CHP Deputy Mayor of Safranbolu, Architect Elif Köse who took over the debtor municipality of a district governed by a trustee for two years, has spoken for the only district that is governed by a trustee in the West of Turkey, “We still do not know why our former mayor was removed from the office. I am still wondering, why did the trustee come here?”
The Deputy Mayor of Karabük Safranbolu, Architect Elif Köse, who has left behind a hundred and forty days since taking over the duty, is carryign the burden of a district governed by a trustee and a debtor municipality. Köse, who says “we should treat each other without alienating, separating people, religion, race, beliefs” and using the “language of love” just like İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu and adds “when we are able to be respectful to each other and when we take respect to the forefront in our lives, everything will be all right.” We interviewed Elif Köse, who dreamed of a greener, more livable Safranbolu and rolled up her sleeves for this, and talked about her projects.
We know that you were born and raised in Karabük and finished your primary, secondary and high school education in Karabük. Then you studied architecture at Karadeniz Technical University and you are a freelance architect. Can we get to know Elif Köse a little better; Could you tell us about your journey of existence from your childhood?
I loved reading books as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, I would not throw away any paper I found without reading it. My biggest pleasure was reading books. On the other hand, I was a very nerdy girl who did not participate in any social activity, just between school and home. My mother was uncomfortable with this. The more social my brothers were, the nerdier I was, I liked to spend time at home, I did not even enjoy playing house. I loved sports. At that time, there were no social opportunities like today. Therefore, watching ice skating competitions on television until midnight was my greatest pleasure. I think the clearest thing about my childhood is studying and reading. In fact, if I had better opportunities and educational conditions, I am sure everything would have been different. I grew up in Karabük-Beşbinevler; first, middle and high school there. My grandmother and grandfather lived in Safranbolu. Our weekends were spent at the grandfather’s house in Akçasu. The best thing I remember about it is the religious holidays. On the first day of the holiday, the whole family would gather at my grandfather’s garden. Those are the days that I still remember and miss deeply. I was away from my family when I won college. So I started to stand alone, my first liberation was to go to another city for university. This was good for me. That was when I started getting to know myself. My family was never a family that limited me. They set us free in every subject and decision. Although I was not a multicultural, educated family, I had an open-minded, self-developing family.

Safranbolu Karabuk/Turkey-05.14.2016:Traditional ottoman old houses in Safranbolu, Turkey,

Since the existence of humanity, we have seen that women have always been in the shadow of the male, even in the fields of science, art, philosophy, and politics. Were there any obstacles in your way of being a woman?
I have never met any obstacles to being a woman. Because it is about your stance and decisiveness. Only in the selection process, because I am a woman, I encountered a different accusation and unpleasant situation. They were really cheesy and sad. So what happened? This was a negative point for the other side. As women, we think that we are always pushed to the second place in society, but when you are victimized, society protects you. I am one of the lucky women. This is also about your expectations from life, and as a woman, I actually got my expectations from society. The only obstacle to being a woman in front of what I wanted to do came out in the election process. Other than that, I did not have the disadvantage of this in my business life.


Safranbolu was a district governed by trustees for two years. Moreover, this is the only district governed by trustees in the West. What are the consequences/problems of being governed by a trustee, what did this two-year process lead to in Safranbolu?
Being governed by a trustee is associated with terror. In Safranbolu, we do not have any problems related to terrorism. We still do not know why our former mayor, who served here, was dismissed. When he was dismissed and in the next process we always asked “why was one of the council members not elected as mayor, democratically?” This was done in other provinces. I still wonder “why did the trustee come here?” We did not get the answer to this question. The trustee was here for two years. Even dealing with the Municipality alone is a very busy work in itself and both the District Governor and the Municipality are of course very troublesome. There were noticeable disruptions in the work of the municipality. When I took office, I saw it more clearly. Employees had problems with working discipline. Of course, the lack of a manager here, the fact that the manager is coming in limited hours, can cause problems.


Unfortunately, we want an authority in front of us. Without this authority, we abuse everything. Things are left unfinished in the municipality. Some work has begun, but it has not been completed. Moreover, the work is done, not for investment purposes. Of course, I do not hold the Governor or the trustee responsible for the lost progress in Safranbolu for two years. The consequences of this are obvious and those who deem it worthy of a very special city on the UNESCO World Heritage List such as Safranbolu should be questioned. They are supposed to answer for this. Regarding this two-year process, shopkeepers in the bazaar region state that there is a decline in tourism and that the quality of tourists has decreased significantly. If you do nothing, it becomes normalized. Tourists come here by bus and take a tour and go back without staying.


