Evoking the City’s Past, Recollecting the Citizen’s Memory in a Post-Conflict Urban Setting: The Case of Suriçi, Diyarbakir

Throughout history, cities have experienced a dialectical interplay between destruction and
reconstruction, posing a threat to their socio-spatial and socio-political character and altering the daily life practices of locals by erasing traces of the past. The process of destruction often leads to a loss of memory in urban spaces, as cities are reshaped to reflect dominant ideologies. Therefore, during reconstruction it is imperative to implement alternative methods that prioritize appropriate urban design policies. Unique social, spatial, and architectural elements, along with monumental structures, are considered to possess authentic value that form urban identity and memory, bridging the city’s past and future. Testimonies and narratives play a crucial role in transferring memories to future generations, as emphasized in memory studies.
This study aims to uncover the elements of place identity that constitute place memory through the narratives of local residents. It does so by comparing the urban settings of Diyarbakır’s Suriçi before and after the conflict-induced destruction in 2015. The results of the study are presented through memory maps, which are created based on the identity components of the memory scape of Suriçi derived from the locals’ narratives.
The findings suggest that key features like gardens, traditional courtyards, city gates, and narrow cobbled streets, along with activities such as strolling along historical walls and walking in bazaars, play a vital role in shaping the identity of Suriçi. Locals’ perceptions of these mnemonic elements are influenced by factors like the length of time they’ve lived there and their place of birth. Moreover, following the conflict, there has been a gradual transformation of the district’s historical fabric, with wider streets, new structures, and land developments aimed at attracting capital to the city. The study concludes with a discussion on the process of displacement of locals after the conflicts.