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Images of Shutka

Photo essay: A day in the life of Skopje's most famous suburb. by Dana Wilson and Adem Ademi 19 March 2007

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The main street of Suto Orizari leading to the market and center of this municipality on the outskirts of the Macedonian capital Skopje. With an official population of 22,000 (estimates go as high as 35,000), Suto Orizari (popularly "Shutka") has its own elected council and member of parliament.

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Erdogan Iseni, 32, mayor since 2002 of the predominantly Romani municipality, stands in front of the 15th-century stone bridge in the center of Skopje. "Roma need to start being accepted as equals. Roma are excluded, but in order to become excluded they first need to be in the system. They were never accepted and are isolated as opposed to being excluded."

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A young boy guides geese past an Albanian-owned food store. People from many nations live and work in Shutka including Albanians, Turks, and citizens of the other former Yugoslav republics.

Always the hottest source of pure Romani music in the Balkans, Shutka is a place where the lack of finances doesn't stand in the way of respect for tradition and lavish weddings.

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Ferki Demirovski, 24, in front of the government building in central Skopje, where he works as an advisor to one of the two cabinet ministers in charge of attracting foreign investment. He has been in his current post for six months and lobbies for the Romani community. One of his projects in the planning stage is a coal-gas plant in that would employ 400 in Suto Orizari. "If you compare [Macedonia] with other countries it is heaven for Roma."

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Jeva Hasan, 20, Zejnep Demir, 28, and Shefije Emin, 18, have all worked for about a year in a Turkish-owned shoe store. The owner says the girls are like his own daughters.

People come from all over Macedonia to shop in Shutka's sprawling open-air clothing market. More than 5,000 salespeople work here, earning 100 to 200 euros a month.

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Zoran "Zoke" Jordanov, 36, executive director of Equality for Gays and Lesbians (EGAL) in Macedonia, Suad "Johnny" Ahmed, 28, and Safet Jasar, 30, peer educator and outreach worker, at EGAL's Shutka branch, MSM (Men Sex With Men). Jordanov says that serious research on Romani sexual behavior still needs to be done, but he estimates that 60 percent to 70 percent of Romani men under 30 have sex with other men, and says that the MSM office sees up to a dozen visitors daily.
Dana Wilson is a photojournalist based in Prague.

The text was written by Adem Ademi, a journalist with the Macedonian television station A1.
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