We took over a debtor municipality. This should never be understood as a complaint. We already knew the situation. I think the important thing is to develop such a municipality, to stand up and gain momentum. The real success is hidden here. No one can wait for the province or district to be advanced with a trustee. This is a transition process and the appointed person can only aim to complete the process stably. How will this damage be compensated? After that, the elected mayors have a lot to do; we will close that gap. We have to close the gap by turning to investments that have not been done, as much as we can, especially by doing works that will touch people in a social sense. I think that instead of grieving over what has happened, we should accept it and look ahead and try to make Safranbolu forget this bad period by serving as soon as possible.


“Without alienating others and yourself, taking refuge/closure in the belongingness of religion and ethnicity, being away from people/away from existence; it is necessary to take a look that is willing to be a part of life” says Author Feridun Andaç. Today, both in daily life and in the political arena, this is the biggest deficiency for me. What do you say? In addition, the success of Ekrem İmamoğlu in the June 24 elections, do you think it was the effect of the fact that he was put on such a perspective?
I think like our valuable author. We need to treat each other without alienating people, looking at religion, race, belief, separation. We have always expressed this in the election process and treated everyone in that way. In the next process, for example, we will not hire people depending on which party they are members of. This will be our greatest feature. This is what social municipality requires, and as a social democrat I cannot be expected to act differently; just like Ekrem İmamoğlu. In fact, without realizing it, we conducted very parallel works with Mr. İmamoğlu. We used the same language, that is, the “language of love”. We embraced everyone, positively approached everyone with a smiling face. In order to do this, we really reflected our personality, not as a role or wearing a mask, but showed what it should be. In Safranbolu, this approach came to people so well that it was something they had not seen or experienced for years. So instead of the typical politician, there was someone like one of them; someone who embraces them meets them with a smiling face. I never took a negative attitude, even when to the ones that said, “I do not agree with you, I will not vote for you.”


We are in an environment where different thoughts are hidden and prevented from coming to light. For example, it is not possible to talk about press freedom right now. Today, they have been trying to ensure that people are looking through the same window by making reach them to the only biased, made up the news. It is necessary to pay attention to the selection of people who are able to do business in the municipality. When forming a team, people should be chosen not because of their thoughts or beliefs, but because of their profession, their view of the profession, their skills, their personality traits. I have never seen such a separation as much as I do today, and I pity the new generation. There is a party that has been in power for 16 years. Today, 16-year-olds did not see any other form of administration, they do not know any other form of administration. So this new generation needs to read a lot.
We, as the Municipality, will make many campaigns. There will be a reading campaign among them and we will work to make the book popular. I care about this for the development of children’s personalities, to know the past, to make connections between the past and the future, to make comparisons.


The city where your childhood has passed has a different meaning. You have experiences, witnesses about that city, that city has shaped you a little. This soul will also be absorbed by what one does. How will being a child of this city reflect your actions and what kind of a spirit will it add?
My childhood Safranbolu was a green Safranbolu. As a mayor who lives here and knows when it was greener, of course, I want a greener Safranbolu. This place has a concrete cultural heritage, we have historical Safranbolu houses. But in addition to its concrete heritage, we also have an abstract cultural heritage. For example, we have a culture of eating and drinking. First of all, I want a more livable Safranbolu where people can socialize more and get enough of culture and art. Very interesting: there was a summer cinema in Safranbolu years ago. We gradually lost these cultures. I want the old folklore of this place to be introduced by making folklore nights. The weddings and henna nights here were also very pleasant. It is necessary to encourage the construction of the nights shown to tourists. I want to be able to carry these beauties of our childhood back to the present day. I do not think it is hard for me to know that spirit. Gradually we will flourish this spirit here.


No investment was made to provide employment to people. An elementary school, as a municipality, demands from us. They say, “we do not have money, do you do that?” While we are discussing this issue in the Council, the opposition friends say, “why should we do these, why does not the Ministry of National Education MEB meet their requirements? MEB is the ministry with the least budget. Therefore, people try to meet their basic needs in other ways. Because there is no allowance. A school in the city center for an application in their garden wants an application from the municipality. Is this possible?


