Romani people in Turkey
Türkiye'deki Romanlar
Total population
around 500,000-1,500,000
Regions with significant populations
Istanbul, East Thrace, Marmara Region, Aegean Region, İzmir Province
Balkan Romani, Turkish, Rumelian Turkish, Sepečides Romani, Rumelian Romani
Sunni Islam, Sufism of Qadiriyya - Tariqa
Related ethnic groups
Lom people, Dom people, Abdal of Turkey

The Romani people in Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye'deki Romanlar) are Sunni muslims, mostly of the Sufism,[1],who speak Turkish as their first language, in their own accent, and take the Turkish culture. In Turkey, they identify themselves as Romanlar and not as Roma. They are also called Şopar (Gypsy kid) in Rumelian Romani dialect, and Çingene (Gypsy) in Turkish.[2] As Gastarbeiter some Men and Families came to Germany and Austria.[3]

East Thrace, where the majority of the Romanlar live in, is called Gypsy-County.[4]

There are officially about 500,000 Romani people in Turkey.[5][6][7][8]


There are records of the presence of Romani people from AD 800 in Thrace, known in Greek as Athinganoi and in Turkish as Çingene. Sulukule in Istanbul is the oldest Roma settlement in Europe, recorded in 1054.

The Ottoman Turkish Historian Evliya Çelebi explain in his Seyahatnâme, that Mehmed the Conqueror in 1453, take Muslim Roma Musicians from Balat, Didim and Roma from Gümülcine, and settled in Istanbul, but both Groups didn't get along well.[9] With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Muslim Roma settled in Rumelia (southeastern Europe) under Ottoman rule. Uniquely to Ottoman history, the Muslim Roma people were given their own sanjak, or province, the Sanjak of the Çingene at Rumelia and the City Kirklareli, by the order of Suleiman the Magnificent at 1530.[10]

According to their own oral tradition, (but it varies in some stories), their Ancestors the Chandala, once came from Hindustan, to Roman Egypt, and settled in the city of Qift. From Egypt, they went as sutlers trough Anatolia and settled in Thrace.


The Romani people in Turkey[11] originate from the Indian subcontinent,[12][13][14][15][16][17] The linguistic evidence has indisputably shown that the roots of the Romani language lie in Central India: The language has grammatical characteristics of Indian languages and shares with them a big part of the basic lexicon, for example, body parts or daily routines.[18] More precisely, Romani shares the basic lexicon with Sanskrit and Prakrit.[19] Genetic findings in 2012 suggest the Romani originated in India.[13][14][20] Genetic influence of the Ottoman Empire on the Balkan-Roma population.[21]

In February 2016, during the International Roma Conference, the Indian Minister of External Affairs stated that the people of the Roma community were "children of India". The conference ended with a recommendation to the Government of India to recognize the Roma community, spread across 30 countries, as a part of the Indian diaspora.[22]

Migration to Turkey

During the Population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923, different Muslim Roma groups from Greece, like the Tütünčides (Tobacco traders/workers)[23] or the Sepetčides (Basketmakers)[24] moved to Turkey, and called Mübadil Romanlar[25]

Turkish speaking Muslim Roma from Bulgaria went from 1878 - 1989 in weaves to Turkey together with Turks and Pomaks.[26]

In 1950-1951 Muslim Roma from Bulgaria came to Turkey and settled in Çanakkale and surroundings.[27]


The majority of the Romani people in Turkey live in East Thrace, Marmara Region and Aegean Region. Cities with a high percentage of Romanlar are Edirne and Istanbul. Romani people in Turkey speak Turkish as their first language, and no longer use Rumelian Sedentary Romani,[28] many of them deny their Romani origins and describe themselves as Turks, or only as Muslim. They see themselves as Turks and have the same cultural similarities with Turks, no similarities with Christian Roma from Europe.[29]


The Turkish Romani are Cultural Muslims, based on Sunni Islam in the Hanafi school, and practise male khitan (circumcision), engagements and weddings on a grand scale. The Roma bands and their special music in 9/8 beat and songs are particularly well known in Turkey. Belly dance, performed by women and men. In Edirne, they hold the Kakava festival every year.[30]

