Saturday, December 28, 2013


The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation

September 30, 2013 | by Jarune Uwujaren

The Difference Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation
Source: Elephant Journal

Cultural appropriation is a term that isn’t often heard in daily conversation, which means it’s inevitably misunderstood by those who feel attacked by feminists, sociologically-informed bloggers, and others who use the term.

Many a white person sporting dreadlocks or a bindi online has taken cultural appropriation to mean the policing of what white people can or can’t wear and enjoy.

Having considered their fashion choices a form of personal expression, some may feel unfairly targeted for simply dressing and acting in a way that feels comfortable for them.

The same can be said for those who find criticisms of the Harlem Shake meme and whatever it is Miley Cyrus did last month to be an obnoxious form of hipsterdom – just because something has origins in black culture, they say, doesn’t mean white artists can’t emulate and enjoy it.

And then there are people who believe that everything is cultural appropriation – from the passing around of gun powder to the worldwide popularity of tea.

They’re tired of certain forms of cultural appropriation – like models in Native American headdresses – being labeled as problematic while many of us are gorging on Chipotle burritos, doing yoga, and popping sushi into our mouths with chopsticks.

They have a point.

Where do we draw the line between “appropriate” forms of cultural exchange and more damaging patterns of cultural appropriation?

To be honest, I don’t know that there is a thin, straight line between them.

But even if the line between exchange and appropriation bends, twists, and loop-de-loops in ways it would take decades of academic thought to unpack, it has a definite starting point: Respect.

What Cultural Exchange Is Not

One of the reasons that cultural appropriation is a hard concept to grasp for so many is that Westerners are used to pressing their own culture onto others and taking what they want in return.

We tend to think of this as cultural exchange when really, it’s no more an exchange than pressuring your neighbors to adopt your ideals while stealing their family heirlooms.

True cultural exchange is not the process of “Here’s my culture, I’ll have some of yours” that we sometimes think it is. It’s something that should be mutual.

Just because Indian Americans wear business suits doesn’t mean all Americans own bindis and saris. Just because some black Americans straighten their hair doesn’t mean all Americans own dreadlocks.

The fact is, Western culture invites and, at times, demands assimilation. Not every culture has chosen to open itself up to being adopted by outsiders in the same way.

And there’s good reason for that.

“Ethnic” clothes and hairstyles are still stigmatized as unprofessional, “cultural” foods are treated as exotic past times, and the vernacular of people of color is ridiculed and demeaned.

So there is an unequal exchange between Western culture – an all-consuming mishmash of over-simplified and sellable foreign influences with a dash each of Coke and Pepsi – and marginalized cultures.

People of all cultures wear business suits and collared shirts to survive. But when one is of the dominant culture, adopting the clothing, food, or slang of other cultures has nothing to do with survival.

So as free as people should be to wear whatever hair and clothing they enjoy, using someone else’s cultural symbols to satisfy a personal need for self-expression is an exercise in privilege.

Because for those of us who have felt forced and pressured to change the way we look, behave, and speak just to earn enough respect to stay employed and safe, our modes of self-expression are still limited.

African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is consistently treated as lesser than Standard English, but people whitewash black slang and use expressions they barely understand as punch lines, or to make themselves seem cool.

People shirk “ethnic” clothes in corporate culture, but wear bastardized versions of them on Halloween.

There is no exchange, understanding, or respect in such cases – only taking.

What Cultural Exchange Can Look Like

That doesn’t mean that cultural exchange never happens, or that we can never partake in one another’s cultures. But there needs to be some element of mutual understanding, equality, and respect for it to be a true exchange.

I remember that at my sister’s wedding, the groom – who happened to be white – changed midway through the ceremony along with my sister into modern, but fairly traditional, Nigerian clothes.

Even though some family members found it amusing, there was never any undertone of the clothes being treated as a costume or “experience” for a white person to enjoy for a little bit and discard later. He was invited – both as a new family member and a guest – to engage our culture in this way.

If he had been obnoxious about it – treated it as exotic or weird or pretended he now understood what it means to be Nigerian and refused to wear Western clothes ever again – the experience would have been more appropriative.

But instead, he wore them from a place of respect.

That’s what cultural exchange can look like – engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, invitation only.

Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t pretend to be a part of the household. Don’t make yourself out to be an honored guest whom the householders should be grateful to entertain and educate for hours on end.

Don’t ask a bunch of personal questions or make light of something that’s clearly a sore spot. Just act like any polite house guest would by being attentive and knowing your boundaries.

If, instead, you try to approach another culture as a mooch, busybody, or interloper, you will be shown the door. It’s that simple.

Well, maybe not as simple when you move beyond the metaphor and into the real world. If you’re from a so-called melting pot nation, you know what’s it’s like to be a perpetual couch surfer moving through the domains of many cultures.

Where Defining Cultural Appropriation Gets Messy

Is the Asian fusion takeout I order every week culturally appropriative? Even though I’m Black, is wearing dreadlocks appropriating forms of religious expression that really don’t belong to me?

Is meditating cultural appropriation? Is Western yoga appropriation? Is eating a burrito, cosplaying, being truly fascinated by another culture, decorating with Shoji screens, or wearing a headscarf cultural appropriation?

There are so many things that have been chopped up, recolored, and tossed together to make up Western culture that even when we know things are appropriative in some way, we find them hard to let go of.

And then there are the things that have been freely shared by other cultures – Buddhism for example – that have been both respected and bastardized at different turns in the process of exchange.

At times, well-meaning people who struggle with their own appropriative behavior turn to textbooks, online comment boards, Google, and Tumblr ask boxes in search of a clear cut answer to the question, “Is this [insert pop culture thing, hairstyle, tattoo, or personal behavior here] cultural appropriation?”

That’s a question we have to educate ourselves enough to, if not answer, think critically about.

We have a responsibility to listen to people of marginalized cultures, understand as much as possible the blatant and subtle ways in which their cultures have been appropriated and exploited, and educate ourselves enough to make informed choices when it comes to engaging with people of other cultures.

So if you’re reading this and you’re tired of people giving white women wearing bindis crap for appropriating because “freedom of speech,” recognize that pointing out cultural appropriation is not personal.

This isn’t a matter of telling people what to wear. It’s a matter of telling people that they don’t wear things in a vacuum and there are many social and historical implications to treating marginalized cultures like costumes.

It’s also not a matter of ignoring “real” issues in favor of criticizing the missteps of a few hipsters, fashion magazines, or baseball teams.

Cultural appropriation is itself a real issue because it demonstrates the imbalance of power that still remains between cultures that have been colonized and the ex-colonizers.

Regardless, this is not an article asking you to over-analyze everything you do and wrack yourself with guilt.

Because honestly, no one cares about your guilt, no one cares about your hurt feelings, and no one cares about your clothes or hair when they’re pointing out cultural appropriation.

When someone’s behavior is labeled culturally appropriative, it’s usually not about that specific person being horrible and evil.

It’s about a centuries’ old pattern of taking, stealing, exploiting, and misunderstanding the history and symbols that are meaningful to people of marginalized cultures.

The intentions of the inadvertent appropriator are irrelevant in this context.

Therefore, what this article is asking you to do is educate yourself, listen, and be open to reexamining the symbols you use without thinking, the cultures you engage with without understanding, and the historical and social climate we all need to be seeing.

Want to discuss this further? Login to our online forum and start a post! If you’re not already registered as a forum user, please register first here.

Jarune Uwujaren is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. A Nigerian-American recent graduate who’s stumbling towards a career in writing, Jarune can currently be found drifting around the DC metro area with a phone or a laptop nearby. When not writing for fun or profit, Jarune enjoys food, fresh air, good books, drawing, poetry, and sci-fi

Friday, December 20, 2013


Thursday, December 12, 2013

hope her internet address comes through . we're still having computer issues . YOY.

First they came for the Roma: is history repeating itself for the forgotten victims of the Holocaust?

