Thursday, March 25, 2010



Roma people live nomadic lives after demolitions in Sulukule

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Many Roma people who moved to apartments in the Taşoluk neighborhood provided by the Mass Housing Administration, or TOKİ, have returned to their original neighborhoods in and near Sulukule for socio-economic and cultural reasons. Most say the apartment expenses were beyond their incomes and also the life there was not suitable for them because they prefer houses with gardens near relatives and neighbors

Members of Istanbul’s Roma community continue to live like nomads since the demolition of their houses, despite new apartments offered by the government, according to observers and NGOs.

After the houses of the Roma people living in the Sulukule neighborhood of Istanbul’s Fatih district were destroyed during an urban transformation project carried out by the Fatih Municipality over the last three years, renters were allowed to move into apartments built by the Mass Housing Administration, or TOKİ, in the Taşoluk neighborhood of Istanbul’s Gaziosmanpaşa district.

The initiative is part of government efforts to improve living standards of Roma people in Turkey, but members of the Roma community in Sulukule say they are still suffering from the results of demolitions.

Moving did not solve problems

Moving some Roma people to Taşoluk turned out not to provide a solution since many of them returned to Sulukule only months later after selling their apartments.

“We could only stay four months there [in Taşoluk]. It was not suitable for us,” said Faruk Say, a Roma who returned to Sulukule. After the house he rented with his wife and two children in Sulukule was demolished, Say chose to move to the TOKİ apartments in Taşoluk. He said living in Taşoluk was socio-economically difficult for them.

“There was no life for us there. The streets were dark after nine. It was a lonely neighborhood,” said Say. “The monthly expenses of our apartments were more than we could afford.”

“We should be earning 1,000 Turkish liras a month in order to live in the apartments in Taşoluk. There are many expenses other than rent, for example the natural gas, electricity and apartment expenses,” Say said.

Almost half returned

Roma people live and work in Sulukule as either musicians or vendors, making a living with low incomes, and their rents are also low. However, the municipality claimed that the Roma people were given good opportunities in Taşoluk. “They were all renters, but they still had the chance to own an apartment in Taşoluk by paying 250 liras each month,” said Mustafa Çiftçi, the project coordinator from Fatih Municipality.

After 15 years of monthly payments, those renters would be the owners of the apartment, said Çiftçi, adding that they all received 100 liras in rent support from the municipality. However, Çiftçi agreed that almost half of the 127 Roma people who moved to Taşoluk either sold or rented their apartments and returned to Sulukule or nearby neighborhoods.

According to Hacer Foggo, however, the numbers were less. She said only six or seven families remained in Taşoluk, according to Hacer Foggo, a member of the Sulukule Platform. “Most sold their houses starting from 5,000 liras and then returned to their old neighborhood. But now they are moving like nomads from one house to another since they cannot pay the rent,” she said.

Foggo, who works at the Zero Discrimination Association, told the Daily News there should be research done in Sulukule to study the needs of locals before the start of the urban transformation project. “The reasons why some children did not attend school or disabled people were not leaving home should be examined, and social projects to improve their lives should be produced,” she said

Sevcan Küçükatasayar, 20, a former renter in Taşoluk who returned to Sulukule, said they could not live in an apartment building. “We used to live in a big house with a garden. All our relatives were in the same neighborhood. But in Taşoluk, my father opened a tea house and it went bankrupt because nobody went there,” said Küçükatasayar.

Meanwhile, some Roma people said they were happy in Taşoluk. “Those who have a stable job can live there,” said Şahin Kumralgil, who lives in Taşoluk but spends his time in Sulukule.

Many of the Roma who returned to Sulukule are also tired of talking to press and have lost hope for a better future, according to Şükrü Pündük, head of the Roma Association in Sulukule.

Removal of Discriminatory sentence

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, Bursa Deputy Ali Koyuncu also prepared a proposal asking for the removal of a sentence with discriminative connotations from the law, Anatolia news agency reported. The sentence reads: “The Interior Ministry is responsible for the deportation of gypsies and foreign nomads.”


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