Marriages are held early, Girls when 13-16 age, Boys when 15–19 years old, large families are normal. The extended family, the clan and the elder's are given great respect. Marriages outside with a Gadjo (non-Romani) are rare and generally forbidden in the Turkish Romani society, but sometimes Turkish Romani women marry Gadjo Men, but the offsprings of such a couple are not considered as Romani anymore, only the offspring from a Turkish Rom Man with a Gadjo woman, the offspring is accepted as Romani too. The father is the head of the Turkish Romani family, society is based on a Patriarchy. Turkish Romani Women and girls are subordinate to Men. Girl abduction is practiced when the parents, family or the elders do not consent to the marriage. Conservative romani groups are e.g. , the long-established Tekkekapılı, Kağıtçılar (Papermakers), the semi-nomadic Bandırmalı, (named after Bandırma, but their ancestors once came from Greece around 1923), who all live in Selamsız Romani-quarter in Üsküdar. The Kağıtçılar, in particular, have their own dialect that is not understood by other roma groups in their neighborhood.[31][32]

Legal status

In modern Turkey, Muslim Romani do not have the legal status of an ethnic minority because they are traditionally adherents of the Islamic faith, adherents of which, regardless of ethnicity or race, are considered part of the ethnic majority in Turkey. This goes as far back as the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), in which Section III "Protection of Minorities" puts an emphasis on non-Muslim minorities.[33]

In popular culture

A group of Turkish Romani appears in the 16th century Ottoman Constantinople of the video game Assassin's Creed: Revelations.

A Turkish TV series made between 2004 and 2007 called "Cennet Mahallesi" is based on Istanbulite Romans.


Many Turkish Roma, are members of the Hindiler Tekkesi a Qadiriyya-Tariqa, founded in 1738 by the Indian Muslim Sheykh Seyfullah Efendi El Hindi in Selamsız[34].

Groups of Turkish Romanlar

Yerli and Çerge generic term

The majority of the Romani people in Turkey live in Eastern Thrace, mostly in the Kırklareli Province, they are divided into two Main groups, the Sedentary Yerli and the Semi-Nomadic Çerge. There are several subgroups of both, named after their old professions which they once practiced or which they still do in part, as example: the Sepetçiler (Basketmaker's), Çiçekçi (Flower seller), Cambazı (Horse trader), Ayıcılar (Bear-leader's), Demirci (Blacksmith), Çiçekçi (Flower seller), Sünnetçi (Circumciser), Subaşı (Water carrier), Kuyumcu (Goldsmith), Kalaycı (Tinsmith), Şarkıcı (Singer), Müzisyen (Musician), Elekçiler (Sieve maker's), Bohçacı (Bundler), Arabacı (Coachman), Katırcıları (Muleteer's), etc. However, mostly all of the different Romani groups today are Working poor in a wide variety of jobs. The Yerli and the Çerge, live together in the Mahalla, but they don't like each other. The Yerli speak only Turkish as their mother tongue, while the Çerge speak Turkish and Rumelian Romani.[35] Although both groups are Muslims, the Yerli look down on the Çerge, and consider them savage, uncivilized and keep their distance from them. Interestingly, the Yerli call themselves Romanlar, while they call the Çerge Çingeneler. The Yerli consider the Çerge to have once come from the Balkans to Eastern Thrace.[36]

Sepetçi subgroup

Since Ottoman empire, the Muslim basket weavers Romanlar were very respected alongside Roma musicians. Because those Romani people, who became Muslims after the conquest of Istanbul at 1453, set up the mehter band of the Ottoman military band and the best and richest basket makers of Istanbul came from Sulukule. The Basketmakers' Kiosk was also built in their honor, where the basket makers guild was based.[37] In East Thrace, the european part of turkey, in the Kırklareli Province,they are the Sepetçi Romanlar (Basket-weaver Roma), who are still doing their old job today and The Sepetçi Association was established in the Vize district of Kırklareli.[38] Also in Gelibolu they are a Group of Sepetçi whose Ancestor's came from Greece, still weave Baskets.[39] Also in other parts in Turkey, live descendants of the Basketmaker Roma, who once came from Greece, some of them still speak Sepečides Romani.


A special case are some families in Istanbul who call themselves Hintli (meaning in Turkish: Indian people), explain their brown skin color as follows: they are the descendants of Muslim Indian men of the medical team who once acted as medics for Ottoman soldiers who were wounded during the Balkan War of 1912–13.[40] After the Balkan war, some of these Muslim Indian men married Turkish widows and stayed in Istanbul.[41] Their offspring married each other, which explains their appearance. They do not want to be called Romanlar, but their lifestyle and music do not distinguish them from the Romanlar in Istanbul.


Notable Turkish people of Romani heritage

See also


This article uses bare URLs, which may be threatened by link rot. Please consider converting them to full citations to ensure the article remains verifiable and maintains a consistent citation style. Several templates and tools are available to assist in formatting, such as reFill (documentation). (March 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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