´Gypsy scum. Thieving tinkers. Workshy beggars. Child stealers´. A worrying program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by governments across Europe. But while six centuries of negative stereotyping persists, who will defend Roma from further persecution?
Roma women and their babies are escorted from their camp by a policeman in France
Roma women and their babies are escorted from their camp by a policeman in France

In what looks increasingly like a pre-planned ´clean-up operation´, thousands of European Roma – usually referred to by the derogatory ´gypsies´- are being subjected to terrible treatment at the hands of the state, not to mention many vigilante mobs. But with so many deeply-entrenched negative feelings about this ethnic minority in the collective European mind, most people don´t care very much.

In Italy, violent evictions of Roma camps have been taking place since 2008, despite a ruling by Italy’s high court that these government crackdowns are unlawful. In France, Roma camp evictions began last year.70% of camps were razed in 2012, displacing over 12,000 Roma, and in one city locals took matters into their own hands and set fire to a settlement.

Thousands more Roma families have been displaced this year, and the trend looks set to continue- even French media are printing headlines about a ´Roma overdose´, and a facebook page called ´adopt a gypsy´ was at the center of another row about Roma rights in August, with one blogger speaking of ´eliminating´ the ethnic minority.
A Romany girl after a French camp eviction
A Romany girl after a French camp eviction

In October, French students took to the streets to demand the return of a 15 year-old Romany schoolgirl who was detained and deported during a school trip. Leonarda Dibrani, of Kosovan heritage, had been studying in France while her family awaited news of their asylum claim It was rejected, so police stormed Leonarda´s school bus on a field trip, forcibly removing and arresting her. The handling of the case caused unnecessary public humiliation and trauma for everyone involved – even Leonarda´s teachers were distressed and crying.

The incident, and subsequent violent clashes on the streets between police and students (video) came after one French politician said that most of France´s 20,000 Roma do not want to integrate, and should go home.
Students protest against Dibrani´s deportation
Students protest against deportation

But how can they integrate when they are hated- and where is home anyway? As Leonarda told a Kosovan news agency (in French) after deportation: “I’m frightened, I don’t speak Albanian. My life is in France. I don’t want to go to school here because I don’t speak any of the local languages.”

The European financial crisis has fuelled racism and given rise to neo-fascism across the continent, providing governments with a convenient reason (amid widespread public support) for the toughening-up of immigration laws. Roma are an easy first target: by many, they are feared (and therefore hated). As a result, too many people lack the empathy and understanding to recognize how unjust the current wave of anti-Roma policies really are- or to ask themselves why Roma are living in camps in the first place.

Comment threads on Roma-related articles show that most Europeans do not see any misplaced racism and prejudice. Non-Roma complain how ´gypsies´never work, how they are dirty and unhygienic, how their camps ruin the countryside and how their children never go to school. They complain that most Roma are drug dealers and pick-pockets without considering that with 90% of all Roma living below the poverty line, crime could be seen as a logical consequence of exclusion and desperation. Roma are also criticized for their tendency to live in very closed communities, their hostile attitudes towards the rest of society, and their unwillingness to integrate.

But Roma have been imprisoned, enslaved, murdered, and denied basic human rights for more than six centuries in Europe, so how can we expect them to show us any respect?
Roma are thought to descend from the Banjara people of Northern India
Roma are thought to descend from the Banjara people of Northern India

Historians believe this colorful tribe migrated slowly to Europe from Northern India, as refugees fleeing a Muslim invasion in the eleventh century. It is thought that the Roma might trace their ancestry back to the Banjara tribe of Rajasthan- a people known as ´The Gypsies of India´. Seeing their dark eyes and hair, native Europeans first assumed they were Egyptian and variations of this led to the word Gypsy. For 200 years they were reasonably well received, with a reputation for being highly skilled and very creative- traditionally many Roma were musicians, metalworkers and craftsmen.

But within a couple of centuries, laws were passed prohibiting marriage between Roma and non-Roma, and so began a horrific campaign of hatred against them which continues to this day. For 500 years Roma were sold into slavery, and in various countries Roma women were often forcibly sterilized (in the Czech republic this happened as recently as the 1970s). Millions of Roma were deported, their language and culture was criminalized, and they were hanged or otherwise executed in countries all over Europe, including the UK. Like the Jews, the Roma were implicated in Jesus´s crucifixion and accused of cannibalism. The myth that Roma like to kidnap white children began in the middle ages as a smear campaign and is perpetuated to this day through ongoing ignorance and segregation.

The Roma were also the forgotten victims of the Holocaust, with an estimated 500,000 gassed in Hitler´s concentration camps. Millions more were exiled, beaten and starved, with at least one case of a heavily pregnant Romany woman shot dead with her child still kicking inside her. At Buchenwald, 250 Roma children were used as guinea-pigs to test Zyklon-B. Historians estimate that two million Roma (between 25% and 70% of the entire population in Europe at that time) were murdered during World War 2.
The European Roma population was decimated during the Holocaust
The European Roma population was decimated during the Holocaust

Sometimes the darkest periods of human history serve as crucial lessons for future generations, helping us to build a more tolerant and progressive society. The horrific fate of Jews during the Holocaust is a case in point, and thankfully it is now impossible to imagine how widespread antisemitism could lead to the genocide of millions.

But for the Roma- whose Holocaust memorial was only opened in October this year- little has changed. And while the German chancellor Angela Merkel waxed lyrical about the horrors Roma had suffered at Hitler´s hands, local German governments were working hard to prevent Roma immigration and thousands of Roma children were being made homeless all over Europe. Not only that, but there were even some worrying cases of government-organized child abduction.

Child snatching by the state

A fair-haired little girl called Maria hit headlines around the globe when she was seized from another organized raid at a Roma camp in Greece, also in October. Her dark-skinned parents insisted they had adopted her- but with no papers to prove it, Maria was assumed to be a victim of kidnapping. She was removed from their care, and a worldwide hunt for her real parents was launched. Extensive media coverage of the event, in which Maria was dubbed ´the blonde angel´, exposed a deep and widespread mistrust, ignorance and stereotyping of Roma people across Europe- if not in the articles themselves, then certainly in the comment threads below.

But the Greek family were telling the truth- a Bulgarian Romany woman´s DNA tests proved that she was Maria´s biological mother. She explained how she had given her baby to the Greek couple because she was too poor to raise a child. Despite the fact nobody has any evidence to suggest little Maria wasn´t perfectly happy and settled before the raid, and despite the fact informal adoption is perfectly normal in Roma culture, Maria was never returned to the care of her adoptive parents. Instead she was taken- terrified and alone, only able to understand Roma- to a ´crisis centre´ to await adoption (with a white family, no doubt). Meanwhile, Maria´s adoptive Greek Roma parents have been charged with child abduction and are in prison awaiting their trial.
Maria, the ´blonde angel´taken from her adoptive Roma parents

In Ireland, also in October, ministers were embarrassed after ordering similar raids on Roma camps and seizing two blonde- haired children who they also assumed had been kidnapped. But in these cases, DNA tests showed the Roma parents were in fact biological. This led to a much-needed debate about blatant racism – would the same wild assumptions have been made if a dark-skinned child had been found living with a white family? Pavee Point, an advocacy group for Irish Roma, referred to the incidents as a clear case of ´state abduction´.

Whether we like to admit it or not, that´s exactly what they were. And other events (such as the attempted abduction of a blonde Romany boy in Serbia in 2002) add to the evidence that what we are witnessing now is simply an explosion of centuries-old, deep-seated collective racism and a sense of white superiority.

Roma children in schools for the mentally disabled

And so the prejudice continues, with the life expectancy of an average Romany 10 to 15 years lower than that of other Europeans. Eastern countries are traditionally home to most Roma communities, but discrimination there is even worse. In Serbia, city authorities have forced more than 1,000 Roma out of a settlement without giving a reason, moving many families into segregated metal containers scattered around the capital.

roma eastern eIn the Czech republic, 91% of citizens admitted to having negative feelings towards Roma. This widespread culture of discrimination could account for the fact that 75% of all Roma children there are sent to schools for children with learning difficulties. This problem- labelling Roma children as retarded simply because they speak another language and dress differently- is echoed throughout Eastern Europe, with Romania, the Czech republic, Hungary and Slovakia all accused of maltreatment of Roma children through both ethnic segregation (pupils are prevented from mixing with non-Roma children) and the tendency to give Roma children a sub-standard education in schools for the mentally impaired.

