Saturday, March 20, 2010
ROMA IN TURKEY
FROM HURRIYET DAILY NEWS AND ECONOMIC REVIEW.
Roma and undocumented Armenian immigrants
By GİLA BENMAYOR
Friday, March 19, 2010
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has embraced the Roma people but threatened illegal Armenian immigrants deportation.
This has left its mark on last week’s agenda.
I think embracing Roma was extremely artificial and threatening Armenians is extremely dangerous.
If we begin with Roma, Erdoğan by meeting with thousands of Roma last week at the Abdi İpekçi Sports Complex in Istanbul promised that the Roma identity will not be belittled and the Roma are entitled to have the right to live. But we see no concrete evidence of his promise.
Is there any project not to force Roma out of their neighborhoods as was the case in the Sulukule incident?
Or how about measures taken to provide for the education of Roma children?
I was drawn to the remarks of Elmas Arus on this meeting covered in newspapers.
“Roma children are not asked what they want to be when they grow up because it is known beforehand that they will be nothing,” said Arus.
It is not a secret that 80 percent of Roma are illiterate.
Everyone in Turkey knows that Roma are either street musicians, musicians, flower or basket sellers or street vendors fixing utensils.
We are not used to thinking that they could have some other profession as though they should always remain poor and uneducated. This is a shame for all of us.
The Roma woman Zeynep with four children and an unemployed husband is situated at the corner of our street, selling flowers. I know very well how hard she tries to survive, sell her flowers and carry flower pots early in the morning, yet she never forgets to smile.
Zeynep has no plans for her or her children’s future. She lives day by day.
If she earns money, she goes to the market at the other side of the street and shops for her daily meal.
Besides, Zeynep at times faces the risk of being caught by the community police.
No official treats Zeynep with a loving-care. She has to work with her baby on her lap sometimes. When she was insulted, Zeynep cries inside.
I also saw undelivered promises before Erdoğan’s Roma Initiative.
As the current Istanbul Mayor, Kadir Topbaş, was preparing for the political race while he was Beyoğlu County Mayor years ago he had talked about a terrific project for the integration of Roma living in the Hacıhüsrev neighborhood.
Since I wrote an article on it, I remember clearly. Topbaş said that ateliers and a conservatory will be set-up for Roma with the European Union’s support.
Topbaş didn’t keep his promise.
There is no conservatory for Roma living in Hacıhüsrev.
I also don’t know if they benefit from some part of the EU fund.
Therefore, as long as there is nothing concrete on the table, poor, unemployed and uneducated Roma will always be discriminated against. And I have no hope that they will reach prosperity and have a better life after their meeting with Erdoğan.
The second incident of the week was Erdoğan saying to BBC that he could deport Armenians living illegally in Turkey if necessary.
How will the governing party save its face after this unfortunate statement?
How about Mr. Prime Minister? How will he remove the shame of this different kind of a threat made against people who defend the 1915 genocide issue?
What is the catch for a political blackmail against these poor, mostly-women Armenians who moved to Turkey to earn a living after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia?
Besides, the number of these illegal immigrants is around 10,000 or 12,000 not 100,000 as Erdoğan insists.
In February, I attended a presentation of research on the “Armenian Immigrants in Turkey” sponsored by the Norwegian government and the Eurasia Cooperation Foundation in Yerevan.
Why is the figure being exaggerated?
Researcher Alin Ozinyan put the figure, based on official exits and entries to and from Turkey, at 5,800 Armenian illegal immigrants.
Our politicians began to utter the figure 50,000 at the beginning. Then it became 70,000 and now is 100,000.And the reason behind this was also discussed on the same day.
According to experts, the reason is obvious: Exploiting the figure is a political gimmick. In fact, the unfortunate remarks of Erdoğan are proof.
And I think seeing a person who embraces Roma yet threatens Armenians with deportation in the same week requires a “character analysis”.
Posted by Morgan at 10:42 AM