Saving one’s heritage is a global struggle.

The first recorded settlers in what is now called the city of Buffalo, NY were Cornelius Winney and “Black Joe” Hodges.  These two gentleman constructed a log cabin trading post on Buffalo Creek.  They did business with the local Iroquois people (Seneca Nation) that continued to control this area of  North America.   It was kept unsettled  by both Europeans from Canada or Americans coming from the brand new United States of America by the British who continued to dominate locally from their base at Fort Niagara on the Niagara River where it meets Lake Ontario.  The British did not leave the Niagara Frontier until the Jay Treaty was signed in 1796.

The means our “civilized” history is little more than 224 years old.  Our oldest local buildings, which are few and far between, generally don’t reach beyond the late 1840s – 160 years or so.  Our oldest structure is the 188 year old Erie Canal.  Who would think that with this community’s short history, people who try to protect our heritage would be called obstructionists by those who find history to be worthless and in need of replacement.

At the same time, would you believe that in a 3,000 year old city like Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, formerly Byzantium, Turkey  people would be having the same debate over saving a piece of its history.  In this case, the building is not 1000, 2000 or 3000 years old.  It is only slightly more than 100 years old.  There it is – The Haydarpasa Train Station on the eastern shore of the Bosphorus.  This was the  terminal for the famed Istanbul-Bagdhad Railway and former Crimean War hospital where Florence Nightingale did her work.  The building is under siege by modern developers who want to keep it from the public.

I suppose those of us of similar mind need to stick together. As we support remnants of our heritage remember others are trying to save theirs.

Haydarpasa Train Station, Istanbul, Turkey

Dear Participants,

I would like to thank all of you for coming here to show your solidarity for Haydarpasa. Today is the first anniversary of the demonstrations of the Haydarpasa Solidarity Platform. Members have been demanding a transparent decision making process for Haydarpasa’s future twice a week since a year.

Haydarpasa is a part of the European cultural and industrial heritage and needs to be protected. There is a clear democratic deficit in the decision-making processes for the future of the station and its hinterland amounting to 1 million square meters. Haydarpasa is at risk of being made idle and turned into a commercial hotel or a shopping centre.

Unfortunately, Haydarpasa is not the only heritage at risk in Istanbul. Several projects are being introduced without proper civil consultation. Most of them are linked to either creating huge economic benefits at the expense of cultural and historical heritage, or building new giant landscapes.

If we do not act today, tomorrow will be too late.

Marmaray project and the route chosen for it bring changes to the functionality of Haydarpasa station. The traditional heavy traffic that brings passengers by suburban trains to ships at Haydarpasa to cross to the other side of the city will significantly decrease once the underwater tunnel connection is established. However, there are ways to keep Haydarpasa operating for other suburban traffic as well as intercity trains.

Any decrease in the utilization of the Haydarpasa premises can only open new possibilities for additional public cultural functions.

We, the solidarity movement for Haydarpasa, demand that any decision related to modification of its function needs to be taken following extensive consultations within democratic mechanisms.

Therefore, WE DEMAND that,

• the commercialization of Haydarpasa stops immediately;
• the Turkish State Railways and the Greater Municipality of Istanbul launches a consultation on the future of Haydarpasa train station and its hinterland (about 1 million square meters) for options where the site can keep its functions linked to railways and possibly introduce new non-commercial functions for the public;
• the Turkish State Railways and the Greater Municipality of Istanbul take into consideration all input provided during the consultations and decide on the future of Haydarpasa with the consent of the people,
• the citizens are always granted unrestricted free access to Haydarpasa building and its premises.

Thank you for your attention and support.

Solidarity Movement for Haydarpasa

Source: Speech presented before the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium by Ekmel Cizmecioglu on behalf of Solidarity Movement for Haydarpasa