In Hungary, Roma families regularly suffer violence from vigilante mobs, but victims are unlikely to find sympathy from the Hungarian police because 54% of officers believe criminality to be a key part of Roma culture. This kind of institutional racism makes it acceptable for even politicians to make vile remarks. One mayor of a town in Slovakia reportedly said: “I am no racist … but some Gypsies you would have to shoot.”

Hatred of the other is born of fear and ignorance, and this kind of unhelpful comment is a huge barrier to mutual understanding and eventual integration. But while it´s true that many Roma don´t want to be part of our society, who can blame them considering the horrific things inflicted on them throughout their tragic history? Bearing that in mind, shouldn´t the responsibility to reach out and find common ground lie with the oppressor, not the oppressed?

gyps1So what´s the solution? Integration begins with acceptance, which over time can lead to eventual celebration of minority culture. Roma language could be taught in schools where Roma communities exist for example, in the same way Spanish taught in American schools can act as a bridge between Latino immigrants and the native population.

Spain´s mainstream Gitano culture: an example to the world

Spain is home to an estimated one million Roma, and is an excellent example of how integration is possible. In fact, the traditional image of Spain: soul stirring flamenco guitar, dark-skinned exotic dancers with long frilled skirts- is in reality Roma culture. Native Roma identify themselves as Gitanos (Spanish for gypsy, and not an offensive term in this case). Their native tongue is Spanish, and dating and marriage between Roma and non-Roma is perfectly normal. Nearly all Roma children in Spain finish primary school, and although in 1978 three-quarters of Spain’s Roma lived in substandard housing, today just 12% do.
In Spain, Roma culture is now mainstream, aiding integration and social acceptance. Credit:
In Spain, Roma culture is now mainstream, aiding integration and social acceptance. Credit:

Why? Because Gitano culture- largely through flamenco music- was accepted in mainstream Spanish society, to the point where Gitano culture became Spanish culture, particularly in Southern Spain (a region called Andalusia). In fact, celebrated Spanish (non-Roma) poet Federico García Lorca once said: “The Roma is the most basic, most profound, the most aristocratic of my country, as representative of their way and whoever keeps the flame, blood, and the alphabet of the universal Andalusian truth.”

The unique situation in Spain should give us hope, not hatred. It demonstrates how acceptance and celebration of a different culture gives Roma pride and a sense of self-worth- resulting in high social achievement and natural inclusion.

Note: In this article I use Romany (singular) and Roma (plural), as these are the terms usually used to distinguish European Roma, but the terms Romanies or Romanis are also frequently used. This article was first published on True Activist here, with some comments kind of proving my point. If you want to comment here, please be thoughtful!

Friday, November 1, 2013

We have gotten a lot of positive and encouraging messages, urging us to continue publishing.'
We are still having some problems with spam, and logistical changes to blogger. (showing photos has become difficult...)

We thank you all for your support, and ask you to visit our facebook page
lolodiklo:romani against racism
until we get these blog issues worked out.

sastipen taj baxthale phral and phen

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Out of thousands of spam messages, we receive one that found our site useful

If people are interested in our continuing the site, please leave a comment.

Spam immediately discounted.

Nais tukai

Thank you


Sunday, May 19, 2013


We're taking a hiatus from posting on the blog.

There are many factors in this decision, not the least of which is the enoromous amount of spam we receive everyday.

Sorting the comments is very time consuming. I fear we lose real comments in the process.

Until we can resolve this problem, we won't be posting on this page.

We will be updating on the lolodiklo: romani against racism face book page

Be careful to use the :
because there is a defunct page with a semi ;

Life's an adventure eh.

Please visit us on facebook.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013



Q & A

Amoun Sleem runs a community center to help Gypsy youths fight poverty and discrimination, which she once faced herself.

April 19, 2013|By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times


JERUSALEM — Growing up poor and motherless in the slums of Jerusalem's Old City, Amoun Sleem dropped out of school at age 7 after her teacher repeatedly singled her out as a Gypsy, inspecting her hair for lice in front of the class and calling her "Nawar," a derogatory Arabic term that means "dirty."

On the streets, she learned English by selling postcards to tourists, but soon realized that a life of begging was not for her. At 9, she reentered school and stayed until she got a degree in business administration from Ibrahimi College in Jerusalem.

Now Sleem runs the Domari Society of Gypsies in Jerusalem, a community learning and advocacy center created to preserve the culture of the Dom people, believed to be a branch of the Roma ethnic group — though she prefers the term Gypsies. She hopes to instill pride in today's youths, who are facing the same poverty and discrimination she did.

As many of Jerusalem's approximately 1,000 Gypsies seek to assimilate into Palestinian society because they've been made to feel ashamed of their roots, Sleem's center offers classes in the dying language of Domari, cookbooks of Gypsy recipes, lessons in traditional crafts and after-school tutoring to address the community's dropout rate, which she said is still 30%.

Sleem, who is publishing her autobiography later this year, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about how to end her community's cycle of poverty without losing its identity in the Holy Land, where Gypsies have lived for centuries.

It seems one of the biggest challenges to Gypsy culture in Jerusalem is the shame and self-loathing some Gypsies feel. What happened to Gypsy pride?

A lot of us gave up on our culture because we didn't want people to point or laugh at us. We face discrimination from both Israelis and Palestinians. So in order to fit in, some are ashamed to even speak our language in the streets. Traditionally, Gypsy women love colorful clothing, but now they dress like other Palestinians so they don't stand out. As we mix in with Palestinians, we are losing our identity.

Much of the problem is with ourselves. People look at us as if we are lower. They think we are lazy or beggars. They don't want their children to marry us. It makes us feel that we are not acceptable. And because we don't see any other reality, we start to believe it too.

How do you combat those negatives attitudes, especially when they are instilled at such a young age?

It's very hard to correct. Children learn to be ashamed because of the discrimination they face in schools and in the streets. We provide emotional support and after-school tutoring. We teach them to be proud to be Gypsy. [Recently] some of the girls came into the center to show us their exams and they all got high scores. They were so proud.

The best way is to try to grow inside them a strong belief in themselves. We see some progress. Sometimes I tease them when they are bad and call them "Nawar," and they say back, "No! We are the Dom people."

Gypsies and Jews were both persecuted in the Holocaust. Has that created a bond between the groups?

Most Israelis see us as Palestinians, but sometimes they might respect you a little more than Arabs, probably because this history brings us together. The Jewish people had many of the same problems. No one wanted them in their countries.

But that doesn't turn into help for us. There's not much attention paid to us from the Jewish side. We'd like the government to recognize us as an official minority. We hope that would allow us to get money and support for our culture.

Some of the harshest treatment seems to come from Palestinians.

I connect it to the occupation. They feel they are discriminated against by the Jews, so they look for someone else to discriminate against.

But to be honest, our community is not easy. We don't prove [our worth by making] good livings. You don't see a lot of Gypsy businessmen. There is still a problem with beggars. It's become a bad habit for us. This is the only community center we have.

As an outspoken community leader and a woman, are you seen as a role model?

No, there is still a mentality about women. People think I'm trying to wear the pants or trying to be a man. Being single makes it even worse. Many in our society don't support or believe in women. Yet a lot of the burden is on women, who are expected to beg, raise the children and take care of the house while men sleep and drink coffee. But now you're starting to see more divorce in the community. Women are saying this is not OK anymore.

Which parts of Gypsy culture are most at risk?

The language could disappear here in 20 years. Only older people speak it, though it's more common in Gypsy communities in Gaza Strip and Jordan.

I'm also trying to bring back items like pillows, jewelry-making, big earrings and colorful dresses. We are losing some of our traditions during funerals and weddings, when there is lots of cooking for the entire community over several days and [women decorate their hands with] henna.

Gypsy women are even cutting their hair and coloring it to make it lighter. They think long, black hair is a sign that you are a Gypsy. I even thought about it once, but my father told me, "If you change your hair, you are not my daughter."

When some people think of Gypsies, they think of singing, dancing, fortunetelling. Is that part of the culture or a stereotype?

Many people say that's part of the culture, but I think it was mostly just a way to make money, particularly in Europe. People thought Gypsies could read minds and Gypsies saw it as an opportunity to make a job out of it.

