Serkan Alan / DUVAR

Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Murat Kurum has stated that following a 2012 zoning plan aimed at protecting the Sur district, the population decreased by one-third after thousands of homes were built for residents in the Çölgüzeli and Üçkuyular districts of Diyarbakır, located far outside of the city center. Kurum said that 5,637 homes were built in these areas, 1,837 of which have been delivered to residents. He stated that no one was forcibly removed from the Sur district. 

Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Diyarbakır deputy Garo Paylan submitted an inquiry to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning concerning claims that title-holding residents of Sur were forced out of the area and replaced with people earning higher income levels. 

In response to Paylan’s inquiry, Minister Kurum argued that the 2012 zoning plan aimed to protect Sur.

“As a result of the illegal activities of the separatist terror group in the Sur area, many private residents, businesses and historic and officially registered structures were either heavily damaged or demolished. Due to the illegal activities of the terrorist organization, 3,695 independent units were destroyed. Furthermore, as a result of the terror, tens of kilometers of infrastructure networks were damaged to the point of being usable,” Kurum added.

Following the collapse of the peace process between the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and the Turkish government in 2015, heavy conflict broke out in numerous cities in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. The historic Sur district in the region’s largest city of Diyarbakır was the site of some of the most intense violence, and a large section of the district was razed to the ground. 

Trenches and barricades were built in the area by militants, and as a result numerous neighborhoods in Sur were demolished amid the fighting, resulting in the fleeing of many residents of the area. While a number of the historic district’s most notable sights remain unscathed and are still frequented by locals, a heavy police presence continues in the area.