The murder of a 10-year-old Romani boy by a landlord accusing him of theft in the western Turkish city of Denizli on Sunday has sparked clashes between locals and the Romani community.
An angry crowd set four houses on fire in the city's Honaz district, where the murder suspect lives, and clashed with the suspect's relatives. Four people were injured in the incidents raising concerns of maltreatment of the Romani citizens of Turkey.
Yaşar Kopuk, 62, allegedly fired shots when he saw Ali İnci, a Romani teenager, stealing pieces of metal from his courtyard. The teenager, whose age was reported as 15 by some media outlets and claimed to be 10-years-old by his family, was injured and died at the scene.
After hearing of his death, about 100 people from a predominantly Romani neighborhood, marched to Kopuk's house. Some members of the angry mob stormed the house, whose occupants fled, and trashed the place. They then set the house and three other houses next to it on fire. The murder suspect's relatives living in the same neighborhood fired into air to disperse the crowd. Romanis and locals then hurled stones at each other. Security forces intervened in the clashes which left four people injured. The crowd was dispersed after the intervention.
Local administrators rushed to the neighborhood, trying to calm the angry public. Riot police were deployed to the neighborhood after the clashes ceased and stood guard to prevent further clashes yesterday as a funeral for the slain teenager was held.
The murder suspect remains in custody while the family of the boy were angry about the attack. They claimed the victim was mentally ill and was shot at "only for grabbing two pieces of metal." "(The suspect) shot at him for nothing. He could tell us what the boy did instead of shooting a 10-year-old. They hurt us and our people hurt them," the victim's grandfather told reporters.
Romani people in Turkey, like many other countries in the world, complain of discrimination and alienation by the public. No tangible tensions exist between locals and Romanis in the country though isolated incidents have sometimes led to clashes. Two years ago, a Romani community and locals engaged in fierce clashes after a Romani citizen shot and injured the daughter of a neighbor he had argued with.
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