Your center uses the word "Gypsy," but isn't "Romani" the politically correct term?

I will always use "Gypsy." I love the name. It's romantic and has more meaning than "Romani." Some in our community wanted to change the name because they weren't happy with it. But that's their problem. One day I hope people will find it acceptable and say it with pride.

Friday, April 19, 2013



Budapest, Milan, 19 April 2013:


PHOTO Ulisse lives under the Bacula bridge in Milan (Chiara Tiraboschi)

In Italy, Romani communities were faced with another eviction today. The eviction came after a week of protests targeting an informal Romani settlement in Milan which is home to about 350 Roma, mostly from Romania. The protests, led by far right groups and accompanied by racist slogans, turned violent when the protestors threw stones into the settlement.

On 12 April 2013, the far right organisations, Gioventù della Fiamma and Circolo Domenico Leccisi e Gioventù di Ferro held an authorised demonstration in front of the camp.“Roma, go away from the neighborhood” was their call during the demonstration, which approximately 80 people attended. Two more unauthorised demonstrations of a similar nature took place on 15 and 16 April 2013, during which stones were thrown into the camp and fascist slogans and fascist salutes were made.

Following these protests, which called for the urgent eviction of the informal Romani settlement, the Milanese municipal authorities went to the camp yesterday and informed the residents that the camp would be closed. Some Romani residents left the camp after this warning. The authorities began evicting the remaining Roma today early in the morning.

According to municipal authorities, the plan to evict the Roma from the camp had been developed and announced previously. However, they accelerated the process due to security concerns and their inability to protect the Roma settlement from increasing hostility in the area.

The municipality initially announced that they would provide accommodation at a shelter for about 150 people, prioritising women, families with children and persons with disabilities. It is not known how many Romani individuals have been left homeless. The municipality plans to open a new shelter to accommodate them, expected to be opened by the end of April.

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) and Gruppo di Sostegno Forlanini (GSF) are concerned about the safety and security of all Romani individuals who left the camp. Milanese authorities cite security concerns as the major reason to have closed down the camp; however the question remains as to how they will ensure the safety of Roma who are now homeless, and thus yet more vulnerable.

The ERRC and GSF are particularly concerned that this racially-fuelled mob violence is reminiscent of the 2008 pogrom in Ponticelli, Naples and the more recent razing of a Romani settlement in La Continassa, Turin in late 2011. The ERRC and GSF believe that the authorities of Milan are making some headway in the integration of Roma after many years of negative and emergency-based approaches. The NGOs hope that the authorities will in future do all that they can not to surrender to the demands of aggressive right wing groups, and will protect the fundamental rights of all Roma including their right to life, right to housing and right to privacy.

The ERRC and GSF call upon the municipal authorities to provide adequate alternative accommodation to those in emergency shelter following the eviction and to those now on the street, and request that they take all necessary measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such aggression.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre

Thursday, April 18, 2013



Posted by David Meyer



David Meyer is a Foreign Affairs Officer working on Roma issues in the Office of European Affairs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

The Romani people, one of the largest minority groups in Europe, have made significant contributions to European and American culture and societies. From musicians and dancers in Spain, to human rights lawyers in Budapest, to dedicated educators in Macedonia, the Roma people continue to shape Europe's future. Yet, the Roma are one of the most marginalized groups in Europe, facing challenges to overcome systematic discrimination. On April 8, 2013, U.S. and European human rights activists and scholars came together at Harvard University for a conference entitled "Realizing Roma Rights: Addressing Violence, Discrimination, and Segregation in Europe to celebrate International Roma Day" to discuss how the Roma can reclaim their rights and harness the human potential of a diverse population of more than 10 million people.

Living in Eastern Europe in 2009, I witnessed firsthand the effects of the socio-economic exclusion of the Roma population. These experiences led me to return to the State Department in 2012 to focus on U.S. government efforts to promote Roma inclusion and rights in Europe.

It wasn't until 1971 that April 8 was declared International Roma Day by the 4th Romani World Congress. Since then, there has been a steady revitalization of organizations dedicated to promoting Roma inclusion and an awakening of even some of the most isolated Romani populations to their rights in a free and economically prosperous Europe.

One of the most well-known Romani activists to emerge out of this awakening, Andrzej Mirga, now the Senior Advisor on Roma and Sinti Issues at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, took the stage. He has become one of the most ardent defenders of Roma rights in Europe and represents, along with his peers, a small but growing cohort of savvy Romani professionals dedicated to the betterment of their people's social and economic situation.

Mr. Mirga noted that since the 1980s, there have been many potential "historic moments" for societal change to better the situation of Roma, but activists have often been disillusioned by the significant gaps that still exist and the slow progress of European initiatives.

To overcome these gaps, the State Department stands with tireless advocates such as Mr. Mirga. As Secretary Kerry said, "The United States reaffirms its determination to meet this challenge, together with European governments, civil society, and through international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to achieve equality, opportunity, and inclusion for all Roma."

Read more about the State Department's activities on our International Roma Day page on

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Statement by Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence on the occasion of International Roma Day

FROM EU 2013

On International Roma Day, 8 April 2013, the Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, emphasised the importance of implementing the National Roma Integration Strategies, which were published in 2012.

Minister Shatter said: “The development of these Strategies was a major step towards a more inclusive and socially cohesive European Union based on respect for diverse cultural traditions and identities. Implementing the strategies will ensure that the plight of Roma is properly considered in the four priority areas of education, employment, healthcare and housing.”

The Minister pointed out that the experience of Member States in implementing their strategies will enable them to engage in mutual learning, and to elaborate and apply good practices in this field over time. The awaited proposal from the Commission for a Council Recommendation on good practices and approaches to faster socio-economic integration of Roma, which is due to be published during the Irish Presidency, will further advance this work.

Minister Shatter - "Implementing the strategies will ensure that the plight of Roma is properly considered in the four priority areas of education, employment, healthcare and housing.”

The Minister said: “Since our Union is founded on freedom, democracy, justice, the rule of law and respect for human rights, we as Europeans must be greatly concerned by the shocking increase in racism and anti-Semitism in some parts of Europe. I would like to commend Amnesty International for drawing attention to this very important issue.”

Protecting fundamental rights and promoting the Rule of Law in Europe is a priority for Minister Shatter during the Irish Presidency of the European Union. At the Informal meeting of Justice Ministers in January, Ministers considered ways in which political leaders can help tackle growing problems of hate crime and intolerance including racism and anti-Semitism across Europe.

The Minister said:

“We must remain constantly vigilant and take a united approach at European Union and Member State level to address this worrying issue.”

Monday, April 15, 2013


International Roma Day marked the renewal of European and international institutions' call for the integration of Roma communities in the region.


PHOTO The region's Roma population lives in poverty. [AFP]

On April 8th, the EU and its member states underlined that it will not accept the economic and social marginalisation of the continent's largest minority.

"Improving the situation for Roma people is one of the biggest challenges we face in Europe. Making a real difference to their daily lives requires long-term commitments, adequate resources, and concerted action at local, regional, national and European level," the Union said in a statement.

"The EU has laid down a strong framework for action and Member States have drawn up national strategies for Roma inclusion. This is a good first step. The key is now to make sure these policies are implemented on the ground."

One of the largest ethnic minority groups in Europe, numbering 10 million to 12 million, Roma are also arguably the most discriminated against. Most live in central and eastern Europe and the Balkans in abject poverty; levels of education and literacy are low, unemployment rates are exceptionally high. Many are officially stateless. Without identification documents they are unable to access social programmes and benefits.

Among those working to improve the minority position is Shpresa Agushi, a Roma female activist in Kosovo. For over a decade, the mother of three children has become a leading advocate for Roma.

"It's urgent to have effective education, gender equality and employment policies for a successful impact in the Roma's position," said Agushi.

Although there is no lack of legal support endorsement for minorities and women in the region's laws, there is a lack of appropriate execution of those laws, she said.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Roma are the largest ethnic minority in the country. Data from the BiH Ministry of Civil Affairs shows the number of Roma in the country around 40,000, but NGOs said the number is more than double that.