Although local governments and municipalities have an important place in the socio-cultural development and transformation of a city, it has a great responsibility to make it more livable, more suitable and more aesthetic. For example, in Eskişehir, Yılmaz Büyükerşen’s actions will set an example for everyone. As the first and only female president of Safranbolu and as an architect, what have you put in your agenda for Safranbolu?
There is a lot of transportation problems in Safranbolu and I want this problem to be solved. But not by opening extra roads. No matter how many alternatives, the traffic problem is increasing day by day. We want to encourage people to walk more in order to prevent this, but we need to create paths that can really walk. When you create beautiful paths to walk, you can say to people to walk, ride a bike, use a motorcycle. But nowadays, just as we have invested in concrete, we have invested in very luxury vehicles. We began to use this as a means of self-acceptance because we could not exist otherwise from our lack of self-confidence. The return from this should now begin. Especially children should be made aware of this issue. You need to educate both children and elders that you should not go to the places to their doorstep by car in every area. We aim to build bicycle paths, support cycling and motorcycle clubs in their activities and bring them to the forefront.
Safranbolu is a very suitable city for the rail system, in fact, just like Eskisehir. Is not that possible?
Although the authorities do not look too sympathetically, I think that one day it will be an irresistible necessity. Because the population is increasing. You could have met the need with one hundred minibusses before, and now maybe you meet with one hundred and fifty vehicles. Their gas emissions, noise, and crowds to the environment. The money spent for the fuel of the minibus, bus and taxi is the national wealth. Not to mention the environmental damage of these vehicles. Rails can be constructed instead of continuous roads.
If we go back to what you do for Safranbolu, what steps should be taken to revive tourism?
Safranbolu is a city that earns income from tourism. We especially benefit from the heritage of the bazaar region. But I think that the shopkeepers behave very unconsciously and do not appreciate the value of what they have. We are trying to carry out this with people who have retired, who are bored and say “what should I do, let me open a gift shop in the bazaar”. It started like this, but it should not go like that. Here, beautiful design products, gift items are being made, our women are very skillful in this regard. Safranbolu Culture Education Center (SAKEM) thanks to the courses, quite beautiful products were revealed. As a municipality, we will buy them from the women who produce them, sell them on the internet and we will ensure that women earn income and try to change the quality of the gift items. We need to tell the shopkeepers that we need to appreciate what we have. While we have a very valuable product, we try to simplify it and sell it as something cheaper. Increasing the quality of tourists in the bazaar is, of course, proportional to increasing the quality of service provided there.


Safranbolu will get a greater share of tourism. Our projects include creating alternative places and developing museums. Safranbolu has nothing in the name of museology and culture; We only have houses that save us. We want to make Safranbolu a city of festivals for further development of culture and art. Not only with the International Golden Saffron Film Festival held once a year, but we also want Safranbolu to be a city where festivals take place every three to four months. The first film festival was held twenty years ago, when I was a teenager, and it was a very enjoyable, fun-filled festival. But for the last five years, the festival has only its name, it does not have its own. This year’s festival will not be a festival of my choice since I have not been present at the beginning. In addition, the financial opportunities remained very limited, preparation was not made. In this case, the best thing we can do is to focus on the artists.


Safranbolu is a quiet, peaceful district that is noted for its natural beauties on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But what steps should be taken in order for Safranbolu to continue to be on this list and to go beyond the tourism aimed at “saving the day” in here?
We are audited periodically, and this September we will also have an audit. There are those who complain that “we cannot walk on the cobblestone roads” but I say that we have to follow the city, not the other way around. We come here because this city is special and it is pointless to come with high heels. You will come with flat shoes for sightseeing and keep up with those cobblestone roads. Otherwise is unthinkable. This year is the 25th year of Safranbolu’s inclusion in the UNESCO Heritage List. We are also organizing various activities within this scope: 25th year activities, seminars, meetings, exhibitions. These activities will continue until the end of the year. Safranbolu must have at least three-day Safranbolu tour sales to ensure long-term stays instead of day trips or tourism. Because there are many places to visit: Yenice, Şeker Canyon, Düzce Canyon, Sarçalı Canyon, Ancient City Hadrianapolis, Eflani ponds, Yörük Village, Bulak Mencilis Cave. You can take Safranbolu to the center as accommodation and people can be brought from there with daily tours. Safranbolu needs more quality service, higher quality souvenirs, and more conscious shopkeepers to raise tourism and increase the quality of tourism. There is also serious noise pollution in the bazaar. But, of course, there should be music in the bazaar next to a coffee you drink to relieve the tiredness of the day. But it should not be a piece of music that mixes with each other, which no one understands, and which bothers those who stay around.


