Daniel Libeskind, Istanbul and Labour Murders
Kartal district is one of Istanbul’s hot spots in terms of urban transformation. The public – private partnership of ‘global city makers’ started hyping the transformation agenda of Istanbul in 2006 with Kartal Masterplan designed by the Star Architect Zaha Hadid. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and large landowners in Kartal commissioned Zaha Hadid for preparing the regeneration project of the old industrial area and its surrounding, with the aim to create a new and gentrified central business district. Zaha Hadid’s de-contextualised project was stopped by the court several times, for lack of ‘public good’.
In Kartal, on the anniversary of Gezi Park Uprising, on May 31, three workers lost their lives after the collapse of scaffolding at the construction site of Metsan Nexus Project. Hasan Doğan (53), Salih Karayalı and Sinan Doğan (22) fell from the 16th floor of a building and crashed on the concrete ground, dying right on the spot.
Metsan Nexus Project, which became the last stop in the lives of those workers and a nightmare for their families, ironically, has been promoted with a catchy slogan ‘your meeting point with your dreams’! The Project is one of numerous speculative multi-purpose real-estate development projects, mushrooming all around Istanbul and Turkey in the last decade. The residential unit prices of the project range from $120.000 to $1.200.000. The official website of the project claims, just like many others do, that this ‘will be an architectural monument that will capture not only Istanbul’s but also the world’s attention’. Maybe what differentiates Metsan Nexus from many of its competitors is a partnership deal signed between the project owner Metsan Corporation and another star architect – Daniel Libeskind.
A direct association of the name of a star architect, whom had designed many memorial buildings of human sufferings, including the Ground Zero Master Plan, Ottowa Holocaust Monument, Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial, Padua 9-11 Memorial, Jewish Museum Berlin, with a brand-new human suffering is indeed striking, albeit not surprising. The killing of the workers at Daniel Libeskind’s Nexus project is not a particular ‘accident’, nor a tragic exception. This is the norm in Turkey for the workers, especially in the mining and construction sectors. The scaffolding does not collapse spontaneously, when it is erected properly. The workers do not crash on the ground, unless there is lack of safety precautions.
Less than 3 weeks ago, on May 13, 301 mine workers were massacred at the coal mines in Soma, due to extreme appetite for profit; poor working conditions; and lack of safety precautions and labour inspections. This wasn’t the first nor the last incident. Only in 2013, at least 1235 workers lost their lives in labour murders in Turkey. Work related violations of the right to life continue without slowing down, as the recent incidents in Soma and Kartal also proves.
The capital accumulated by the exploitative working conditions are highly visible in the city, as it fuels the erection of many speculative real estate projects, such as the Spine Tower of Soma Corporation. The Spine Tower in Maslak, the major business district in Istanbul, is the tallest skyscraper in town and one of the most expensive, with its $10.000 price tag per square metre. This project is being promoted, again ironically, as being ‘the most safe high-rise project in Turkey’ due to the quality of its construction. ‘Safety’ and ‘quality’ is withheld from the mine’s working conditions as we all know. After the Soma Massacre, people in Istanbul had organised various protests in front of the Spine Tower Project, stating that ‘the blood of the workers is dripping from the tower’.
Just a week ago, on May 28, another worker (Hakan Tek) was killed at a neighbouring construction site, again, due to the lack of safety precautions. The Maslak 1453 Project is developed by the notorious real-estate mogul in Turkey, Ali Ağaoğlu. Prior to the killing, on April 2014 the Higher Court of Turkey made a decision to stop the controversial project due to its unlawful plans. However, the intimate relationship of Ağaoglu with the Government allowed him to continue with the construction, hence the killing could not be stopped.
‘Our struggle is for justice’ say the relatives of those who lost their lives in labour murders:
Would justice be served if those responsible neglected their obligation to inspect. Our struggle is for justice. Would justice be served if those with responsibilities were indeed trialed and punished? No, it wouldn’t. Would this bring back those who are gone now? No, it wouldn’t. Yet in our ‘struggle for justice’, we are bound by our respect for those we lost, and our responsibility for those who continue to work in similar conditions.
Worker Families in Pursuit of Justice continue holding the Vigil for Conscience and Justice on the first Sunday of every month since May 16, 2012 at Galatasaray Square in Istanbul. On their 30th Vigil, on June 1, both Soma and Kartal killings were reflected upon by the family members of those who lost their lives in other labour murders. For them, obviously neither Soma, nor Kartal was an accident, or fate. Because of the exploitative working conditions and lack of occupational inspection, they should be called ‘intended murders’. Hence one can easily claim that within this framework of accumulation by dispossession and exploitation, the blood of the workers is on the hands of all the ‘stakeholders’ of the projects, including the Star Architects.
So we need to ask to Daniel Libeskind:
- Have you heard that 3 workers were killed at your Metsan Nexus Project in Istanbul due to poor safety precautions?
- Do you feel the responsibility of the killings?
- Did you include a clause on the workers safety on your partnership deal with Metsan?
- Are you planning to cancel the deal with Metsan?
- If you were asked to design a memorial for labour murders in Turkey, could you still do it?