Republican People's Party (CHP) İzmir MP and Turkey's first Romani MP Özcan Purçu slammed the description of Roman people as a “badly dressed, rarely seen kind” on Turkish Language Association's online dictionary, having asked to speak at the assembly, for the December 10 World Human Rights Day.
"Are we 'kinds'?" asked Purçu and addressed the problems that Romani people face in Turkey including discrimination, education, accommodation and unemployment among Romani citizens.
“The state has unfortunately never recognized Romani citizens. Around 96 percent of Romani people are working illegally; we are still cleaning sewage. Moreover, Romani people are excluded outside the city due to urban transformation projects. I was born and have grown up in a tent. They have built mansion houses on life spaces of Romani citizens and sold them to rich people” Purçu said.
Romani neighborhoods including Sulukule in Istanbul has been under threat of demolitions due to gentrification and urban transformation projects driven by governmental agencies and private sector.
“I have participated to all phases of the “Romani opening”, however no strategies has been settled in the last five years” he added, while emphasizing 75 percent of Romani citizens do not go to school or leave schools.
Özcan Purçu defined the moment of his speech as a historical moment, as it marked “the first speech of a Romani up on the rostrum in the last 92 years” at the assembly.
The İzmir MP also stressed this was a “bitter” anniversary of Human Rights Day, as “childrens' lifeless bodies have washed ashore” amid the refugee crisis and violence has grown in Turkey's east.
“We have been living as refugees in this country. The Grand Assembly should put an end to this shame. We are a community growing up with unemployment, prejudice and discrimination” Purçu urged.