I care very much about Feridun Andaç’s words: “Cities are almost destroyed, their historical cultural texture, human material, and local values are undergoing a transformation. Since we do not have the sensitivity to register the loss, every wrecking brings destruction. That is why local government style/mentality should become more and more important for cities.” When you look at it as an architect in the local administration, how do you evaluate the constructions in Safranbolu and Karabük, the increasing buildings, the decreasing green and the lost memory of the city in recent years?
It hurts me. Even though I am an architect and earn my bread from this profession, I have never had the perspective of “I make projects, and I can always make money”. Every piece of land that closes hurts me. I am an architect and I have to oppose non-aesthetics. If I am not doing this, there is no point for me to being an architect mayor. Of course, I have aesthetic concerns. I do not find this true as a state policy that supports the construction and the desire of people to have a house more than they need. This policy needs to be changed immediately. We need to be a society that does not consume any more and produce instead. Because we consumed all of our resources. We finished nature; we see floods all over the country. Since we covered concrete everywhere, there was no soil left to absorb the rainwater. It should also be noted that the temperature has increased in Karabük. Today, Karabük has competed with Antalya in terms of temperature. Why is that? Because multi-storey buildings were built especially in the areas where our wind channels are located and airflow was blocked. Therefore, temperature and polluted air are stored in Karabük. Safranbolu is more fortunate in this respect because there is not a valley place like Karabük.


Due to the Hydroelectric Power Plant (HES) planned to be built in the Şeker Canyon in Yenice district of Karabük, many species and ecosystems in the Yenice Forests, one of the forests with the most endemic plant diversity, will be damaged, forest villagers will be unemployed and tourism will be damaged. What do you think about this HES project, what is the latest situation here?
It is impossible to think of anything positive about HES. We know where the HES are built, we know that nature has been massacred in a way that will never be restored. In Yenice, the public was conscious and prevented it. HES project was not requested and blocked in the area where the Canyon was located. I know there is no new progress. There should never be a HES here, and I am sure that both Karabuk and Yeniceli people will not allow this. The public is very conscious about it.
Safranbolu/Karabük is also a student city with a university. Unfortunately, it is a very inefficient city in terms of cultural and artistic activities. Opportunities such as cinema, theater, and concerts should increase. There is also a need for bookstores that can meet the needs of children as well as adults, as in metropolitan areas, with a lot of work for local governments. Again, there is a need for large parks integrated with nature for children. What do you see and plan when you look at the district and the city from here?
Here we need for more green areas where people can socialize more. Safranbolu has a problem in terms of location and especially the center is very stuck. For example, there is an idle park called “Kent Park.” Moreover, serious money spent for this park. I want to reorganize it and make it available for use. Once upon a time, there was a municipal social facility in Safranbolu/Aslanlar. It was so social that people used to go to dinner with their family. It was a very decent environment. This was a municipal social facility and we do not have such a facility. I would like to open the facility like in those old days in the same place and make it back to the same condition. Our cultural center is about to be completed. Here we have a hall for 700 people and we will use this hall in the most efficient way: theaters, concerts, seminars, conferences, various events will be held here. I also plan to make outdoor cinemas in the parks. A tennis club, of which I was a founding member, is being established in Safranbolu. We will activate the tennis court in the Harmanlar.
As in all other small cities in this district/city, there is almost no job opportunity for educated, professional, skilled people from metropolitan areas. What can be done to create an employment space for these equipped but unemployed people in small towns/districts? What are the duties of local governments?
Local governments always have a duty but of course, we have very limited economic conditions. The only thing I want from university graduates and well-equipped people who want to come to me is that I do not want to give you a table and give you a job, what will you give me? Prove it to me in some way; in one word, in a file or in a report and I say I will hire you. So this is what it should be. I can not give you a job just to give you a job. All I want is: how can the municipality benefit from you, so what will the municipality gain with your presence? I will hire anyone who can prove it to me. Because that brings plus value. I say to another useless person that I have to separate our way with you and I hire that qualified person. That’s my only criterion.
Translated by Atakan Hüyük