Fatih, Moscow, uncontrolled immigration, and terrorism

27 Mart 2024 Çarşamba

Last week, I visited Bulgur Palas, a mansion bought and authentically restored by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality in 2021. Originally belonging to Habib Bey of Bolu and dating back to 1912, this once private property in the Fatih district of Istanbul has been transformed into a public space serving all Istanbulites with its library, exhibition areas, multi-purpose event spaces, restaurant, and viewing terrace.

I commend everyone involved in this successful project for creating a must-see magnificent space.

However, my main topic today isn't this; it's about the streets I walked through to get to Bulgur Palas on Kocamustafa Hill, the so-called seventh hill of the city, and my observations on the Fatih district...


Wandering through Fatih, one feels as though they're in a different country, encountered by Arabic signs and a cacophony of languages. Extending my route through Aksaray and Çarşamba on my way to and from Bulgur Palas revealed an area starkly different from an average Istanbul neighborhood, dominated by religious sects and communities, where Quran course ads for children aged 4-6 frequently adorn crumbling walls, women are seldom seen, and deep poverty meets profound conservatism.

This historical peninsula, encircled by the Byzantine walls, the Golden Horn, and the Sea of Marmara, has reached a level of neglect that now stands as an unforgivable betrayal to Istanbul.

The region, battered by waves of migration, houses about 100,000 illegal immigrants, according to Mahir Polat, the CHP's mayoral candidate for Fatih. Polat indicates that one in four people in the area is an illegal immigrant. Despite a directive in 2020 prohibiting immigrant settlement in Fatih, its enforcement has clearly been lacking. The influx of illegal immigrants settling in Fatih has driven rent prices up, forcing 110,000 locals living below the poverty line to leave this central district.


One of the ISIS terrorists who attacked a concert hall in Moscow was found to have lived in the Fatih district, moving freely in the streets and posting on social media before heading to Moscow from Istanbul, as reported by foreign media.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the first incident. The Ankara train station massacre, the Reina attack, and the Taksim bombing are among many incidents where hundreds were lost to terror attacks involving illegal immigrants in Turkey. Clearly, this situation poses a serious security issue.

Not every immigrant from Iraq and Syria, fleeing civil wars, can be linked to terrorism; many are victims of conflict. However, it's widely acknowledged that among the millions who have arrived due to the AKP government's uncontrolled immigration policy—negotiated for EU funds and seen as a voting bank—are murderers and jihadist militants, acting as terrorist organizations' sleeper cells.

Immediate solutions are imperative. Firstly, the AKP government must end its open-door policy at the borders. Cooperation with imperialist states responsible for bloodshed in the Middle East, supporting those who occupy neighboring lands, and allowing foreign troops in Syria must cease.

Contacts with Syria and other regional countries should be established to facilitate the humane return of people to their countries, and the exploitation of those here as cheap labor must end.

Addressing the realities of the illegal immigrant issue is not racism. If not swiftly addressed, Turkey risks endangering its citizens' security and being known globally as a haven for terrorists.

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