are violated, such as right to life and right to health. Moreover, according to the Ministry of Health on 27 February 2016, at least 355,000 residents were forced to leave the cities and districts they lived in. From August 2015 to April 2016, at least 338 civilians (78 children, 69 females, 30 elderly people) lost their lives under curfew, 46 of whom are from the Metropolitan Diyarbakır, and 21 of those in Suriçi.

III. Perpetrators of Violations and Duty Holders

The party responsible for the potential evictions and actual dispossession is the Government of Turkey and, more specifically, the signatories on the Expropriation Decree, the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkey, headed by the President of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the former Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu –who resigned on May 2016 and was substituted by Mr. Binali Yıldırım. The subsidiary entities responsible for the expropriation and envisaged development of Suriçi are the Ministry of Development, Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning and the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI). The authority responsible for declaring the curfews are the presidentially appointed provincial governors; hence, in the case of Suriçi and wider Sur District, the Governor of Diyarbakır Mr. Hüseyin Aksoy.

Concerning the destruction of the cities, the entities directly responsible are the security forces such as the Police anti-terror combat Team, Police Special Forces, Gendarmerie Special Forces, Military Forces and Riot Police, led by Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense of Turkey. In addition, unofficial militant squads including the Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism or Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization (JİTEM), Hançer, Fatihler and Esedullah teams, also led by Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense of Turkey. The last of these cited is allegedly linked to Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL). Also, the opposing combatants including PKK guerrillas such as the YDG-H.

IV. Events, Consequences and Developments

The current events in Diyarbakır and the expropriation of Suriçi are entangled with the wider political context of the Kurdish-majority provinces in Turkey. Since the end of the Turkey-PKK ceasefire in July 2015 and after months of increasing tensions, violence spread throughout Turkey, particularly, in the southeastern provinces. As clashes continued between the PKK and the Turkish army, Turkish authorities imposed curfews on several cities, followed by demonstrations. An unknown number of Kurdish citizens joined the armed struggle, mainly led by youth allegedly linked to YDG-H, the youth branch of PKK. In a dozen cities, local youth took up arms in what they brand a “self-defense” strategy, and took control of the cities by patrolling their streets. They dug trenches built barricades to prevent the police and army entry into the neighborhoods to avoid the conduct arbitrary arrests, as had been happening since the ceasefire.[2]

In response, Turkish authorities expanded the curfews and launched a large-scale military operation in southeastern Turkey, killing 338 civilians, displacing 355,000 and causing massive destruction in residential areas. Turkish forces totally demolished 1,100 buildings in Suriçi alone. Between 16 August 2015 and 20 April 2016, authorities officially imposed 65 open-ended and all-day-long curfews in at least 22 districts of seven cities in the region, affecting at least 1,642,000 residents. As mentioned, protests and vigils took place frequently outside the curfew areas, which police routinely dispersed with tear gas and water cannons, detaining protestors. As per 20 April, the Metropolitan Diyarbakır had undergone 35 curfews.[3]

Moreover, security operations in the region have put up to 200,000 people at risk of death, injury and displacement, placing them in the crossfire or cutting them off from emergency and basic services such as water as they have been confined indoors. The New Year 2016 saw the seasonal escalation in combat activity, and 103 days of security operations left the Suriçi in ruins by early March. Yet the curfew remained in place and was partially active as of June 2016, with confinement in some areas exceeding 160 days. As trucks moved in to remove debris, locals were still banned from their neighborhoods.

According to local informants, the inhabitants are convinced that the security operations were more for the purpose of emptying Suriçi ahead of an urban-transformation drive, rather than battling the PKK.[4] Confirming this premonition in late March, the government issued a decree for the immediate expropriation of 6,292 of 7,714 parcels available, 82% of total parcels in Suriçi. Residents and the Municipality of Diyarbakır never were involved in, nor informed about the expropriation plans, and now fear being left out of any reconstruction plan, losing homes and shops in return for low compensation and resulting with the destruction of the area’s social fabric.

V aluable urban assets form the physical context of the destruction and dispossession campaign. The Diyarbakır Fortress and the adjacent Hevsel Gardens form a cultural landscape that extends between the city and the River Tigris. The site was recognized as world heritage by UNESCO in 2012, acknowledging the city’s heritage dating back thousands of years. The Municipality of Diyarbakır has been reporting the damage and devastation caused by the use of heavy weaponry in armed clashes that were particularly violent from 27 January to 3 February 2016 in urban areas of Sur and in registered historical buildings. Consequently, the Suriçi Urban Archeological Site has been seriously damaged architecturally valuable urban structures and buildings, as well and disrupted the indigenous social system and life cycle in the district.

[1]Turkish Official Gazzette, Karar Sayısı : 2016/8659, 21st March 2016, at:

[2] Humeyra Pamuk, “A new generation of Kurdish militants takes fight to Turkey’s cities,” Reuters (27 September 2015), at:

[3] Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, “Fact sheet on declared curfews between August, 16, 2015 and April 20, 2016 and civilians who lost their lives according to the data of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Documentation Center”, April 2016, Ankara.

[4] Mahmut Bozarslan, “How Turkey seeks to kill two birds with one stone in Diyarbakir,” Al Monitor (5 April 2016), at:

Costs €   0


Land Times

HLRN Publications

All rights reserved to HIC-HLRN -Disclaimer