Historical Roma neighbourhood in Istanbul risks being bulldozed

The international Roma community has denounced and called for an immediate halt to plans that threaten Sulukule, a district of Istanbul, Turkey, where a minority gypsy community has lived for over six hundred years.

The Turkish Government plans to pull down the historical district on the Istanbul Peninsula as part of redevelopment in the city which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2010.

An NGO based in Barcelona (Catalonia), Union Romani, has launched a mass e-mail campaign in order to denounce the current situation to Turkish and European authorities. They have called for the urban redevelopment project to involve the local population and to ensure that the Roma community is not driven out of Sulukule. They have also observed that the project violates World Cultural and Natural Heritage principles, and UNESCO has warned Ankara that unless it protects its cultural heritage, Istanbul could be removed from the World Heritage List.

Sulukule has traditionally been considered one of the cultural capitals of the Roma people. Their ancestors came from India and arrived on the peninsula in the 11th century. A Roma community has lived beside the Sulukule wall since the 15th century.