Nomad Romani Groups Come Together with Local Authorities for Freedom of Belief

Opinion leaders of the nomad Romani communities came together with the Mayor of Nevşehir Hacıbektaş and the city council, led by the Association of Zero Discrimination. The causes and consequences of Romani discrimination were discussed with local officials. While emphasizing the importance of Hacı Bektaş Veli for Alevi and Bektashi Romani people, solutions were offered for peace and tranquility at the commemoration ceremonies that will take place between August 16 and 18.

Zero Discrimination Association President Elmas Arus started her speech by referring to the news that were reflected in the press like: “Gypsies attacked Hacıbektaş, we do not want Romani people in Hacıbektaş” two years ago. In the words of Arus, the reasons for Hacıbektaş commemoration ceremonies that had been held in August for 60 years being changed to October in the period of the previous mayor was because of Romani people polluting the district, stealing and begging. However, Octobers are very cold in the district, so for the Romani people who set up tents and live in caravans, this situation turns into suffering for them. Also, Romani groups from all over Turkey prepare for this journey for months and migrate to Hacıbektaş. Their aim is to walk on the path of God, face the holy lands, tot, give alms and sacrifice in order to worship.

Arus said, “Societies like us create themselves with faith as well. The path sets all our rules, and it is very important for us to walk on this path. While walking on this path, we have to overcome the obstacles ahead. Setting borders on the path was an obstacle, and changing the dates of the ceremonies was the last boundary. ”

Alevi Romanis Are Slanted Towards Self-criticism 

Erdogan Şener, President of the Akhisar Contemporary Romani Association, believes that it is necessary to make self-criticism on behalf of his society. Pointing out that there are two groups coming to Hacıbektaş, Şener stated that one group came for worshipping and the other group (though few in number) came for different purposes, and the real problem was caused by them. He said: “We come to worship and fulfill our religious duties, but we also have brothers who use the squares as picnic areas. In this case, it is not possible to meet with the local authorities on the common ground without self-criticism. Integration education can be given before a couple of days before the ceremonies, and visiting manners can be taught through our elders.”

 “No Need for a Berlin Wall” 

President of Manisa Regional Romani Development Association Serdar Kavdağ criticized the disruption of Alevi Romanis who come for the commemorative ceremonies and said, “In this century where rights and freedom stand out, there is no point in building walls and borders like the Berlin Wall. If the municipality and the people go hand in hand, the problems will be solved. If an area with water closets and garbage containers are shown to people, it would be enough. For example, when you visit Veysel Karani Tomb, there is a free guesthouse next to it. This can be implemented here as well.” President of Abdallar Association Niyazi Buluter argued that the order would be achieved by showing people a place with tents, toilets and clean water, by underlining that those who come for the ceremony do not stay more than three or four days. He said that if accommodation would be with a small fee, the district would profit as well.

“Civil Society Creates Buffer Zone”

Anadolu Abdalları Platform President Hasan Kara stated that they need to develop the district of Hacıbektaş and that they can make a financial contribution under the name of “hakullah” to meet their toilet and water needs. Explaining that they have created a buffer zone as a civil society, Romani activist Bahattin Turnalı noted that for the solution there should be the society on one side and local administrations on the other. Turnalı said that solidarity with the municipalities can be ensured, and support can be requested concerning mobile toilets and tea stoves etc.

Solution Offers…

In the light of the discussions, solution suggestions were listed as below to present to local authorities:

  • A control area should be created at the entrance of the district border, but these controls should not only cover Romani people and there should not be any discrimination even during the precautionary phase.
  • A space should be allocated but should be designed according to the needs of society. Things from toilets to water tanks should be supplied.
  • The things should be done in the municipality in three stages: Public order, security, service.
  • The municipality should include the society in decision-making while serving. There should be created a board of opinion leaders and it should co-operate with the municipality before the ceremonies.
  • The decisions taken should be conveyed to the community through elders and opinion leaders. A good information system should be established.
  • A preliminary meeting should be held with the elders.
  • A workshop should be organized in Ankara and elders, opinion leaders, Alevi associations should be invited.
  • Worship areas should not be tendered. And if it is, the system should be proposed in such a way that this resource will return to society.

Mayor Altıok Sides With Common Sense 

Hacıbektaş Mayor Arif Yoldaş Altıok stated that he is honored to attend this meeting led by civil society and noted that they can solve problems and deficiencies with cooperation and common mind instead of ignoring them. Altıok, who takes the suggestions of solutions into account and emphasizes that they want to be a part of the solution, said, “We hold 72 nations as our sultan says, we invite people with the love of Hacı Bektaş in their hearts and we say that this philosophy should be treated accordingly. We are a district with a population of five thousand 200, but we have 1 million visitors a year. We expect those who would come, to help us in terms of cleanliness, accommodation, and environment.”