Roma in Turkey: Not recognized, not protected
Övgü Pınar - 14/03/2015
The exact population of Roma and related groups in Turkey is not known. Estimates range between 500,000 and 5 million. The rights of minorities in Turkey is largely regulated by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which does not foresee the recognition of the Roma as a minority group. Rights activists underline that this lack of legal recognition prevents the Roma to be protected against discrimination.
Although in recent years NGOs have been widely active in advocating the minorities' rights in Turkey, European Roma Right Center (ERRC) says that "Roma are not a target or a priority for this sector, or for international human rights NGOs that focus more on the Kurdish population, the split between Islamist and secular society or the role of the military in civilian life".
"In Turkey, Roma groups are diverse, but a large proportion suffers from multidimensional social exclusion", European Commission says in its 05.04.2011 report titled "An EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020".
According to ERRC's Turkey profile (2011-2012) , "the majority of Roma live in Western Anatolia, Thrace, in the Marmara region and the Aegean Sea region while the Dom and Lom groups mostly live in South Eastern and Eastern Turkey". Almost all the Roma in Turkey are Muslims.
ERRC says that Roma in Turkey face the same socio-economic challenges as Roma in other European countries.
Hacer Foggo, ERRC's Human Rights Monitor in Turkey, told Babelmed that the biggest problems of the Roma in Turkey are discrimination and hate-mongering discourse. Hacer Foggo portrays the living conditions of Turkish Roma:
"Roma suffer from discrimination and prejudice in all aspects of life. The main problems of the Roma, both in Europe and Turkey, are classified under four titles: employment, housing, education and health. They face various forms of prejudice in all these fields. When they apply for a job, for example, the fact that they live in quarters like Sulukule or Sarıgöl (Roma neighborhoods in Istanbul) may be seen as a sign of them being a Roma and this may lead them to be refused the job."