The Forgotten People of Western Armenia: The Romas

Western Armenia, is the historical homeland of the Armenians, located in the eastern part of modern Turkey. It was divided between the Byzantine and Sassanian empires in the 4th century, and later conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century. The region witnessed the Armenian genocide of 1915, when the Ottoman government systematically massacred and deported more than 1.5 million Armenians.

But the Armenians are not the only people who have suffered in Western Armenia. There are also several million Romas, or Gypsies, who live in the region, mostly as nomads or in impoverished settlements. They are derogatorily called Chingana by the Turks, meaning “thief” or “scoundrel”. Armenians call them Posha or Bosha, which is derived from the Persian word for “black”.

The Romas are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group that originated from the Indian subcontinent and migrated to various parts of Europe and Asia over the centuries. They have a distinct culture, language, and religion, and often face discrimination and persecution from the dominant societies.

The Romas of Western Armenia are not recognized as a minority in Turkey, and face legal and social barriers that limit their rights and opportunities. According to Article 4 of the Turkish Citizenship Law, persons who have no ties with Turkish culture, as well as anarchists, spies, Roma and persons deported from Turkey, are forbidden to settle in the country. Other Turkish legislation stipulates that nomads and Roma are to be settled in sites designated by the Ministry of Health and Social Assistance, which are often remote and inadequate. The legislation also explicitly prevents Roma from entering Turkey as immigrants, even if they have family ties or humanitarian reasons.

The Romas of Western Armenia have a long history in the region, dating back to the 11th century, when they first settled in Armenia. They have contributed to the cultural diversity and richness of the Armenian highlands, and have maintained friendly relations with the Armenians. They have also shared the fate of the Armenians during the genocide and the subsequent wars and conflicts.

However, the Romas of Western Armenia are often overlooked and neglected by the international community and the Armenian diaspora, who are mainly focused on the recognition and restitution of the Armenian genocide. The Romas have little representation and voice in the political and social spheres, and face poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and health problems.

The Romas of Western Armenia are a forgotten people, who deserve more attention and support from the world. They are part of the historical and cultural heritage of the Armenian highlands, and have a right to live in dignity and freedom. They are not Chingana, but human beings, who have a unique identity and history.


Read Also:

  1. Roman Armenia – Wikipedia
  2. Western Armenia – Wikipedia
  3. Romani people – Wikipedia

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