Governor of Bursa Should Apologise to Roma Community

26 September 2013

Budapest, Istanbul, Ankara, 26 September 2013: Human rights organisations are deeply concerned about an official report sent by the Governor’s Office of Bursa, Turkey to the Turkish Parliament in response to a request for information about Roma people living in Bursa. The language used in this report reflects a discriminatory and racist approach towards Roma people based on prejudiced conceptions.
According to press reports dated 25 September 2013, the Parliamentary Commission for Petitions received a petition from a person from Bursa complaining about Roma people living in some of the neighbourhoods in Bursa and asked the Bursa Governor's Office to send information about the Roma population in the city. In the answer sent to the Parliamentary Commission, the following statement was made: "As a result of both comprehensive studies carried out [in this field] and the complaints submitted by citizens, it has been observed that ... Roma citizens in general lacked any profession or occupation to generate a lawful income, and for this reason they earn their living through drug-trafficking and criminal activities they find suitable for making income such as theft, pickpocketing, purse-snatching, and robbery."

The document of the Governor’s Office is in conflict with national and international human rights law and standards, including Article 10 of the Constitution of Turkey which requires equality before the law, Article 122 of the Penal Code, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to which Turkey is a party.

Public authorities shall not re-enforce prejudices and shall not use discriminatory language. On the contrary, public officials should fight against prejudices and discrimination. However, unfortunately, the statement of the Bursa Governor’s Office is based on prejudices. The arguments of the Governor’s Office are not based on any serious study and they engage his individual liability as a matter of law; they pave the way for racism and discrimination by accusing a segment of society based solely on its racial identity. The statement, loaded with negative and discriminatory prejudices also contradicts with the Roma Opening of the Government which the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan himself launched in 2010. The Governor’s statement proves once again that the Roma Opening must be supported and strengthened by comprehensive policies and regulations.  

The document of the Governor’s Office is very disappointing, especially at a time when the new Package for Democratization, which is expected to further strengthen social equality and fight against discriminatory practices, is about to be announced

Human rights organizations call on the Governor’s Office of Bursa to make a satisfactory clarification on the matter and to apologise to the Romani citizens of Bursa.

The press release is also available in Turkish.

European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (hCa)
Human Rights Association (İHD) 
Organisation of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (MAZLUMDER)
Roma Rights Forum of Turkey (ROMFO)

For more information:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

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