Bey Mahallesi. Atatürk Bulvarı. Uyum Apt. No:30 Kat:1 Daire:1
Şahinbey, Gaziantep/ Türkiye
The Dom communities live in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. The Dom identify themselves as citizens (like Lebanese, Jordanian, Iranian, etc.). The exact number of their population is unknown yet, it is estimated that the Dom population in Middle Eastern countries is around 5 million.
The Dom in Turkey
Due to the lack of official statistics and reliable estimates, the total number of Gypsies (Dom, Lom and Rom or sub-groups such as Abdals) is not known. According the Council of Europe, the tht total number estimated varies between 500.000 and 5 Million.
A great part of Gypsies live in the Western regions of Turkey whereas Dom and Lom groups mostly live in South-Eastern and Eastern regions. The Dom form a different linguistic group of Indian origin who speak Domari. Today Dom societies mainly live in Middle East and North Africa. In Turkey Dom groups generally live in the South-East of the country. They are mostly composed of semi-nomadic or nomadic groups even though some has adopted city life and their population is over 500 thousand. They are a multi-lingual community who in addition to their native language speaks the languages of people living in the areas they live (Kurdish, Arabic, Turkish). The Dom who dealt with crafts such as ironworking, metal-work, leather-work, basketry, dentistry, circumcision practice, musicianship, fortune telling for centuries today lost these professions since the lost their validity and they led to different professions. These communities who live a nomadic life to practice these professions adopted the semi-nomadic life in the last 50 years. These communities, who have been providing handcrafts to the other people they live together, gradually became unemployed due to increasing population and ever-developing industry and mass production. Today, they do seasonal agricultural work, waste-refuse collection and daily work in almost every region of Turkey.
The Dom in Syria
The Dom society in Syria lived together with other people for centuries. The community composed of groups living a peripatetic life, provided services for the communities they live together with their traditional crafts such as musicianship, ironwork, traditional dentistry, woodwork, strainer making, basketry, metalwork and peddling. By the change and development in the production system these communities were directed to new professions such as seasonal agricultural labor, waste and refuse collection or they changed and renew their traditional crafts. For example, hammersmiths started to forge cold iron and produce doors, windows, arrows and construction forging. Musician groups started to take part in the entertainment industry and to take stage in wedding ceremonies and night clubs. Traditional dentists from Syria moved to the other countries of Middle East and continued their profession there. Peddler and hawker Dom community members used to carry on an important amount of trade by doing commercial travels between Gulf countries and Syria before the war
A great part of the Dom society living in Syria are documented as Syrian citizens. The interviews made on this subject reveal that especially the communities who embraced the dwellers’ life did not have any problems regarding citizenship certificates and the children could receive primary education.
Part of the communities leads an informal life, without individual identity cards, passports and even birth certificates specially to avoid compulsory military service. Dur to long compulsory military service time the members of the group avoided population registries. Another reason for not being registered is the fact that they cannot comprehend the meaning of borders in Middle East, where they lived for centuries. The Dom live in the centuries-old Middle Eastern geography without borders and migrate from Iran to Egypt, from Anatolia to Gulf for centuries.
The Dom in Lebanon
Dom communities are not homogenous even though they share a common history in Middle East. As they do in other countries, the communities in Lebanon display differences in terms of language and living conditions. Even though Dom communities in Lebanon live intensively in Sidon, Beirut, Tyre, Jubayl, Tripoli and Beqaa Valley, a lot of families spread to the whole country.
Lebanon is historically a central point and junction for Syria and other countries of Middle East. Even today Dom communities migrate to Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Palestine and other Gulf countries. Today, a part of the Dom groups living in Lebanon, consists “Phalestinian Doms” migrated from Palestine. Families who live in Sabra and Shatila towns, identify themselves as Phlestinians.
There are still modern nomadic Dom groups who travel between the neighboring countries, without a regard to the modern borders. Particularly before the civil war in Syria, most of the Dom communities had crossed the border and came to Bekaa Vadis and Tripoli, northern Lebanon, to work in seasonal agricultural work and other daily jobs.
They live together with Palestinian refugees and Lebanese people who are living in poverty in tents and cottages in Beqaa Valley and in squatter areas in Beirut and other cities. To conceal their real identity, they introduce themselves as Turkmens, Syrians and Arab-Bedouins. They struggle with fundamental problems such as access to healthy accommodation, clean water, drainage system, electricity, school and healthcare services.
