Romania's self-styled 'king of Gypsies' dies at 58

Romania’s self-proclaimed “king of Gypsies” Florin Cioaba died Sunday of a heart attack in a Turkish hospital, local media said.

Cioaba, 58, was admitted Tuesday to a hospital in the southern city of Antalya where he was on holidays with his family.

He was the son of a respected Roma leader Ion Cioaba who had been deported to Transdniestria in 1942 by pro-Nazi marshal Ion Antonescu.

Florin Cioaba proclaimed himself “king of Gypsies all over the world” in 1997, shortly after his father’s death.

In 2003 he sparked a major controversy when he married his 12-year-old daughter to a Roma boy aged 15.

Following a wave of criticism, however, he pledged to work to uproot the widespread tradition of child marriages among the Roma.

Cioaba also encouraged Roma families to send their children to school in a bid to fight poverty stemming from a lack of education.

In 2004 he ran for a seat in Romania’s parliament but did not garner enough votes.

Romania’s President Traian Basescu, who on several occasions joined Cioaba during Roma festivities, sent condolences.

Romania counts the largest Roma minority in Europe. The last census put their number at 619,000 people, but NGOs say it may be up to two million.

They were enslaved for centuries, and still face discrimination in the job and housing markets, despite some progress in recent years.

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