The Roma of Selendi

There is a debate going on about how it started: did the Roma man light up a cigarette in a teahouse, where it is forbidden to smoke, or did the tea house owner refuse to serve the man tea? The testimonies about how the tea house fight started differ, but the outcome was clear: the windows of the teahouse didn’t survive, and a few days later a group of about a thousand men went up to the Roma neighbourhood and became violent. And that further led to the expulsion of the Roma community from the village of Selendi (province of Manisa, West Turkey). The Roma were escorted by police to the train station and were taken to another village to stay with relatives.

Was that for their own safety, or did the village just want to get rid of their Roma community? It is not clear if the Roma agreed to this ‘solution’, but according to some newspaper articles, they were forced to sign an agreement about leaving Selendi. However, the mayor says that the Roma wanted out of the village themselves, because there is no work for them there. Sounds like crap to me. I mean, if they could have gotten work in another district, they would have moved there themselves, since people can live where ever they please.

Most important however, is of course the message that is now apparent: being violent to a minority group is a quick and effective way to get rid of it. The task of the police and the mayor was of course to stop the violence effectively, protect the Roma (and the coffee house, for that matter), arrest everybody who used violence, and then reconcile the groups with each other. But it’s still not too late for that. The Roma who left Selendi and want to return, must be given the opportunity to do so, and their safety must be guaranteed.

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