[lg policy] Turkey:

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 7 15:31:52 UTC 2013

Turkey: Roma Still Targets of Hate Crimes
October 29, 2013 - 12:22pm, by Constanze

   - Turkey <http://www.eurasianet.org/resource/turkey>
   - EurasiaNet's Weekly Digest<http://www.eurasianet.org/taxonomy/term/3279>

   - Roma Rights <http://www.eurasianet.org/taxonomy/term/4285>
   - Turkish Politics <http://www.eurasianet.org/taxonomy/term/3238>

In Iznik, a small town in western Anatolia, a deadly dispute involving
three men prompted a mob to go on a rampage in the town’s Roma
neighborhood. Experts are voicing concern that the incident is a sign of
rising intolerance against the Roma community in Turkey.

Over 2,000 residents took to the streets September 8-9 in the Iznik attack,
which occurred after a local Roma man and his 16-year-old son were arrested
over the shooting a 26-year-old man. The rioters smashed windows, destroyed
cars and ransacked Roma shops before police restored order. Smaller-scale
incidents have occurred in subsequent weeks, and tension continues to hover
over the neighborhood.

“[The attackers] trashed all three of our neighborhood teahouses,”
recounted a 47-year-old hardware maker, sipping tea with three companions
in front of the local Roma association. For fear of repercussions, the men
spoke on condition of anonymity.

The hardware maker added that his car and shop were destroyed. “My work
benefits all of the farmers here. I have never done any of them any harm.
And look how they treat me.”

His friends agreed. “We all know who was involved, the murderer has been
arrested, everything is clear and out in the open,” said one. “But all of
us are being punished, only because we are Roma. Where is the justice in

In the first week of October, local police arrested 22 men in connection
with racist attacks on Roma citizens, but all of them were ultimately
released without any criminal charges being brought. “Every night they
still throw stones at our houses,” said a 42-year-old toolmaker. “But the
police do nothing.”

“Don’t we pay our taxes? Don’t we send our sons to the army?” another Roma
man asked. “Why are we being denied basic rights as Turkish citizens?”

Racism against Turkey’s Roma is not explicitly seen in “state policy,” but
it can easily be detected in the general public’s
commented Hacer Foggo, Turkey coordinator for the European Roma Rights
Centre (ERRC), a Budapest-based rights-advocacy group. The ERRC estimates
that as many as 5 million Roma live in Turkey, a country of 74 million.
[Editor’s Note: The ERRC receives support from the Open Society Foundations
(OSF). EurasiaNet.org is operates under OSF’s auspices].

“The biggest problem in Turkey is widespread prejudice in all segments of
society, and the lack of effort to tackle hate speech and hate crimes
against Romani people,” Foggo asserted.

Intolerance has become more pronounced as, with the start of Turkey’s
negotiations with the European Union in 2004, Roma groups have
organized <http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav072205.shtml>and
become more visible, she added. “This has created a backlash of intolerance
that needs to urgently be addressed by the Turkish government,” Foggo said.

In 2010, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan famously promised, in
front of a crowd comprising 12,000 Roma, to improve housing, education and
health care for Turkey’s Roma population. But experts say Erdoğan hasn’t
done enough to date to make good on his promises.

“He was the first Turkish prime minister to even use the word ‘Roma’
publicly and to address them and their problems in such a way,” said Orhan
Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer and specialist on minority rights in
Turkey. “But the so-called ‘Roma Opening’ did not bring any practical
changes. It turned out to be empty underneath the surface.”

On his visit to Iznik in September, Münir Karaloğlu, governor of the region
of Bursa, failed to visit the Roma neighborhoods that had been attacked.
Later the same month, his office published an eyebrow-raising statement in
relation to complaints made about Roma neighbors in a Bursa housing project.

“It has been observed that […] Roma citizens in general lack any profession
or occupation to generate a lawful income, and for this reason they earn
their living through drug-trafficking and criminal activities they find
suitable for making income such as theft, pick-pocketing, purse-snatching,
and robbery,” the statement alleged.

According to Cengiz, Turkey still lacks well-developed government
policies <http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav110603a.shtml>concerning
the Roma community. “Not a single political party has specialists for Roma
rights; there are no party programs, no committees. Turkey has a
substantial Roma population, and there are serious issues that need to be
tackled, but, so far, nobody has made concrete steps in that direction.”

In Iznik, the men sitting in front of the Roma teahouse concede that things
have not yet returned to normal. “Farmers still refuse to employ our women
on their fields,” one of the men said, adding that many local families
depend on the extra income, especially now, during the harvest season.
“Suddenly, our children are called ‘gypsies’ in school. We are afraid to
let our teenage sons out into the street for fear that there will be
another fight.”

One local veterinarian, an ethnic Turk, regretted the animosity toward the
Roma. “We have been living side by side for a long time without any
problems,” the veterinarian said. “In the end, we all have to get along."

To encourage tolerance, Hacer Foggo stressed that the Turkish government
needs to act before it is too late. “This is a bomb that is about to go
off, a very urgent situation,” she said. “In Iznik and elsewhere, hate
crimes against Roma need to finally be acknowledged and addressed.

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