‘There is No Other,’ Roma people to say in upcoming symposium
Emrah Güler - ANKARA“The problems facing the Roma people in Turkey could be clustered under four headlines: Housing, employment, health and education. These four headlines are intertwined so much that they affect one another, hence the lives of Roma people, through a vicious circle,” said Ali Daylam, a renowned name in working to better the lives of Roma people in Turkey, when speaking to Hürriyet Daily News before the International Roma Symposium to be held in Ankara on Oct. 22.
Daylam is the president of the Mediterranean Roma Associations Federation, as well as the Roma Education, Culture, Folklore and Sports Association (Romklüp). For Daylam, the problems begin at a very early age for the Roma people, of whom only a staggering 0.2 percent are university graduates. “Many young people leave schools at different stages. The reasons are discrimination they face at schools and economic insufficiency,” said Daylam.
Many young people, even children, have to contribute to the household economy in Roma communities. “They collect garbage with their families, or put their musical talent to use for daily jobs,” said Daylam. “That’s why most of the Roma people work without any social security, hence do not have access to health services. This creates a vicious circle, where they have to continue living poor and isolated lives, unable to change their lives as they cannot acquire the intellectual and economic powers to do so.”
The upcoming symposium is the final event in the “There is No ‘Other’” project, run by Romklüp, and supported by the European Commission’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) program. The overall objective of the project was to create a culture and environment where the rights, identity and lifestyle of Roma people are respected and enhanced. “The training of teachers and school directors, capacity building, lobbying and advocacy, and study visits were at the core of the project,” said Daylam.
First MP from Roma community
“We have created a framework to raise awareness and provide the ideal education for Roma children and young people through giving trainings to teachers and school directors of schools where Roma communities attend heavily,” said Daylam. The “There is No ‘Other’” project also reached civil society organizations (CSO) in the areas where these schools were located, providing them trainings for capacity building and raising awareness.
The project also worked toward positioning the Roma People Forum of Turkey (ROMFO), founded by six federations and 74 associations, representing an estimated 6 million people in Turkey, as an umbrella structure. Lobbying and advocacy activities under the project took on a new shape when project coordinator Özcan Purçu was elected as the first Roma member of parliament as a candidate from the Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Purçu will be one of the participants of the International Roma Symposium, along with representatives from various CSOs, a delegation from the European Union, academics and activists. Education, health, housing, employment, discrimination and rights will be the topics in the symposium, culminating in best practices from Turkey and Europe. Participants will also watch a documentary on the Roma people filmed as part of the project.
What’s next for bettering the lives of Roma people in Turkey? “Creating and putting to good use macro policies, mostly on the state level, is the most important step towards solving the problems of the Roma people,” said Daylam. “A structure that would serve as a center for studying Roma language, culture and history, for running advocacy activities, and for formulating policies for the state, is needed. This structure would help Roma people remember and protect their identities, and earn the rights they deserve.” While there is a long way to go for the Roma people to exercise their basic rights, there seems to be light at the other end.