Hedina Sijerčić, the national co-ordinator for Roma people in BiH, said the fact is that many Roma do not want to define themselves as Roma, but as members of the majority nation.

"That is the reason why is not possible to say how many Roma we have," Sijerčić told SETimes.

Despite their marginalisation, however, many Roma in the region are dedicated to succeed.

Dragana Seferovic, 23, made her way through life to become a ballet dancer, teacher and student. Dragana lives in Sarajevo where she is student at the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education and teaching ballet classes in National Theatre in Zenica.

"I am proud of what I am and happy to be able to show other Roma kids how everything is possible. They should newer give up on their dreams," Seferovic told SETimes.

She was abandoned by her parents as a child, and ended up at the Home for Abandoned Children in Bjelave. She eventually was moved to the SOS Children's Village, an NGO in Sarajevo that houses and takes care of abandoned children, children's whose parents are not able to take care of them for medical, financial, or other reasons.

"In Bosnia I understood what means to be Roma," Seferovic said, adding that it is difficult for Roma to battle the prejudice and stigma in Bosnian society.

"I was lucky to have support from different organisations and programmes for Roma people, specially from Education Builds BiH, whose scholarship I have had for six years. They helped me to finish two high schools, and now I am on third year of faculty."

In Turkey, where the Roma population is about 5 million, the level of education is poor. Roughly 7 percent of Roma children graduate from high school or university, while the diversification of the employment opportunities are very limited as well.

But, Elmas Kara Arus is one Roma citizen who has broken this circle by providing her peers with the possibility of another world.

Despite the traditional lifestyle of her community, she went to high school, and graduated from the media department of Thrace University, and then from Istanbul University.

Arus is a renowned documentary filmmaker and the head of Istanbul-based Zero Discrimination Association, which advocates for Roma rights in Turkish society.

"I spent my childhood in a semi-nomadic family in northern city of Amasya. When I was 7, we came to Istanbul. I was one of the unique girls among my peers to go primary school, through the efforts of my father," Arus told SETimes.

In Romania, the Roma population is 3.2 percent, the second-largest ethnic minority in the country after Hungarians.

Florin Dumitrache, a 19-year-old Roma student at medical college, comes from the village about 50 kilometres southeast of Bucharest.

"I have never neglected school because I knew I had a road to follow. I wanted to be different from the rest of the community, but at the same time be a positive example for them," he told SETimes.

Florin has been part of a project called Roma Professionals in Medicine, which is funded by the NGO ActiveWatch.

Prejudice about his ethnic roots is still out there, he said. "But most of the people I meet accept me for what I am," Florin said.

Correspondents Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul, Katica Djurovic in Belgrade, Paul Ciocoiu in Bucharest, Biljana Lajmanovska in Skopje and Safet Kabasaj in Pristina contributed to this report.

Saturday, April 6, 2013



Robert Rustem: My wishes on International Roma Day

International Roma Day beckons and when pressed to comment on the meaning of the occasion, it is tempting to reply “please refer to the statements of previous years.”

Then, as now, the situation which Roma communities confront across Europe is one that simply beggars belief in 21st century Europe. According to Amnesty International, “eight out of 10 Roma households in the EU are at risk of poverty.” That’s millions of fellow European citizens.

The seriousness of the current circumstances is not lost on Roma activists and other human rights defenders.

Where deaf ears are to be found is among the feckless officials and policy-makers who turn a blind-eye to Roma misery, dishonoured by their resort to equivocation, ambiguity and ‘blaming the victim whilst excusing the aggressor.’

Europe seems to have forgotten the central lesson of the past century – Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

AmnestyInternational reveals that “in Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria, between January 2008 and July 2012, there have been more than 120 serious violent attacks against Romani people and their property, including shootings, stabbings and Molotov cocktails.”

And these are just the reported incidents. The European Roma and Travellers Forum has learned of many more incidents of intimidation and violence which confirm that anti-Roma prejudice flourishes across Europe.

Yet, it is a disservice to International Roma Day, to reduce the occasion to a laundry list of crimes, reproaches and pleas for international recognition and respect.

International Roma Day should be a celebration of the humanity of Roma people and their courage and fortitude in the face of a quite terrifying array of social and economic obstacles. Despite all that Roma communities endure, there is no hint of rebellion. The iron survival instinct and the indomitable spirit of the Roma people continue to serve them well – just as they have done over centuries, in times even darker than we know today.

Equally, International Roma Day is an opportunity to rally non-Roma people to the cause of fairness, freedom and equality.

Just as the institutions of slavery, ‘Jim Crow’ America and South African Apartheid were withered by fearless direct action, international condemnation and progressive alliances, so the day is coming when Roma people’s second class status will also be a detail of history.

Non-Roma people should be encouraged to accelerate that process and resist the slide towards mayhem signalled by rising ‘Roma-phobia. And they should be welcomed as allies in the just and defining struggle against the forces of hate.

The message of International Roma Day to Roma and non-Roma alike is simple and clear – be on the right side of history!

The author Robert Rustem is Executive Secretary of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, which has a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe.



For several years, HIlary Clinton, as Secretary of State, issued strong statements of support for the Romani people worldwide on International Roma Day.

I wonder if John Kerry will do the same.

A reminder to allies that Monday is International Roma Day.

There are many events throughout Europe and the United States and Canada.

I encourage people to attend the Flamenco show on Vashon Island WA USA.

If any one needs information about an event in their area they can check this site or the lolodiklo:romani against racism facebook page.

If it's neither of those places, email me at
Put IRD in the subject line.

If you can't attend an event or rally, please light a candle and talk to someone who is not familiar with the oppression of the Roma.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013





As you know the next day, April 8th, is celebrated around the world the International Roma Day.

That day Roma Gypsies approach the riverbanks to throw flower petals which floating on the water crossing borders, symbolize the feeling of freedom of our people who consider the whole earth as the universal homeland of mankind.

Floating lights will then be deposited on the calm waters in memory of our ancestors, especially the over half a million Roma who died in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

At this especially tough time that we live in, when our people are being subjected to cruel persecution in countries with old democratic tradition, as Greece or Hungary, when those fleeing famine and misery of their home countries, believe having found in the Old and prosperous Europe a more human life hope and they are expelled as in France and Italy, we must raise our voices to demand of governments and society a gesture of solidarity that make us not to lose all hope.

On April 8 we must go out with a smile and with an outstretched hand to whoever wants to hold it. And who wants to listen to us we should explain them how we really are. Let our people not to look as the perverted and false image that is being offered of us in some media. That despite what they saw and heard in the mouths of other Roma, their manifestations are exclusively entitled to them and they are not at all representative of what the majority of Spanish Gypsies think and feel.

On the 8th we must feel the pride of belonging to a great people. We are more than fourteen million people all over the world. Fourteen million people with a common history, a common language and with a largely shared culture and with the manifest desire to remain being what we are: XXI century’s Gypsies.

At the same time we must make an effort so that no one is shocked. We are Spanish Gypsies, as the Gypsies of the neighboring countries are French or Portuguese, and the vast majority of us are European citizens.

On the 8th, our president Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia will participate in Sibiu ( Romania ) in the VIII International Congress of the Romani Union and the day after he will be in Brussels to raise his voice in the European Parliament building to testify, once again, our infinite desire of coexistence with the rest of society.

From the Romani Union we call upon all citizens to join us this day of such international importance.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013



EveryOne Group

The Paolo Di Canio Case: no promoters of neo-fascist ideals in sport

A letter to Sunderland Football Club

Milan, April 1, 2013

Dear Sunderland Football Club,

The education of young people and society carries the most noble human and social value, both in sports and in daily life.

As human rights activists of EveryOne Group, we devote our lives to the promotion of the values of Holocaust remembrance and a respect of human rights. These civic values condemn the Nazi and Fascist ideologies which plunged Europe and the world into darkness. A darkness that has not yet been dissipated, as can be seen in the present persecution of the Roma people and refugees, and the serious episodes of racism, homophobia, and racial violence.

Unfortunately Paolo Di Canio is a bad example of a role model within sport, since he promotes neo-fascist ideologies. In an age when hatred and cruelty towards those who are different has returned to poison Europe, we are asking you to consider carefully if Paolo Di Canio is a good choice for your manager, to represent the better aspects of civilization.

