Hurriyet Daily News reporter Jane Tuna writes about the Kaya Village demolition crisis.

Hurriyet Daily News reporter Jane Tuna writes about the Kayakoy Crisis and it will be published in the Turkish English language national newspaper shortly.

FETHIYE – Property owners in Kayaköy faced a bitter surprise on Boxing Day, as they received letters from the authorities ordering them vacate their homes. The majority of houses in Kayaköy have allegedly been built without legal licenses

On Boxing Day, Dec. 26, 160 property owners in Kayaköy received a letter from the Muğla authorities delivered by the local Gendarme to vacate their homes by Jan. 5, 2009, so they could be safely demolished at the cost of the owner.

An alternative was given to the owners, they could demolish their property themselves without the help of the Gendarme and they would not be charged. This has caused much confusion, not least because owners were not left with a copy of the demolition order they were asked to sign.

This rather shocking news is due to the vast majority of houses in Kayaköy allegedly having been built without the appropriate licenses and permission. This has been ongoing for more than 15 years and has blighted the valley when it came to making a regulated and sustainable development plan.

The local Chamber of Architects has a style of building in mind for the village that they believe is in keeping with older properties in the area, but while there was no plan in force, some highly inappropriate and disproportionately large buildings appeared. Fines and other methods to discourage illegal buildings were, more often than not, ignored.

This complicated situation has a long history and the feuding between ministries has now reached nearly mythological proportions, nevertheless, the owners with Tapu (land title), have, in the main, taken risks and built family homes following a timeless tradition where sons and their wives also come to live on the land. Such is the way of the extended family in this part of the world.

For foreigner newcomers to Kayaköy, many of who settled in what they believed to be a paradise, the insecurity and vulnerability of their situation is negatively impacting their lives, however, unlike their Turkish neighbors they not only find it difficult to understand the language, but also the impenetrable bureaucracy.

Being careful

Once again foreigners must be careful when buying property, they should take independent legal advice and remember the adage of “caveat emptor” (buyer beware). Even if a high-profile developer has built the property it seems that in this area at least there is no room for complacency.

Unsurprisingly, none of the residents, whether Turkish or foreign, were prepared to talk on record, as this is too much of a sensitive issue. Consequently there is an increasing amount of unsubstantiated gossip that does little else than stoke the flames of resentment, anger and fear.

The latest Improvement Plans for Kayaköy were posted on the wall of the village’s teahouse in the summer of 2008. Two massive, large scale maps and a key to explain the lines, dots and assorted colors, were available for anyone who wanted to look at how those responsible for these plans saw the future of this picturesque valley, perched in the mountains above Fethiye.

They had one month to decide whether the plan was acceptable, in the past similar plans have been rejected. This one was too. Furthermore, there was uncertainty as to what would happen to the deserted village, abandoned after the exchange of Muslims and Christians between Greece and Turkey in 1923.

At the end of an emotionally turbulent year for the residents of the Valley everyone is understandably distraught by the letters. Many are cynical about the intentions of the authorities and as there seems to be no transparency and no way of finding out exactly what lies in store for the valley. It is anyone’s guess what will happen in 2009. Meanwhile, as 2008 draws to an end, the residents of the village are just trying to get on with their lives.

Jane Tuna