Tarlabaşı Community Center. Istanbul, Turkey

Education has been a problematic issue in Turkey for many years because of economic and spatial inequalities and because of age, religion, language, race, and gender inequalities. In the education system, where all kinds of people are homogenized and standardized, finding a place for the difference or adapting it in case of finding might cause a problem. Many children with different characters, backgrounds, or cultures may have to study at the same level together in the same place. However, even this equal right to education depends on families having a certain level of economic income. Some children may still have difficulties accessing this right even if they are in the center of Istanbul, which is considered a megacity.

Tarlabaşı is the most overthrown, changed, and “suffered” place in Beyoğlu, one of the most popular districts of Istanbul of all time. With the construction of Tarlabaşı Boulevard in the 1980s, the region was cut off from Beyoğlu and left idle. This region has changed hands the most after the attacks on non-Muslims in 1955 and is, therefore, the first place of choice for low-income immigrants. Over the years, this social change caused the region to become neglected as it hosted low-income segments, separated from its main center with Tarlabaşı Boulevard, and became one of the most disadvantaged areas of Istanbul, as it became a complete ruin with urban transformation.

When Tarlabaşı Community Center started its activities in 2005, it aimed to support the disadvantaged groups living here. Psychological support for women and children is one of the main activities of the Tarlabaşı Community Center. They are opening a place for children in Tarlabaşı where different cultures, adaptation problems due to migration, poverty, unemployment, unregistered and illegal relations are intense. They aim to keep the children away from crime by giving them different skills and occupations through various activities and rehabilitating them at the same time. It is an institution that provides different ways of learning and offers an alternative to the education system.

I heard the works of Tarlabaşı Community Center during the period when I was working on Beyoğlu. I was very impressed with the opportunities and the space created by this institution for the children of Tarlabaşı, which is also collaborating with the Center for Spatial Justice, where I worked at that time. I started to follow this community, which significantly reduced the likelihood of children returning from school or who could not go to school and gave them new skills.

In one of the most central districts of Istanbul, this place, which has been marginalized, displaced, and ignored for a long time, has not recovered, falling victim to various state policies for many years. However, we know that spatial and social transformation are two essential factors that feed and trigger each other. In this sense, I think that there is a lot to be learned from this point where Tarlabaşı Community Center stands, transforms the area they are in, and touches the lives of individuals. They are proposing a new point of view from the homogeneity of the classical education system, and from this point where it looks much more inclusive and realistic.

Liana Kuyumcuyan from c-r-a-c-k-s talked with Berfin Karataş, Ecem Ardalı, Fatma Boz, Gökçe Baltacı, Leyla Takak, Seher Kaya and Şinda Barış from Tarlabaşı Community Center

Video by Volkan Işıl
Subtitles and translation by Barış İne

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