There is a strong risk he will attract neo-Nazi, neo-Fascist, racist, and homophobic sympathisers. We ask you to change your mind about his appointment and instead to contribute to the progress of civil society.

Sunday, March 31, 2013



Associated Press,March 18, 2013



BUDAPEST, Hungary — Hungary should withdraw a state journalism award given to a TV presenter whose station was fined in 2011 for making derogatory remarks about Gypsies and Jews, Israel’s ambassador said Monday.

Ambassador Ilan Mor said in a statement that Ferenc Szaniszlo’s award was given “to the wrong person for the very wrong reasons.”

“His ideas do not belong in a free and democratic society like the one in Hungary,” Mor said. “While Israel and Hungary are cooperating in fighting against anti-Semitism, such awards might cause (a) negative impression and lead us to the wrong direction.”

In comments made on his show on Echo TV in 2011, Szaniszlo said Gypsies — or Roma — are monkeys and implied that Jews and Roma have carried out anti-Hungarian activities.

Minister of Human Resources Zoltan Balog said he was unaware of Szaniszlo’s remarks and regretted giving him the Mihaly Tancsis award, but said he did not have the power to take it back.

Several earlier recipients of the Tancsis award said they would return the prize because they did not want to be associated with Szaniszlo, who was honored on Friday, even though a panel of journalists advising Balog had not supported the decision.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


This year, International Roma Day, Monday 8 April, is especially important because Romani groups throughout Europe have called for a show of solidarity.

We tried to pull something together but couldn't quite manage. But then we learned about a wonderful night of Flamenco to be presented at the Vashon Island Grange on Monday 8 April at 7:30 PM.

I urge anyone who can to come to Vashon Island and enjoy a wonderful evening of Flamenco. Please come and support these wonderful musicians and dancer.

I believe tickets can be purchased at

I really hope to see allies there to celebrate flamenco and INTERNATIONAL ROMANI DAY.


UPDATE: if anyone cannot attend the event but wants to contribute, they can buy a ticket or donate to the kickstarter campaign

These are good people who have taken on a monumental task in hopes of bringing authentic Flamenco to everyone.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013






Roma communities across Europe are organizing for celebrations of their culture that will include demonstrations and encampments in resistance to a rise in anti-Roma racism. A wide range of events are planned in early April in support of the 42nd Roma Nation Day on April 8.

The actions will include an encampment near the European Parliament, a film festival in Skopje, Macedonia, a media conference in Kosovo, and an exhibition in Strasbourg. The International Romani Union will also hold the Eighth World Romani Congress in Sipiu, Romania.

In London, Roma groups from six different countries will meet on April 7 to address racism and challenges facing their communities. The London events will include demonstrations at several embassies to focus attention on anti-Roma violence.

The planned activities honor Roma culture but also serve to unite Romani people and their supporters in the face of ongoing racism, including deliberate segregation of Romani children into poorly funded schools, forced deportations and hate crimes. Europe is home to an estimated 10 to 12 million Romani people.

Economic crisis fuels bigotry

The worsening economic situation workers face across the continent fuels bigotry against Roma communities, and also against immigrants, as politicians work a divide-and-conquer strategy to split the working class and direct public anger away from super-rich elites.

Politicians have often scapegoated the Roma people. An estimated 220,000 to 600,000 were murdered in the Nazi holocaust. Approximately 100,000 Roma people were expelled from their homes in Kosovo in a wave of violence and ethnic cleansing that began in 1999.

In a show of resilience and solidarity, Roma organizers have scheduled a conference, "Roma and the Public Service Media," in Pristina, which had been the site of ethnic cleansing.

Celebrations and demonstrations are not confined to Europe. San Francisco, Houston, Buenos Aires, and Rio De Janeiro are among the cities that will have events. European cities include Paris, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Genoa and Barcelona.

Organizers in Germany will release thousands of balloons with the blue, green and red colors of the Romani national flag in cities across the country. Berlin, Hamburg and Koln are among the dozen cities that will see the releases.

Cultural celebrations and festivities complement the serious anti-racist nature of the April actions. As Malcolm X famously stated, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” The Party for Socialism and Liberation stands with the Roma communities as they organize to resist the racist attacks that serve to divide workers.

Sunday, March 24, 2013




TV Nova, the Czech Republic's most-watched private television channel, has managed to acquire video footage of a controversial intervention by municipal police in the town of Rokycany during which a pram with an infant in it was overturned on the street. The 16-month-old boy escaped serious injury through sheer luck.

The video footage was recorded by a camera mounted on the policeman's chest. The footage broadcast on television shows several edits. The police were asking the woman to show them her identification because her dog was not on a leash. According to current law, it is not necessary for individuals to carry identification with them at all times.

The controversial intervention, which was unnecessarily brutal at certain points, has prompted a broad range of responses. A witness to the incident also recorded video footage of it on his mobile phone which has spread through the internet like an avalanche. The video footage recorded by the witness is available here:

Most of those discussing the incident online have not spared the municipal officers harsh criticism. However, once it became clear that the woman involved is Romani, opinions began to spread that she had deserved the intervention and that it should have been even harsher.

Openly racist opinions have been posted, for example, to the news server. User "Lukino" wrote the following: "I won't watch that, but I know one thing for sure - they should have given it to the whore even more!" Another user with the nickname "Tankard" writes: "The kid should be in an institution, the darkie should be in Pakistan and the dog should be given to the gooks." The ROMEA civic association is considering legal action against the operators of the news server and the discussants.

A call has circulated among Romani Facebook users to file complaints en masse against this police intervention and for the case to be objectively investigated. People are also demanding that the ombudsman get involved. Yesterday Romani activist Ivanka Mariposa Čonková wrote the following on her Facebook profile: "I disagree with this police intervention! I am writing a complaint and copying the ombudsman by email. If the reality of this police brutality makes you as outraged as I am, then you can write a complaint too!"

The incident began with the police asking the woman for identification because her small dog was not on a leash. She did not have identification on her, and because she lives near the place where she was stopped, she wanted the officers to accompany her home so she could retrieve it.

On the police video recording provided to TV Nova in edited form, it can be seen that the conflict escalated right at the start, at the moment the officer prevented the woman from going to her 16-month-old son. During the subsequent intervention against the woman, the pram and the officers are knocked over.

The officer claims the woman assaulted him. She admits she pushed him when he refused to allow her to comfort her crying, frightened child.

"I didn't turn the pram over, she did it herself. I was holding her by one arm and she was holding the pram with the other. When I saw she was letting go, I grabbed her and drew her towards me, that was that yanking. She pushed the pram and overturned it," the intervening patrolman told news server

TV Nova contacted a security expert, Andor Šándor, who said the woman should have obeyed the patrolman's instructions. On the other hand, he unambiguously labeled the patrolman's behavior as unprofessional, primarily at the moment when he pushed the woman and refused to allow her to go to her child. The edited video footage recorded by police and provided to the media is available here:

ryz, Nova TV,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Saturday, March 23, 2013





Minceirs Whiden, Ireland’s Traveller-only forum, is organising a protest as part of the International Roma and Traveller Day. The protest is an opportunity to celebrate Roma and Traveller culture and highlight the discrimination and persecution experienced by Travellers and Roma. Travellers and Roma in Ireland are calling on the Irish Government to develop a strong National Traveller Roma Integration Strategy in order to promote inclusion.

Join the 8th April movement and demand rights for Roma and Travellers.

Where: European Commission office, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2

When: 12 noon, 8 April, 2013

For more information contact Kathleen Sherlock at


International Roma and Traveller Day is a day to celebrate Roma culture and raise awareness of the human rights issues experienced by Roma.

Martin Collins, a board member of Minceirs Whidden and Co-Director of Pavee Point, reminds us about the reasons for celebrating this day;

“On the 8th April 1971 the first Roma Traveller World Congress took place in London. This was the first attempt at trying to unite and give one voice to the many groups working with and representing Roma and Travellers across Europe.”

This day in 1971 also witnessed the formal adoption of the Roma Traveller flag and anthem (Gelem Gelem).

