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Roma neighborhood of Sulukule awaits demolition
1.       Roswitha
4132 posts
 13 Apr 2008 Sun 01:57 am

Question: Did the Turks shut all these Roma night clubs down?

Roma in Istanbul: Sulukule Press Release
Roma_in_Turkey@yahoogroups.com, 27.06.2006

We, the 3,500 Romani people of these mahalles of Neslisah and Hatice Sultan in the municipality of Fatih, Istanbul wish to tell you about the circumstances affecting our historic community as a result of the municipality's project to "renew the city". This project will result in the demolition of this historic neighborhood, and destroy the Romani community that lives here.

In October 20005 the local authority considered measures to redevelop the area, but from a range of choices they adopted the decision to demolish the existing housing, where large numbers of Romani people have lived for centuries since their first arrival in this area in the eleventh century. This decision was adopted without consultation with the community, nor any of the community representatives nor indeed the cooperation of the all parties represented on the local municipality. The decision is one that neither reflects the result of any feasibility study carried out by the municipal authorities and made public, nor seems based upon careful research about the possible options and implications of any measures to redevelop the area. Since this decision was taken, there have been a number of meetings between members of the community and the municipality, but without any resolution to the concerns raised by the Romani people for their future. The planned programme of demolition remains in place and work is expected to begin in September, when bulldozers will move in to the area.

The community of the Sulukule mahalles (Neslisah and Hatice Sultan), are the descendants of Romani people that arrived a thousand years ago in the then Byzantine capital, Constantinople. Their presence is recorded in sources that tell us that they lived in black tents, practicing fortune-telling, bear leading and music and dance for the residents of the city. Whilst the bear-leading and fortune-telling are a thing of the past these days, the music and dance remain part of the Romani culture that is still a vibrant and essential expression of Romani identity here. When the city fell to the Ottoman conquerors in 1453, it was the Sulukule Gate that first was breached, and many of the canons and other artillery were forged by the contingents of Romani metal-workers and smiths of the Ottoman army. This area, and its association with Romani communities through history is the reason why the community is asking for the decision to demolish the area to be rescinded, and a programme of regeneration and urban renewal be considered instead. This area represents the oldest Romani community in the world, with the most consistent occupation by Romani people in a tradition that stretches back through time to the earliest days of Romani history.

Europe’s Last Olive Tree: Traveler Gypsies vs. Environmentalists

In his poem "The Gypsy and the Wind," Federico Garcia Lorca portrays the gypsy in a romantic, if melancholic, light: "The Englishman gives the gypsy a glass of tepid milk, and a shot of Holland gin, which Precosia does not drink." Yet in today's Europe, the reality that gypsies face is anything but romantic. The ongoing discrimination against the traveler gypsy communities in the E.U. in general, and the U.K. in particular, makes a powerful case for the systematic marginalization of a charismatic community within the borders of an ever-expanding and -deepening union. The cultural, social, and political marginalization of the traveler gypsy is well-known.

A less known aspect of the traveler gypsy saga in the U.K. is that in order for this invisible community to preserve its culture and way of life, it has to fight an uphill battle with an unlikely enemy: the environmentalists. While the gypsies have often routinely been portrayed as the most marginalized and least understood community in Europe, the ongoing battle between traveler gypsies and environmentalists in the U.K. offers a revealing flip side in which gypsies are villified and persecuted as environmental polluters.


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