Kadikoy, on the Asian side of the Bosporus, is the most densely populated of the 23 districts of Istanbul. According to the 2000 census, Kadikoy’s population is some 662,000 people. Few foreign visitors to Istanbul ever come here, which is a pity: there are few areas where the transformation of Istanbul in recent decades is as visible as here, on the shores of the Sea of Marmara, and where the culture of modern Istanbul is as easily accessible.
Kadikoy is the oldest settlement around the Bosporus. It was founded almost a millennium before Constantinople by Greeks who called it “Chalkedon”. When Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in 1453, Chalkedon was still a small settlement. Mehmet II put it under the jurisdiction of the Istanbul courts. The name “Kadikoy” means “Village of the Judge”.
According to the census of 1882, the population of Ottoman Kadikoy was only 7,003 people: 42 percent were Muslim Turks, 25.9 percent Greeks, 26 percent Armenians and 4 percent Jews. In recent decades Kadikoy grew rapidly: in 1940 the population was 58,000; in 1970 it had grown to 241,000; and by 1985 the population had reached 648,000. Since then the population growth slowed down.
Kadikoy was able to absorb this rapid population growth while developing economically, turning into one of the wealthiest areas of the city. The average household size has fallen to 2.4 persons. The literacy rate is 95 percent. One of five residents is a university graduate. There are three universities, Marmara, Yeditepe and Dogus. With more than 1,000 registered NGOs Kadikoy also has the highest number of NGOs in Istanbul.
Kadikoy is today a predominantly residential district, but with its numerous bars, cinemas and bookshops, it is also the cultural centre of Istanbul’s Anatolian side. It is also a traffic hub, with a big bus terminal next to the ferry port and the main train station Haydarpasa. It is also home to the Fenerbahce Football Club.
Since the mid-1990s Kadikoy municipality has been governed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Kadikoy is also the only Istanbul district that has a woman as deputy mayor, Inci Bespinar. Exposed to wider European influences, the women of Kadikoy have been at the forefront of Turkey's women's movement, forming a large number of voluntary associations. In Kadikoy female employment is common. There are now five crèches and 38 private pre-schools. There are also 17 homes for the elderly. Five family courts operate in Kadikoy, all opened after January 2003 as a result of EU-inspired judicial reforms. These new courts are well equipped, with psychologists and social workers. The Kadikoy women's shelter is the first public shelter in Turkey. As Inci Bespinar, who set it up, put it to us:
"If there were ten Kadikoys in Turkey, the country would change more rapidly…."