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Istanbul pushes out Gypsy belly dancers to build its capital of culture 10 décembre 2007

Posted by Acturca in Art-Culture, Istanbul, Turkey / Turquie.
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The Star (South Africa), December 07, 2007 Friday, Pg. 19

Seda Sezer, Istanbul

Sukru Punduk says his family has lived in Sulukule, Istanbul’s Gypsy quarter, for six centuries and he won’t be driven out by laptop-carrying, stroller-pushing yuppies.

The city plans to bulldoze Sulukule to make way for 620 townhouses as part of its effort to spruce up the area by 2010, when Istanbul will be the European Capital of Culture.

Punduk, a tom-tom player whose home is on the demolition list, is leading the fight against the redevelopment project. He says it will destroy a community that has produced some of Turkey’s best-loved musicians and belly dancers, and price the city’s Gypsies, also known as Roma, out of their historic home.

« I’ve seen the models they’ve made for the new housing, » says Punduk.

« There are little model people carrying laptops or pushing prams, but no women in headscarves, no horse carriages, no one playing the tom-tom. The Gypsies don’t exist. »

On the streets of Sulukule, the scent of lentils from a soup canteen mixes with the aroma of horse dung and hashish. Children play in the rubble of some of the 20 houses that have already been knocked down.

Other homes in the enclave, surrounded by 5th century Byzantine walls on the European side of Istanbul, were abandoned by owners who accepted compensation from the city. They now house chickens and the horse-drawn carriages used to ferry tourists on sightseeing excursions.

City officials say the project will improve living standards in Sulukule, where 5 000 people live; bring amenities such as electricity, gas and water; and replace crumbling houses and canvas shacks with modern row houses featuring landscaped gardens and courtyards.

James Bond setting

« The people live in very bad conditions, » says Mustafa Demir, mayor of Istanbul’s Fatih district, which includes Sulukule.

« We aim to provide them with a healthy environment. »

A typical house in the new development will cost $93 000 (R633 000), in line with the average price in Istanbul.

Residents of Sulukule, the setting for the belly dancing and Gypsy fight scenes in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love, were left behind by Turkey’s economic boom over the past five years.

Their average monthly income of $250 is about half the national figure.

Homeowners are being offered cash compensation. Those who can afford to stay in Sulukule will get 15-year loans for the new homes, Demir says.

Tenants in the Gypsy quarter will get loans to buy less expensive apartments about 40km away on the fringes of Istanbul.

The redevelopment « will be good, because the area is a pigsty now », says Ozge Yazici (29), a website technician who lives near Sulukule.

Huseyin Kucukatasayar moved out of the Gypsy quarter in April, after selling his house to a private investor. He says the housing development is an attempt to stamp out the local culture and reflects the historic prejudice against Gypsies worldwide.

« People look down on us; they don’t want us, » says Kucukatasayar, who runs carriage rides for tourists and still keeps his horses in Sulukule.

« Here, I can still have my tea in the cafe even if I don’t have any money in my pocket, because they know me. You can’t find that solidarity anywhere else. »

Turkey’s Gypsies originated in northwest India, Afghanistan and Iran.

Byzantine chronicles refer to a community in Sulukule as early as the 11th century.

Turks and tourists once flocked to Sulukule’s « party houses » for late-night belly dancing and music, before police shut them down in the 1990s.

Today, dancers and musicians mostly earn their living by performing at restaurants in tourist districts, or at weddings and circumcision ceremonies.

The Sulukule Romani Culture Solidarity and Development Association, headed by Punduk, delivered a petition against the redevelopment to the Turkish legislature’s Human Rights Commission on November 14 in Ankara. There has been no response yet.

Plans to treat lawmakers to traditional Gypsy song and dance were foiled when security guards confiscated their instruments. The protesters improvised, using trays and water bottles from the parliament’s canteen as drums, Punduk says.

The project « will impoverish these people even further, » says Marsh, whose European Commission-funded study of Turkey’s Gypsies will be published in April. « That must be seen as a great crime, to destroy the living memory of any community. »

Mayor Demir promises the new Sulukule will include a cultural center where Gypsies can play music and pass on their traditions.

