Ataşehir District of Istanbul: A Case of Social Model of Local Government

The new district of Istanbul portrays a Scandinavian model designed along the lines of social citizenship.

Ataşehir is one of the newly formed districts of Istanbul, formed with the inclusion of 17 neighborhoods through re-zoning of the territories that were formerly within the limits of four neighboring districts on the Asian side of the city. The new district was formed just before the local elections of 2009 when Battal İlgezdi, the candidate of Republican People’s Party (CHP), became Ataşehir’s first elected mayor. Ataşehir, upon receiving the status of a municipal district, gained access to a whole new set of resources, benefits, opportunities and new financial and administrative assets. The new statutory capacities that were granted to the district provided it with important capabilities to introduce a better and broader array of public services to its citizens.

Yet, the first elected administration of the district, under the leadership of Mayor İlgezdi, approached the challenges ahead with a distinctly powerful understanding of municipal services. The Administration adopted a Social Model of Local Government, designed much after the Scandinavian examples of modeling local government services along the lines of the concept of social citizenship. Social Model of Local Government rests on three fundamental principles that are universal in the social democratic thought: Solidarity, Social Justice and Social Cohesion. Based on these principles, the Model aims to achieve equal access to employment, equal access to health and social protection as well as gender equality and universal access to education. Finally, Social Model of Local Government ensures equal opportunity for everybody in society, in particular, the elderly, the young, the disabled, the socially excluded and other minority groups.

These principles and objectives made Social Model of Local Government especially relevant for Ataşehir due to the demographics and socio-economic conditions of the area that were prevailing at the time of the elections in 2009. Ghetto-type residential outlook constituted 80 pct of the building stock in the district with 70 pct of the residents coming from below-average and lower income levels. Unemployment running way above national averages, especially among the youth and the female population, Ataşehir represented the perfect grounds for the remedies that Social Model of Local Government would offer. In fact, as the new Administration initiated its “social municipality” projects, the residents of the district were presented for the first time with the benefits of living and interacting with each other under a socially responsible and conscientious municipal administration as in other modern and contemporary citizen in the developed world. The Municipal Administration in Ataşehir was now viewed as an effective and reliable public office for problem-resolution for the citizens, a refreshing and rewarding situation for the voters.

Today, the panorama of Ataşehir displays a phenomenal transformation from the ghetto-ridden neighborhoods of the past to modern and futuristic high-rises, business centers and residential complexes of a modern urban center. The district is now regarded as one of the most rapidly growing districts in Istanbul, becoming a center of attraction for the young, well-educated and affluent professionals in the city. The effective and rapid onset of fundamental municipal services in infra-structural areas, coupled with efficient resolution of zoning problems which used to be biggest blockage of progress in the area presently attract serious attention of citizens of Istanbul elsewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Finally, the commissioning of new and modern healthcare facilities, educational institutions of all levels with bigger and ever greener parks and recreational premises play a critical role in attracting new and young inhabitants into this district.

As an urban area of rapid growth, the need for greenery has been immense. The immediate opening of 3 new parks in the district reflected Municipality’s special interest on ecological life. Mayor İlgezdi did not only regard these public areas only as recreational facilities but also centers of cultural and social gatherings of Ataşehir citizen, frequently hosting cultural events such as concerts or festivals. One of the most important service lines the Social Model of Local Government has involved providing healthy potable water for the citizens of the district. In fact, water has always been a key issue in Istanbul as an historical topic. Ataşehir Municipality has undertaken distribution of water for free as one of its priority services in the district whereby bottled water is distributed on a daily basis in a different precinct where there is currently no access to healthy potable water due to the infrastructure problem which are yet to be resolved. The Municipality regards this service not only in the context of providing a free service to public but at the time as a health service as well as an instrument of social justice. Last but not the least, Another area of a broad range of social services has involved provision of free transportation service as a solution for the transportation problem of the citizens, especially the elderly and the young.

Istanbul is known to situated on active fault line, exposing the city to serious potential for catastrophic earthquake damage. As in all other urban centers in the City, Ataşehir has also embarked on a project, called “Urban Transformation on Site” which is expected to change the whole outlook of the district in a radical way. The project entails precautionary measures to fend off the effects of the expected earthquake in Istanbul in the most cost effective way on human lives and the functioning of the daily activities in the area. Within the framework of the Social Model of Local Government aims, Urban Transformation Project aims for the indigenous inhabitants of the district to enjoy secure and healthy housing facilities while preserving their property rights in an equitable way with the financial and technical requirements of the Project. The final phase of discussions for this Project to start is reported to be continuing with the Greater Metropolitan Municipality regarding the re-zoning approvals for needed. Resolution of this problem will increase the current value of Ataşehir and also prevent speculative gains over the rightful ownership positions of the people in the area. With approval of the zoning plans, Ataşehir Municipality shall have realized another important pillar of the Social Model whereby the value of the real estate held by the citizens will appreciate significantly, creating an equalizing income effect on the financial side while providing secure and healthy housing in their own properties.



The flagship project under the Social Model in Ataşehir involves the creation of a prestigious health care facility in the district. Türkan Saylan Medical Center is a medical clinic named after an important scientist Prof. Dr. Türkan Saylan, who is the late president of Association for Support of Contemporary Living, and most importantly, a role model for young Turkish girls.

Mayor Battal İlgezdi’s promise to establish a medical center in Ataşehir during the election campaign was realized even before his second year in service completed. While providing protective health services for Ataşehir people, Türkan Saylan Medical Center is a fully equipped medical center with cutting edge technology medical devices conduct its activities in an eight-storey building on 1200 meter squares. The Center has Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Ophthalmology, Otorhinolaryngology, Gyneacology, Dermatology, Orthodontics, Emergency Service, Family Practice, Health Report Clinic, Pedagogy, Radiology, Laboratory, and Injection Medical Dressing departments.

Pursuant to the health services protocol signed by and between Social Security Agency and Ataşehir Municipality, the citizens registered with the Agency receive health services at Türkan Saylan Medical Center of Ataşehir Municipality since August 2010. The laboratory section of the Medical Center provides x-ray, ultrasound, and bone intensity measurements. The center is also authorized to issue medical reports for social and professional occasions such as marriage, employment, and driving license together with porter examinations. From 2010, in two years 120 thousand citizens received medical services at Türkan Saylan Medical Center.