İzmir's Roma community gets electricity back after three-day protest

The Roma community in Aegean İzmir's Tepecik district had their electricity turned back on after three days of protests against the removal of their meters by the provider as a result of their unpaid bills. Locals said that the re-installment of the meters was merely a temporary solution and that the state should meet with residents to find a more permanent solution.

Tepecik residents are seen posing for a photo during their protest during the weekend.

Hemra Nida / Duvar English

Aegean İzmir's Roma citizens who live in the Tepecik neighborhood got their power meters re-installed on Jan. 24, after three days of protesting the electricity cut offs enforced by the power company because of their debts.

Power company officials arrived at the neighborhood with police to shut off the Roma neighborhood's meters and cut off their power because they had too many unpaid bills, a common practice by power companies during the pandemic. 

The bills that the community left unpaid amounted to between 1,200 Turkish liras and 6,000, both astronomically high numbers for an average household power bill in Turkey.

The Roma residents suspected that their bills included the cost of illegal power lines in the area.

The problem of power outages and unpaid bills has become chronic in lower income neighborhoods in the city, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İzmir deputy Cemal Bekle noted.

"We will try to bring the residents and the power company to the table in coming days. The current solution is merely temporary," Bekle said.

The provider's re-installment of the power meters was a mere response to the locals' protests, former elected leader of the district and city council member Ali Yangır said. 

Roma people are known for their joyful and colorful culture, which can give the false impression that they're always happy, Yangır said, but they have in fact been struggling during the pandemic. 

"The municipality will distribute hot meals but it is not enough, look at how crowded we are here! Listen to your conscience and come see our living environment. Let's find a permanent solution."

Roma people don't often take to the streets in protest, so their demonstrations against the power outages meant that they were fed up with the situation, Chairwoman of Roma Dialogue Network Elmas Arus said. 

The real solution to Roma people's struggles is to create employment opportunities for the community, Arus added.