« That’s great, but who’s going to come if you dislocate the entire community? » Marsh says. « They’ll end up running Tai Chi courses and yoga, because the only people using the cultural center would be middle-class Turkish people. »


1. Roberto Malini - 27 janvier 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Urgent campaign to save Sulukule (Turkey) and protect the oldest Rrom community in the world.

EveryOne Group joins the Rrom Association of Sulukule, Union Romani, UNESCO and all the organization that are fighting to protect the rights of the Rroms in this international campaign against the destruction of one of the oldest Rrom communities in the world, and the “modernization” of the area which would destroy a World Heritage Site.

The Sulukule district has been the home of the Rroms community since the Byzantine period and it became the first sedentary Rrom settlement in the world in the 15th Century under the sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, the protagonist of the fall of Constantinople. The houses, the streets, the entire district of Sulukule are parts of an extraordinary monument that represents an age and an ancient people: a precious and priceless World Heritage Site.
The Istanbul municipality has already carried out invasive interventions in the area, but it has now taken the decision to cancel out all the traces of the settlement, clearing the area of the 3000 Rroms who live there (and therefore the descendents of the Rroms of Constantinople) commencing, in February 2008, the “project for urban renewal”, which foresees the demolition of historical buildings and the construction of a modern district.
Up to now the protests of the Sulukele Roma Culture Development and Solidarity Association have met with no success, nor have the appeals to the local authorities and Turkish Government from the numerous academics of the major Turkish universities.

The project underway, if carried out, will cause the compulsory assimilation of the Sulukule Rroms by the citizens of Istanbul and the destruction of a historical district in which the traditions of the Turkish Rroms have been miraculously preserved for many centuries.
EveryOne Group, together with the Sulukule Roma Culture Development and Solidarity Association, Union Romani, La Voix des Rroms and the organizations for the protection of the rights of the Rroms people appeal to the Istanbul authorities asking them not to persecute a people who should be protected, along with their precious traditions, and to stop the process of destruction of this historical World Heritage Site.

Saving Sulukule and the oldest Rrom community in the world means saving a piece of the history of our world and stopping a serious case of oppression towards the Turkish Rroms. It means handing down an ancient tradition to future generations. But we must act now, by sending emails, postcards and letters of protest. Just copy the text of the petition and add messages for the Turkish Authorities: « No to the destruction of Sulukule », « No to the clearing out of the Rroms of Sulukkule », « The Sulukule district and its innhabitants are the patrimony of history and humanity » etc…

Sign the petition now: http://www.petitiononline.com/romaturk/petition.html

Gruppo EveryOne
(+ 39) 334-8429527
http://www.everyonegroup.com :: info@everyonegroup.com

and send your emails, postcards and messages to:

Abdullah Gül
President of Turkey
Postal address:
T.C. Cumhurbaskanligi
Cankaya-Ankara Turkey
e-mail: cumhurbaskanligi@tccb.gov.tr

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey
Postal address: Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Fax: +90 312 417 0476

Ertuğrul Günay
Minister of Culture and Tourism of Turkey
Postal address:
T.C. Kultur ve Turizm Bakanligi
Ataturk Bulvari No. 29
06050 Opera Ankara Turkey
e-mail: ertugrul.gunay@kulturturizm.gov.tr

Kadir Topbag
Major of Istanbul
Postal address:
Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediye Baskanligi Sarachane Istanbul
e-mail : baskan@ibb.gov.tr

Mustafa Demir
Major District of Fatih – Istanbul
Postal address:
Büyük Karaman Cad. No. 53 Fatih Istanbul, Turkey
e-mail : mustafademir@fatih.bel.tr

EveryOne Group
Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro, Dario Picciau, Jean (Pipo) Sarguera, Dott. Santino Spinelli, Daniela De Rentiis, Marcel Courthiade, Saimir Mile, Ahmad Rafat, Arsham Parsi, Laura Todisco, Glenys Robinson, Steed Gamero, Fabio Patronelli, Stelian Covaciu, Udila Ciurar, Alessandro Matta, Cristos Papaioannou, Paul Albrecht.

