Saturday, January 9, 2010



Turkish Roma forced to leave their hometown after violent clashes

ISTANBUL – Daily News with wires
Friday, January 8, 2010

Local Roma in the Selendi district of the province of Manisa were taken out of the city and will be relocated elsewhere after being subject to violence that the Roma claimed the mayor of the district provoked.

Early media reports from the Aegean province said fighting began after a member of the Roma community, Burhan Uçkun, wanted to smoke in a coffeehouse. But Uçkun told daily Radikal that it was not about smoking; instead, he said, the owner of the coffeehouse refused to serve him tea.

Uçkun’s father died on the same day of the fight from a heart attack. Five days later, a second fight erupted between the same people, but this time, around 1,000 local people attacked Roma houses, tents and other property.

Gendarmerie forces took the Roma people under protection by bringing them to the station. No one has been arrested, but Manisa Gov. Celalettin Güvenç said Friday the judiciary was still looking into the events.

Meanwhile, many in the Roma community said the mayor of the district, Nurullah Savaş, who is a member of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, provoked the events by making announcements in the city and afterwards the locals attacked Roma. Heavy construction equipment belonging to municipality was also used to damage the Roma’s cars.

But Savaş, talking to private news channel CNNTürk, denied the allegations. He said he made announcements to gather the locals at the request of the governor to call for calm and to let the community know that the governor was going to visit the district.

CNNTürk also broadcasted a photograph showing a bulldozer pushing a smashed car. The channel asked the mayor whether dozers were used in the attacks. Savaş said the dozers were used only to move a smashed car that was blocking a road.

The Manisa governor’s decision to move the Roma out of the district was reflected in newspaper headlines on Friday. Daily Hürriyet led with the story with the headline, “Run and survive,” while the daily Taraf wrote, “2010 exile of Roma people.”

The Roma were staying in Gördes, another district of Manisa, near their relatives. They are going to be settled in the district of Salihli, the governor said. Meanwhile human rights organizations and the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, went to the district to meet the locals and officials. Some human rights activists said relocating Roma people out of Selendi would be a failure in handling the issue. They should be settled back in Selendi.

Güvenç said on CNNTürk that the Roma and the representatives of Roma associations wanted to be settled in another place because of economic reasons. Selendi is a small rural area with no industry, he said, leading the Roma to request living in a place with more employment opportunities.

“We told them to stay where they want,” he said. But the Roma said police forced them to sign blank papers to remove them from the city, reported daily Hürriyet.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary commission on human rights also paid attention to the issue and asked the government to disclose the details of the events. Zafer Üskül, the head of the commission, asked why officials did not see the warning signs before the incident because the attack did not seem spontaneous.

Responses from Turkey’s Roma

On Thursday, an estimated 200 members of the Roma community gathered in İzmir’s Karşıyaka municipality to protest the recent violence in Selendi.

Necati Kaplan and Sinan Pazarlı, vice presidents of the Aegaen Roma Association’s federation, spoke at the rally, where the demonstrators chanted, “PM Tayyip, don’t sleep. Stick up for the Roma.”

“We are upset because of the events that took place in Selendi,” Kaplan said. “As Roma, we have never thrown a stick or a stone at the flag, nation or government. We were born here and we will die here. We’re calling on the prime minister to stick up for the Roma. We are not terrorists.”

© 2009 Hurriyet Daily News

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