Roma have been part of European societies for centuries. It is estimated that there are approximately 12–15 million Roma living in Europe. During the Second World War an estimated half a million Roma were killed by Nazis in concentration camps.

Roma and Travellers continue to experience widespread poverty, racism and discrimination across Europe. In this context, Roma throughout the world will mobilise on International Roma Day as part of a global protest to highlight and challenge anti-Roma and Traveller racism.

Thursday, March 21, 2013





04/05/2012 | Press release

International Roma Day on April 8 is an opportunity to celebrate Romani culture but also to highlight the persecution and discrimination that Roma people face in all areas of life.

"Stereotyping and negative perceptions of Roma people, embedded by some media and parts of the European public opinion feed discrimination in all spheres of life," said Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Programme Director.

"Governments must set the example and challenge social prejudices that foster discrimination against the Roma and ensure their equality. Instead, only too often governments neglect their responsibilities to their Roma citizens to the detriment of all."

Numbering between 10 and 12 million people, the Roma are one of Europe's largest and most disadvantaged minorities.

"International Roma Day means nothing if governments fail to guarantee basic rights to Roma" said Jezerca Tigani.

Even as events to mark this important annual event take place, Roma living in Belvil, an informal settlement in Belgrade, Serbia, will spend International Roma Day under the threat of forced eviction.

They were told two weeks ago about the eviction, but have no information about where they will go or what will happen to them.

Yet, a year ago on International Roma Day in 2011, the same Belvil residents were told by the City of Belgrade authorities that they would be resettled in prefabricated houses in settlements around the city. 12 months on, these promises have come to nothing

"This has been a really hard year for Roma in Belgrade, with more than eight forced evictions since last April " said Jezerca Tigani.

"The Serbian government continues to deny Roma the right to adequate housing - as they have done since April 2009, when Roma evicted from another informal settlement near Belvil, and spent International Roma Day, homeless on the side of the road."

In Romania, 76 families, the majority Roma, have to live with the consequences of eviction. They were forcibly evicted from Coastei Street in the centre of the city of Cluj-Napoca in December 2010, and relocated on the outskirts of the city, where they live in overcrowded rooms next to a garbage dump and a former dump for chemical waste. Some of the Romani families were left homeless in the middle of the winter. For over a year they have been fighting for justice.

"We were already socially integrated when living in Coastei Street, we used to have jobs, the children went to high school, we had decent living standards, we had access to the park, etc. Here, by the garbage dump, we feel like in a ghetto, we feel discriminated against from all points of view," evicted Roma people told Amnesty International.
Millions of other Roma live in informal settlements, without adequate housing and often without access to running water or electricity. They are at greater risk of illness, but less able to access the health care they need.

In some countries Romani children are often placed in special schools designed for pupils with "mild mental disabilities" or segregated in separate schools and classes that offer an inferior education. In turn, they are severely disadvantaged in the labour market.

Unable to find jobs millions of Roma cannot access better housing, afford medication, or pay the costs of their children's schooling.

Socially marginalized, the Roma are also politically excluded.

The cycle continues, aggravated by the discrimination that is routinely denying the Roma equal opportunity, equal treatment and the full enjoyment of all their human rights.

Racially motivated violence against Roma is becoming an alarming trend in recent years, with isolated assaults or vigilante attacks targeting Roma settlements or communities.

Following a march attended by up to 2,000 people in the village of Gyöngyöspata by the far-right party Jobbik on 6 March 2011 three vigilante groups patrolled the village for almost a month. During this time, they were threatening, intimidating and harassing Romani residents. The Hungarian authorities failed to react adequately and prevent the abuses.

Instead of counteracting stereotypes and prejudices that fuel intolerance and hatred towards Roma, some governments and public officials actually strengthen them in their public discourse.

"It is time for governments in Europe to honour their obligations and protect their Roma citizens by ending discriminatory policies and practices that violate the human rights of Roma and keep them in a cycle of poverty and marginalization," said Jezerca Tigani.

Romani are asking supporters to light candles on Sunday 8 April, speak to people about the Romani, and where possible, throw flowers into your nearest body of water.
Thank you.






April 8, 2012

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I want to send best wishes to all Roma as they mark International Roma Day. Today we celebrate the history, impact and culture of Romani people. From music and art to science and literature, Romani people have contributed in ways large and small to the fabric of countless societies.

But too often and in too many places, they are forced to live on the margins. They are segregated, beaten, and systematically discriminated against. They are denied access to an education and to jobs. Despite a decade of progress, during this global economic downturn incidents of anti-Roma rhetoric and violence are on the rise.

Romani people are on the frontlines of the struggle for greater human rights and dignity. That is why the United States is working to protect Roma minorities and end discrimination. We are helping improve opportunities for Roma to participate in the political, social, economic, and cultural lives of their communities. Roma everywhere deserve the opportunity to have a better and brighter future. As I said in Bulgaria at a meeting with young Roma professionals, the United States is committed to working with civil society groups and governments to make a real difference in the lives of Roma.

We believe governments have a special responsibility to ensure that members of the Roma community – and all minority communities – have the tools to succeed as productive members of society. So let us continue to forge new partnerships, discover new areas of understanding and respect, and redouble our efforts to address the plight of Roma on behalf of a freer, fairer and more inclusive Europe.
We are grateful to Hillary Clinton for her consistent support of the Romani of Europe.
We do wish she would acknowledge the issues Romani face in the United States.



Ezra Levant apologizes for Roma comments, and faces his boss, on air

18/03/2013 - It’s been six months since Canadian journalist Ezra Levant launched into a nine-minute rant about Roma people on his Sun News Network TV show, The Source. After the segment aired, in which Ezra was reporting on an ethnic crime ring in Toronto, the Canadian Roma community characterized his comments as an “on-air racist hate speech targeting our community.”

Levant referred to Roma people as “a culture synonymous with swindlers … one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging.”

While the broadcaster, Sun News, apologized at the time and attempted to distance itself from the remarks, Levant has remained quiet - until today.

Levant’s apology on his television show was not requested by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, but rather a voluntary one in which he said regretting using the words “gypsies” and “gypped” and that his rant “will serve as an example of what not to do when commenting on social issues.” He further said, “as someone who seeks to influence the public debate, I have to think about the words I choose. It’s just wrong to slur a group of people. I made the moral mistake of judging people collectively.”

That said, the apology does serve a secondary purpose, as Sun News Network is currently seeking a placement on basic cable from Canada’s broadcast regulator. And the fact that they’ve been dogged by ethics groups over content, and views voiced by Levant, has made that goal more difficult.

After apologizing, Levant interviewed his boss, Sun News Network vice-president Kory Teneycke, who said the network should have never aired the segment in which Levant, “crossed the line.”

Protecting Canada's Roma from Hate speech and Hate propaganda

Statement from Gina Csanyi-Robah, complainant in the Ezra Levant hate propaganda investigation

Re: Sun News host Ezra Levant issues rare apology for Roma ‘slurs’ – March 18, 2013

On Thursday October 11, 2012, I reported a hate crime to the Toronto Police Services and an investigation commenced. This was in response to a nine minute diatribe containing a number of hate inciting statements made by Sun News Network commentator, Ezra Levant, which were broadcast live on public television throughout Canada. Mr. Levant demonstrated a high-degree of deliberate intent aimed at vilifying our community through racist vitriol.

Transcript of Ezra Levant’s broadcast, “The Jew vs. The Gypsies”, broadcast on Sun News Network on September 5, 2012:

“Gypsies aren't a race, they aren't a religion, they aren't a linguistic group. They're the medieval prototype of the Occupy Wall Street movement, a shiftless group of hobos that doesn't believe in property rights for themselves - they're nomads - or for others, they rob people blind! (00:00:09.60)

"Let me stop before you start blowing your hate crime whistle at me for saying Gypsy or gypped. See, political correctness and euphemisms like calling them 'Roma' instead of Gypsy or as the BBC calls them 'Travelers,' well the point of that is to obscure the truth. They're Gypsies and one of the central characteristics of that culture is that their chief economy is theft and begging." (00:58-01:19).