Promoters and Consultants
Centre Culturel Gitan, Pavillons-sous-Bois (France) • Promoters and Consultants • La Voix des Rroms (Paris) • Gypsy Lore Society (Usa) • Group of Migrants & Refugees of Salonica • Union Gypsy • Roma Right Watch • Union Rromsni • Roma Press Center (Budapest) • Opera Nomadi • Associazione Çingeneyiz (Rroms in Turkey) • Romani Yah – Association and Newspaper of Romas from Transcarpathia • Roma Virtual Network • Tamara Deuel (Israel), Holocaust survivor – activist against the discrimination of Rroms • Mercedes Lourdes Frias, Italian Republic Depute (Rifondazione Comunista – Sinistra Europea) • Etudes Tsiganes (Paris) • Alain Reyniers, anthropologist at the University of Louvain-La-Neuve (Belgium), expert in Rroms, Sinti and Kale cultures • European Roma Information Office • Roma Diplomacy Programme • John Pearson, Secretary, Democratic Socialist Alliance, UK • Gady Castel (Israel), director, director of the Jewish Film Festival « Jewish Eyes » of Tel Aviv, author of documentaries on the Holocaust • Cristina Matricardi, founder of the first Multiethnic kindergarten « Oasis » – Genoa • Maria Eugenia Esparragoza, cultural mediator, member of the Ministerial Intercultural Technical Committee • Professor Matt T. Salo, researcher and publisher, expert in Gypsy culture • Emiliano Laurenzi, giornalista • Paolo Buconi, Yiddish and Klezmer musician • Marius Benta, journalist • Seven Times (Romania) • Ted Coombs, Director of Hilo Art Museum (Holocaust and Genocide art) • Steve Davey, co-director of the Hilo Art Museum (Holocaust and Genocide Art) • Mirjam Pinkhof, survivor of the Shoah, Holocaust heroine who saved 70 Jewish children from the Nazis • Halina Birenbaum, survivor of the Shoah, writer and teacher • Oni Onhaus, Holocaust witness • Manzi Onhaus, Auschwitz survivor • Elisheva Zimet, Auschwitz survivor • Alice Offenbacher, Bergen Belsen survivor• Mirko Bezzecchi, survivor the Samudaripen • Antonia Bezzecchi, survivor the Samudaripen • Hanneli Pick-Goslar, friend of Anne Frank, Holocaust survivor • Michael Petrelis, veteran Human Rights Advocate (Usa) • Stichting Buitenlandse Partner • Professor Saimir Mile, jurist, lecturer in Rromsni, Sinti and Kale culture at the University of Paris (INALCO), General-Secretary of the Centre of Research and Action in France Against all Forms of Racism, member of EveryOne Group • Jean (Pipo) Sarguera, President of the Centre culturel gitan – Paris • Emeritus professor Marcel Courthiade, holder of the chair of Rromsni, Sinti and Kale language and civilization at the University of Paris (INALCO) • Kibbutz Netzer Sereni, Israel • Antonia Arslan, essayist and writer • Caffé Shakerato – Intercultura – Genova • Simona Titti, Caritas Livorno • Gazeta de Sud, Cotidian al oltenilor de pretutindeni (Romania) • Oana Olaru, journalist (Romania) • Fabio Contu, playwright and teacher, Comunità Sant’Egidio, Genova • Allie, Gypsy News, NE, Ohio, United States • Guri Gentian – Group of Migrant&Refugees of Salonica • Associazione Yakaar Italia Senegal • Associazione Secondoprotocollo Onlus • Elisa Arduini, Cristina Monceri, Miriam Bolaffi, Roberto Delponte, Noemi Cabitza, Giorgia Kornisch, Claudia Colombo, Andrea Pompei, Chiara Maffei, Federica Battistini (Members of Secondoprotocollo) • Thèm Romano ONLUS Association

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