Data Journalism EN

Do shrouds really have no pockets, Istanbul grave market makes people ask

A common proverb that “shrouds have no pockets” is widely used across Turkey to discourage people from being greedy. However the price of grave lots recently seem to prove this proverb wrong.
dokuz8NEWS/Burak Öz

If one is to go on a walk around the cemeteries where Istanbulites live, in Zincirlikuyu, Ulus, Aşiyan ya da Bülbül Deresi, surely one would recognize that some of the grave stones are beautifully carved out of marble blocks, making passer-bys feel as if visiting a gallery of sculptures. The splendor that draws people’s attention has also raised a French documentarist’s interest in Bülbül Deresi. The magnificence of some grave stones in the last century surpass that of the Ottoman Sultans’ even. While some researchers investigate the aestheticity of grave stones, our approach has been on the class distinction and prices of grave lots.

FIRST CLASS GRAVE LOTS HAVE SKYROCKETED

In Istanbul, cemeteries have been divided into four main categories based on class divisions on muslim cemeteries and moreover there is an extra division for non-muslim minority cemeteries. The prices of these grave lots have more than tripled in the last decade. Apart from the increase of prices for grave lots, the price of land on streets by cemeteries have also increased.

As it can be seen, the increase in empty grave lots in first grade locations and minority cemeteries is the highest. In a decade, an empty grave lot has increased from ₺8.000 to ₺25.000 while in minority cemeteries it has increased from ₺2.400 to ₺6.500 which is also significant as these cemeteries are located in some of the most valuable parts of the city such as Zincirlikuyu, Kadıköy, Şişli, Ulus, Üsküdar, Rumelihisarı.

RENT OF APARTMENTS THAT OVERSEE CEMETERIES ALSO INCREASED

For obvious reasons, it might not be the most desirable location for many people to move into an apartment overseeing a cemetery. However this attitude changes around the first grade and minority cemeteries in Istanbul. On the contrary, these locations appear as some of the most desired locations, which is also reflected in the increase of rents in these locations.

In the last 10 years, when the base prices designated by municipalities are considered, it can be seen that the rents have had an exponential increase. Ulus’ Körkadı Street has experienced the highest increased, overlooking the Armenian and Jewish cemeteries. A squaremeter had been decided as ₺194 in 2007, this price has folded by 16 times until 2017 making ₺3.363. On Zincirlidere Avenue overlooking the Zincirlikuyu Cemetery the 2007 price of ₺259 has increased to ₺4.200 in 2017, folding by 15 times.

Moreover, while the grave lots are said to be issued for free in third and fourth grade cemeteries, according to the data announced by Istanbul Directorate of Cemeteries some of the grave lots are considered to be “better situated” for a price. If one wishes to be buried next to someone they know, this also costs extra.

When the charts are analysed;

  • First and second grade cemeteries cost between ₺20.000 and ₺25.000
  • It has become luxury to be buried next to a family member
  • There is steady increase in minority cemeteries
  • Centrally located cemeteries in Istanbul also increase the price of housing

It is also significant to remind that Istanbul Directorate of Cemeteries notes that first grade cemeteries such as Aşiyan no longer accept new burials. Yet, this situation has created a new market in its own. Some people buy & sell grave lots in such cemeteries and make a living.

It can be said that upper classes in Istanbul continue keeping their priviledges in the “afterlife”.

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