“Being Gypsy isn't like being Black, or being gay, or being a woman, or even Romanian, where many Gypsies come from - just like being from Sicily doesn't make you part of the Mafia. Being Gypsy is a positive choice. Like being a Blood or a Crip. Like joining the Cosa Nostra. For centuries these roving highway gangs have mocked the law and robbed their way across Europe.” (00:07:43.41)

“Yeah. No thanks. I'm not interested in calling them Roma, or Travellers, or having a Human Rights Commission investigate what we as a society have done them wrong and maybe dispatching social workers to them. Hah! The social workers will just have their wallets stolen.” (00:08:14.58)

Although I am thankful, I fear that Ezra Levant's apology this past Monday was not genuine, that he does not sincerely regret his actions, nor does he understand the hurt he caused to me, my family, and my community. It is my belief that the sole purpose of Mr. Levant’s apology was due to the criminal investigation into his public and willful statements made on September 5, 2012. Why didn’t he apologize at the time when the Sun Media Network aired an ‘apology to the Roma people’ on September 17, 2012. Rather, he has remained uncharacteristically silent for the past six months during which time the criminal investigation has been ongoing.

Nothing in life is coincidental. As it happens to be, Toronto Police Service’s Hate Crimes Unit called me on March 7, 2013 and requested an in person meeting at the Roma Community Centre (RCC) on the following Monday, March 11, 2013. I was informed at that meeting that despite them finding enough evidence to move forward, and despite the fact the regional crown attorney had recommended the complaint for prosecution, the Attorney General’s office had decided not to proceed. I was told by both detectives that in their years of experience in this particular role they had ever witnessed a recommendation be rejected. They then informed me that we were all invited to the Attorney General’s office on March 14, 2013 for a sit down explanation at how they had arrived at their decision. This too was a first for these hate crime investigators / detectives.

I was accompanied to the meeting by Human Rights lawyer Mark Freiman, a long time Human Rights Activist, and a member of the RCC Board of Directors. Present at the meeting were the two detectives, their colleague at the Attorney Generals office, the head prosecutor for Ontario, and the Deputy Attorney General. It was an excellent meeting because by the end, despite the concerns of it being a very challenging case that could likely turn into “a bit of a circus”, what I had to say made an impact to such an extend that the Deputy Attorney General, Patrick Monahan, agreed that he would reserve his final decision until after he and his colleagues had more time for “reflection” on this difficult matter.

Ezra Levant made his apology by saying “I attacked a particular group, and painted them all with the same brush. And to those I hurt, I’m sorry.” Following this statement, Sun News vice-president Kory Teneycke who also appeared on Monday’s show, made the following remark to Levant “you crossed the line on this one, but I don’t think it was done for reasons of malice or any ill motivation.”

The careful remarks made by these two men made me realize that someone from the March 14, 2013 meeting may possibility have shared information with them. Other than the terribly poor message that not prosecuting due to a perceived challenge of holding a media personality such as Levant responsible, I had expressed that I was particularly concerned that he had not exemplified any remorse and that I was fearful that he would again attack us Romani people with the same hateful, verbal and psychological aggression. Shockingly, two days later Levant made his public apology, and his boss helped build a defense for “willful promotion of hatred” by declaring that it was likely unintentional. Is his apology due to his fear of prosecution, or are the pebbles being laid for a massive disappointment for me and my community? Has political interference caused another miscarriage of justice for the Canadian Romani community? I guess we will all find out in the coming days ahead.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013



Dear Friends,

It would make us very happy if you could join us for a film screening of an award winning documentary film, Our School, taking place on March 21, the United Nations Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Mona Nicoara, the producer and director, will be present to answer questions at both our free daytime screening for Toronto District School Board staff and students (made possible by Humber Cinemas, the Toronto Police Services Division 11, and the TDSB Equitable and Inclusive Schools Department), and the evening public screening at the Al Green Theatre.

Please see below for more information.

I am really looking forward to see our friends (old and new) at this landmark day for the Roma community. We have never had this type of event in our Canadian Romani history - it truly exemplifies the value of coming together as Canadians (schools, police, and community) to genuinely support anti-discrimination, education, inclusion, equity, anti-racism, and healthy communities.


Thank you my sisters and brothers in Toronto. Morgan

United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – film screening


IN RECOGNITION of the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – The Roma Community Centre presents OUR SCHOOL, a documentary film screening, as an initiative of the Roma Rising/Opre Roma project encouraging Romani youth to defy negative Gypsy stereotypes and break through the barriers of racism.

OUR SCHOOL is an award-winning documentary about four Romanian Roma ("Gypsy") children who participate in a project to desegregate the local school in their small Transylvanian town, struggling against tradition and bigotry with humor, optimism and sass. Shot over four years, the film tells a captivating, bitter-sweet and often funny story about hope, race and discrimination.

6:30 PM – Thursday

Monday, March 18, 2013


Imagine that one day you received notice that you and your whole family must be ready to move within 48 hours. You could take only the possessions you could carry and no one would tell you when you would be permitted to return home. Sound like a bad dream? This happened to over 100,000 United States citizens and legal residents during World War II. Your job is to find out why." ~ Martha Daly

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed an order "Establishing the War Relocation Authority in the Executive Office of the President and Defining its Functions and Duties." Also known as Order 9066, this order started plans of 10 internment camps where more that 110,000 Japanese Americans would be relocated to. Click here to see the document.

Life in Japanese Internment camps was not a pretty picture. When the United States of America decided to take all Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps, people were taken away from the places, things, and people that they loved in life. These camps were called America's Concentration Camps, and the U.S. did not realize that they were doing the exact same thing as the nazis.

The camps were fenced, and in each fenced camp there were block arrangements. Each block contained 14 barracks, 1 mess hall, and 1 recreational hall on the outside. On the inside was the ironing, laundry, and men and women's lavatories. Other places in the camp included: dry and cold warehouses, a car and equipment repair and storage, an administration, schools, canteens, a library, religious services, hospitals, and a post office.

Anonymous Poem
Circulated at the Poston Camp


They've sunk the posts deep into the ground
They've strung out wires all the way around.
With machine gun nests just over there,
And sentries and soldiers everywhere.
We're trapped like rats in a wired cage,
To fret and fume with impotent rage;
Yonder whispers the lure of the night,
But that DAMNED FENCE assails our sight.

We seek the softness of the midnight air,
But that DAMNED FENCE in the floodlight glare
Awakens unrest in our nocturnal quest,
And mockingly laughs with vicious jest.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do,
We feed terrible, lonesome, and blue:
That DAMNED FENCE is driving us crazy,
Destroying our youth and making us lazy.

Imprisoned in here for a long, long time,
We know we're punished--though we've committed no crime,
Our thoughts are gloomy and enthusiasm damp,
To be locked up in a concentration camp.

Loyalty we know, and patriotism we feel,
To sacrifice our utmost was our ideal,
To fight for our country, and die, perhaps;
But we're here because we happen to be Japs.

We all love life, and our country best,
Our misfortune to be here in the west,
To keep us penned behind that DAMNED FENCE,
Is someone's notion of NATIONAL DEFENCE!

Poem from University of Arizona Library

The people in the camps had to face other hardships. Many of the camps were located in the desert, and faced unbearable temperatures. The average summer temperatures were over 100 degrees and winter was no better with winter temperatures falling to minus 30 degrees in one of the camps.

Meals in the camps, contained meager portions. Fruit and vegetables were cultivated on the land. They used these to feed the people in the camp. They also used this for commercial consumption. The had livestock that was bred and raised on the land. This was used for food, also.

Sue Tokushige was a young mother of 20, with a 10-day-old baby, when she was sent to a camp in Arizona with her husband. She said the government did not supply milk for her baby. Because she was unable to breastfeed, she fed her daughter only water for 10 days. She recalls with glassy eyes how a doctor told her that, for a person who seemed well-educated, she did not take good care of her baby. 'My daughter still pays for it today, health-wise, for the way our government treated us.'

Some Japanese Americans died in the camps due to inadequate medical care and the emotional stresses they encountered. Several were killed by military guards posted for allegedly resisting orders.

But life did go on in the camps. Children had to be educated, yet the government did not supply teachers. Instead, they looked to the camp members to fill these types of positions and paid them at extremely low wages. If you had two or more years of college you might become an "assistant teacher" who in some cases assumed a full teaching load.