Sunday, May 31, 2009


On March 17, 2009, Euna Lee, Korean American and Laura Ling, Chinese American were arrested by the North Korean government along the border with China. Both are reporters with CurrentTV.

They are scheduled to go on trial this Thursday June 4 for unspecified "hostile acts".

I wonder where is the media attention and concern for these reporters, especially considering the case of Roxana Saberi mere weeks ago.

On May 30, 1431, Joan of Arc, condemned as a heretic, was burned at the stake in Rouen, France.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


There are no pictures of either protagonists in this post to publish.
One is understandable because of when it took place (1600's), but the other is interesting because of its obvious exclusion from history.

On 22 May 1908, US Army Pvt. William Bulwada was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for applauding for and shaking hands with Emma Goldman.

On 27 May 1647, Achsah Young was the first woman known to be executed for witchcraft in the United States. This occured in Mass. Ha.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Aung Son Suu Kyi, opposition leader in Burma, marked six years of continuous detention by Myammar's military regime today.
Most of the defense witnesses in her ongoing trail were not allowed to testify.

On May 27, 1818 Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a suffragist and reformer was born in Homer New York. She popularized the garment named after her.
Susan B. Anthony once wore bloomers to a speech and she was booed even more than usual. Her supporters begged her to not wear them again.

Monday, May 25, 2009



Security Council wants Myanmar's Suu Kyi released

2009-05-26 00:55:00

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Friday called for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar including Aung San Suu Kyi and expressed concern at the "political impact" of the pro-democracy leader's trial.

A press statement approved by all 15 council members reiterated the need for Myanmar's military leaders "to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue" with Suu Kyi and other opposition and minority groups "to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation."

The United States had initially urged the council to adopt a stronger presidential statement, which becomes part of the council's official record. But diplomats said it was downgraded to a press statement to get approval from China and Russia, which have close ties to Myanmar's military government.

The statement was issued as a court in Myanmar accepted the charge that Suu Kyi violated the terms of her house arrest after an American man swam to and entered her lakeside home earlier this month. She has been in detention without trial for more than 13 of the past 19 years, and the court's decision means that her trial will likely proceed to a verdict that could see her jailed for up to five years.

Earlier Friday, the ruling junta alleged that anti-government forces engineered the visit to Suu Kyi's house to embarrass the regime and aggravate its relations with the West. Suu Kyi, two women who live with her and the American have all pleaded innocent.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current junta seized power in 1988 and refused to honor the results of a 1990 general election won by Suu Kyi's party. If she is imprisoned as a result of the current trial, she will be out of the government's way during upcoming elections in 2010.

In the press statement, "the members of the Security Council express their concern about the political impact of recent developments relating to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

Council members reiterated the importance of their first-ever statement on Myanmar in October 2007 and a second presidential statement in May 2008 "and, in this regard, reiterate the importance of the release of all political prisoners." Their statement did not single out Suu Kyi.

But Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said "the reiteration of our call for the release of all political prisoners is very pointed when the most prominent of those political prisoners is standing in the dock on, frankly, charges which stand no credibility."

U.S. deputy ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said the council has now added its voice to those of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other leaders from the region and elsewhere.

So far, however, Myanmar's government has ignored all appeals for Suu Kyi's release.

"We will continue speaking out to get that impact that we need," DiCarlo said. "We know Rome wasn't built in a day and one statement isn't necessarily going to do the trick but we will continue to do so."


From Dzeno Association
Prague Czech Republic

Fighting to honor the Roma 25. 5. 2009

In a small grassy clearing marked with boulders, dozens gathered last week to pay homage to the hundreds of Roma who perished in a concentration camp that is now home to a pig farm.

For more than a decade, the Committee for the Redress of the Roma Holocaust has been calling on successive Czech governments to either close down or relocate the pig farm, which they say is an affront to the Romani — or Gypsy — victims of the Holocaust.

The official records, generally regarded as incomplete, show 1,327 prisoners passed through the Lety Camp in the 10 months it operated as a concentration camp, from August 1942 until it was closed on May 13, 1943, with one final transport train to Auschwitz-Birkenau, according to Markus Pape, who wrote a book about the Lety Camp in 1997, titled, “And No One Will Believe You.”

Pape said more than 1,200 prisoners were packed into a camp with 332 beds. Living conditions became so atrocious that hundreds died in the camp, including 241 children. It was eventually closed for fear of a typhus outbreak that would have threatened the community at-large.

The Czech Republic's current human rights minister, Michal Kocab, wants the state to properly honor the Roma who suffered and died at Lety. He put the cost of relocating the pig farm at 500 million koruna, or million, though his plans will almost surely exceed his time in office.

“We're going to collect money to create a fund that will put together the financial resources for moving the pig farm which is here,” he said in an interview with GlobalPost. “It might be five years, it might be longer.

“It will secure the memory of the Roma,” he added.

Cenek Ruzicka's mother was imprisoned at the Lety Camp. She survived but many in her family perished, including a 6-month-old son. Ruzicka told attendees at the memorial that the rise in racially motivated attacks against the Roma during the past year were reminiscent of another era.

A far-right political party has been agitating against the Roma, trying to stir up local resentment. At one point the tensions grew so great that 1,000 police were deployed — one of the largest deployments ever in the post-communist era — to protect the Roma.

