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U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Cardin and Co-Chairman Hastings Condemn Turkish Government Destruction of Nearly 1,000-Year-Old Roma Neighborhood

WASHINGTON—Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), today released the following statements upon reports that the Turkish government completed the demolition of Sulukule, a suburb of Istanbul that has been home to the Roma minority since 1054. 

“The bulldozing of Sulukule this week by the Turkish government shows a lack of regard for the Romani people, and sadly erases a centuries old fixture of Istanbul’s history,” Cardin said. “The Turkish government should adequately compensate the Romani families and provide alternative housing to keep the community united now that their historic neighborhood is gone.” 

“We are deeply concerned about the pattern of housing dislocation Roma are experiencing in numerous countries, brought on by everything from flooding to armed conflict to pure discrimination. When Roma are removed from their homes, often with no adequate alternatives, they are disconnected from schools, health care and a host of other public services, and get sucked even deeper into a vortex of poverty – with predictable and disastrous consequences for families,” Hastings said. 

“The destruction of Sulukule to make way for new, higher-priced, villa-style homes that Roma could not afford to purchase is especially regrettable because it occurs at a place this Romani community has called home for nearly 1,000 years,” Cardin added. 

The unfortunate outcome of this so-called urban renewal project is not only the destruction of this historic neighborhood, but the forcing of 3,500 Sulukule residents 40 kilometers outside of the city to the district of Tasoluk or onto the streets. 

“We urge all OSCE participating States to honor the commitments adopted at the 1999 Istanbul Summit and in other OSCE documents to ensure Roma are treated with dignity and respect,” said Co-Chairmen Cardin and Hastings. 

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