The only district in Europe where Roma are the majority: a day in Šuto Orizari

 The current Macedonian government, in power since May 2017,has committed to paying more attention to the needs of Roma — but mutual suspicion remains.
“Shutka? I have been there only once, looking for a shawl. I got one for just two euros, can you imagine?” says Filipa, 20, puffing on a cigarette. 
“By the way, beware of pickpockets once you are there.”

Filipa’s experience in the district of Šuto Orizari, known by locals as Shutka, is typical of the response you will get from many long-term residents of Skopje, capital of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Šuto Orizari is possibly unique in Europe as a district run by members of the Roma community, but to most Macedonians, it’s known mainly for its market. And a reputation for crime.

Šuto Orizari’s recent history starts in 1963, when an earthquake destroyed swathes of Skopje and forced many residents to resettle. The Roma community was dislodged from the Topaana neighbourhood where they traditionally lived. A plan to assimilate local populations by allocating homes in newly-built blocks of flats was proposed by the local authorities until a backlash from ethnic Albanians and Slavic Macedonians prompted a rethink.

Instead, the Roma were directed to a barren zone on the outskirts of the city and Šuto Orizari was born.

In 1996 the neighbourhood was officially recognised as one of the 10 municipalities that form the city of Skopje, thus becoming the first municipality in Europe where the Romani is the official language, together with Macedonian. A 2002 census identified 80% of the population as Roma.

Arriving in Šuto Orizari, travellers are greeted by blue-green flags marked by an irradiating Indian chakra, a symbol of the people’s migration from the sub-continent. Streets also testify to the epic journey undertaken by the Roma people around a thousand years ago when they spread across Europe — a voyage depicted in the French lyric movie Latcho Drom (“Have a safe journey”); Indira Gandhi Street, named after the first Indian president that acknowledged a shared heritage between Roma people and Indians; and Gvadalahara Street, dedicated to the Spanish city of Guadalajara. There's also Garsija Lorka Street, which pays homage to the Spanish author who chronicled Roma people's ordinary lives in many of his works, such as Romancero Gitano (1928).

The article is taken from "EuroNews", below is the link: