GeriGündem Sulukule was Paris to us, this is prison: Roma say
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Sulukule was Paris to us, this is prison: Roma say

ISTANBUL - Within the project of saving Sulukule the Housing Development Administration offered public housing for allocating Roma people from their neighborhood. Yet, today only 27 of the families live in the newly built houses because the rest couldn’t afford to live in Taşoluk

Most of the 300 Roma families who were removed from Sulukule and moved to adobes in Taşoluk have not been able to adapt to their new environment because of financial difficulties. After six months, only 27 families remain.

The families that were relocated to the adobes, which were built by the Housing Development Administration, or TOKİ, faced a 15-year debt. Cumulated installments and unpaid electricity, gas and water bills have placed them in the path of debt enforcement offices.

The families are transferring their rights on the adobes for prices ranging from 3,000 to 35,000 Turkish Liras and moving out. There are only 27 Roma families left in the Taşoluk.

Living at hunger threshold

Normally, TOKİ includes a clause in its standard contracts that forbids the transfer of the adobes for one year, but the contracts made with the Roma families are missing that clause, clearing the way for cheap transfers.

F.A., a Roma who has been living at the hunger threshold since being removed from Sulukule, said: "They have brought us here, saying we are poor, and now they are treating us like we are rich. We could not pay our debts; they came from the debt enforcement office. We stay at Fatih on weekdays so that they will not come and take away our stuff."

Another woman said, "Sulukule was like Paris to us. This is prison. We became neurotic. We are slowly dying."

Gürkan Tokay, another resident, described the death of his father.

"There is no health center here; there is one 2 kilometers away. My father became ill a few months ago. I think it was a heart attack. We rushed him to the health center, which was closed because it was nighttime. Then we carried him to Arnavutköy. There is one hospital there, which is private. My father died later before they could intervene. They wanted 250 liras to top that. They asked for money for the dead and did not release the body."

TOKİ built the adobes for people with financial difficulties in 2008. Out of the 1,402 adobes, 450 were reserved for the Roma who were relocated from Sulukule. A lottery was organized and 300 families were chosen to live in the adobes for 280 to 425 liras per month for 15 years. The Fatih Municipality arranged two bus lines for transportation: one from Taşoluk to Fatih, which comes at 7 a.m. and one from Fatih to Taşoluk that comes at 8 p.m.

No solidarity left

Şükrü Pendük, the president of the Foundation for Development of Sulukule Culture, said: "My people have been banished from their houses, where they were living with their neighbors as one, to these concrete buildings. We had a neighborhood culture with social solidarity that kept the families on their feet."

There is a single grocery store at the site in Taşoluk, which does not sell things on credit. The only place to socialize is the teahouse run by Göksel Küçükatasayan, who was also running one in Sulukule. But it is empty even at weekends.

"I cannot do business; I am in debt," Küçükatasayan said. "We will leave here. It is out of our hands."

There is no high school. The children who have started primary school two months late are experiencing adaptation problems. Some of the children were not accepted into the school with the justification that they are behind schedule.
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