In Turkey, Roma Face Discrimination
29 October 2003
During an ERRC field mission to Turkey in March 2003, many Roma with whom the ERRC spoke reported that they are discriminated against in access to various basic human rights and freedoms. A Romani man from the Gaus Bey Romani settlement in the northeastern city of town Edirne, on the border with Bulgaria, testified to the ERRC that Roma in the town experience discrimination in access to public accommodation. Many restaurants in the town reportedly refuse to serve Roma. In the Sormasik neighbourhood in the Umraniye area of Istanbul, many of the approximately six hundred Roma in the area did not have all of their personal documents, according to a Romani man from the settlement who declined to give his name. As a result of this, Roma in the area stated that they are unable to access basic rights such as social assistance, medical care or child benefits. One Romani couple was prohibited from being legally married because they did not have the proper documents and their children, therefore, did not have any personal documents either. Roma also reported that when they sought medical treatment, doctors refused to treat them, or they were forced to wait until non-Romani patients had been treated, no matter who had arrived first. Roma from the Cayirbasi Romani settlement in Istanbul reported that, as a result of discrimination, they have tried to hide their Romani ethnicity and assimilate in Turkish society as Turks. Roma from the settlement, who refused to be named out of fear, testified that they stopped speaking the Romani language in order to speak Turkish without an accent and intentionally marry non-Roma in order to facilitate their integration into Turkish society.
In September 2002, Turkey ratified the International Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Article 1(1) of the ICERD states, "In this Convention, the term "racial discrimination" shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."