There are Dom individuals with formal employment and occupations among the city-dwelling doms, most of them work as gathering donation on streets, playing drums, flute or other instruments in weddings and parties. Especially in night clubs, many Dom musicians work, especially in the entertainment industry in the Middle East musicians have an important place..
Dom children work to support their families economically by selling candies, nuts, chewing gums instead of going to schools. Despite the existence of non-governmental organizations making an effort for the education of these children, the government does not have an edu-cation program.
Some Dom maintain their traditional crafts by adjusting their profession to the requirements of the modern day.
Some men from the community produce a one-string instrument called Rababa. Additionally producers of the wooden plates used to crush coffee beans, hammersmiths producing traditional Arabic daggers and traditional dentists still work actively. Musician groups still perform their art and whicle men play musical instruments women sing and dance. Some of them travel for commercial reasons to Gulf countries.
The Dom in Jordan
Studies regarding the Dom society in Jordan , reveal that the Dom society living here is composed of five large families among which Tamarzeh tribe is the biggest who categorize themselves as Jordanian Dom since they were living in the country before the establishment of the country. Other four tribes are Ka’akov, Ga’agreh, Balahayeh and Nawasfeh. Other communities forming Gypsy population are composed of the communities coming from Palestine (Western Bank and Gaza) and mainly communities from Iraq and Syria. Dom com-munities living in Jordan name themselves as Bani Murrah. Additionally Abdal communities migrate between countries such as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq for hundreds of years. After the Syrian civil war tens of Abdal communities took shelter in Jordan. Jordan has previously received intense Dom migration flux just before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Dom population in Jordan continues to be mobile since Jordan is the most stable country in the Region. While some of them move within the country borders through the Jordan Valley, some groups follow a longer migration route towards Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
Most of the nomadic or semi-nomadic families live in tents under very primitive living conditions without access to water or electricity. The society has major problems especially in accessing clean water. Rents given to the camp area, daily prices for drinking water, gas, electricity, health services and education of children become prominent as the basic problems of Dom Society.
As it is in the other Middle Eastern countries, the Gypsies are not accepted by Jordanian society because of reasons such as racist prejudices and lack of communication. The inefficacy of the programs developed by Jordanian government and civil society reinforce the racial prejudices that the Dom society is subjected to and lead them to hide their identities. Negative images overshadow the countless constructive contributions of the Dom society to the Jordanian society. The effects of societal isolation continue to be seen in hiding ethnic identities.
The Dom in Egypt
Lacking either identity-based categorization or statistical representation, it is almost impossible to estimate the size of Egypt’s Dom population. The main providers of data are evangelical organizations, who estimate the group to include between one and two million people, most of whom are Muslim. Doms in Egypt are divided into different sub-groups or tribes, a concept which is also more meaningful in a Middle Eastern context. Among the tribes names are the Ghagar, the Nawar, the Halebi – words which are also insults in Arabic. Evangelical organizations suggest that Ghagar, which means “vagrant,” may be the largest group of Egyptian Doms.
Since the Doms do not exist officially, there has been no attempt to either eradicate or assimilate them. In Europe, forced integration and marginalization seem to be the only two possible outcomes for the Roma groups, whose nomadism has often been perceived as defiance, or affinity with adverse allegiances. In Egypt, by contrast, nomadism has been historically an integrated aspect of the Egyptian society, even if nomads have been throughout the twentieth century regarded as anachronistic; furthermore, nomadism in the Middle East has mostly been associated with Bedouins and nomadic pastoralists, not with Gypsies.
The Dom in Iraq
While there are no accurate figures for the number of Dom in Iraq, estimates suggest the population totals 60,000 people primarily residing on the outskirts of Baghdad, Mosul and Basra. Other estimates suggest the figure is between 50,000 and 200,000. The human rights situation for the Dom in Iraq is dire, with many internally displaced or forcibly removed from their settlements.
The Dom lack state protection and are subjected to abuse, stigmatisation and marginalisation, particularly affecting women and children. The treatment of the Dom deteriorated significantly after 2003, due in part to a perception that they supported former President, Saddam Hussein. With a lack of civil documentation many Dom are stateless or at risk of statelessness. (https://statelessjourneys.org/wp-content/uploads/StatelessJourneys-Iraq-summary-final.pdf)