“I indirectly compared the situation that led to the establishment of the interment camp at Lety with the current situation in Czech society with the rise in extremism,” he said. “The fact that the pig farm remains on this site is an encapsulation of the position that the Roma have today in Czech society. If our position were stronger, this would not be tolerated.”

The ceremony, which began with a young Romani woman singing first the Romani national anthem and then the Czech national anthem, brought out several dignitaries, including Count Karel Schwarzenberg, who was foreign minister until a little more than a week ago, when an interim government took office to lead the country to early elections in October.

“Here perished a lot of Gypsies, an incredible number of children,” he said, explaining his presence at the ceremony. “And a lot of them who didn't die here were sent to Auschwitz. For me it is offensive this pig farm should stay here.”

But Schwarzenberg's voice is a minority among government officials past and present. At least four governments, led by both the left-of-center Social Democratic Party and the right-of-center Civic Democratic Party, have refused to address the situation.

Schwarzenberg says a proper memorial should be built on the site, “because it was one of the worst tragedies that happened in this country during the war. The lamentable thing is many Czechs were involved doing it. I'm a neighbor here. I grew up in the next village. I still remember.”

And therein lies the rub.

Most Czechs aren't sympathetic to the plight of the Roma who face systemic discrimination in an array of social areas including education, health care and employment. (Though Czechs did recoil at the recent fire-bombing of a Romani home that left its occupants — including a 2-year-old girl — severely burned.)

But more significantly, this is a country that has a long history of viewing itself as perpetual victims of greater military powers: The Soviets, Germans and Hapsburgs have all ruled over the Czech lands of Bohemia and Moravia going back centuries.

So the notion that Czechoslovaks — who were, in fact, in charge of the camp— could have been perpetrators of such heinous crimes is anathema to the country's historical self-image as a victim.

By some accounts, World War II began in March 1939 with Hitler's seizure of Czechoslovakia. It's a non-starter here to suggest guilt on the part of a country that was occupied by the Nazis for more than six years, explains Gwendolyn Albert, who sits on the Committee for Redress of the Roma Holocaust.

“The camp was entirely staffed by Czechs and Slovaks who were collaborating with the Reich,” she said, adding, “There is no political support for acknowledging this history. It is not a vote-getter.”

Saturday, May 23, 2009


FRANCE 24 International News 24/7

FRANCE 24 met with the gypsies of Chudovo, a town situated around 100 kilometres south of Saint-Petersburg. The 2,000-strong community settled there in 1986, soon after the Chernobyl disaster, but without title deeds.

For 20 years, the local authorities did not mind their presence but with the downfall of the Soviet Union everything changed. Land now has to be registered and paid for. In the spring of 2007, policemen and soldiers moved in to demolish the gypsies’ homes. Today, they seem to be threatened again.

Since 2005, the administration has been tightening the laws on land occupation. For example, it ordered the demolition of one of the gypsies’ camps installed a few meters from an asphalt factory which had closed five years ago, citing health reasons. However, the Russian homes situated 50 metres further on are not threatened.

Next spring, the Gypsies will have to move out. In exchange for 4,000 rubles to register the land, they will be able to settle in a muddy pastureland sandwiched between the motorway and the railway, with no schools close by. Here, the welcome is rather hostile. “We knew very well what they got up to. They stole firewood, they caused trouble all over,” declares the doyenne of the village, who is about to send a petition to Moscow against the gypsies and says she will do all she can to stop them moving here.

The gypsy community is not treated any better by the local authorities. The rural administration refuses to register them. They then lose all access to free health care, all family aid and therefore all legal existence.

The town of Chudovo is not an isolated case. Since 2006, half a million Russian gypsies have been affected by forced expulsions. Despite condemnation by Human Rights groups and a warning from the UN, the Russian federation has so far done nothing to solve the problem.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

19 MAY

On 19 May 1921 Congress passed the Emergency Quota Act which established national quotas for immigrants.

In 1536 Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII of England was beheaded for adultery.

Today, in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi faced the second day of a closed door trial.

Monday, May 18, 2009


The situation of Aung San Suu Kyi is worsening every day. She has been charged with Burma's Law Safeguarding the State from the Dangers of Subversive Elements.

She is being held in Insein Prison and faces a sentence of three to five years.
She's 63 years old and has spent most of the last 20 years under detention.

Friday, May 15, 2009


Central Europe's right wing is back, now with modern public relations techniques
Posted: May 14, 2009

By Jaroslaw Adamowski, For the Post

As Czech media increasingly reports on nationalist and racist incidents, even the most passive observers begin to ask: Has something changed in Czech society? With rising intolerance toward the Roma minority, neo-Nazi rallies and foreign leaders of white-supremacist organizations coming to lecture at universities, are these just desperate attempts by fringe groups to draw attention, or is there more to it? Is Czech society the only one confronting these problems?

Increased activity by the Czech far-right movement is part of a trend in the whole region. In nearly all Central European countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia - nationalism and far-right politicians are enjoying a grand retour. This time, they have learned lessons from previous defeats and, as a result, softened their image. Now, the question is: Why and how are they back?

It is no coincidence that, as the global economy has bottomed out and recession has hit Central Europe hard, extreme-right parties are strengthening. When politicians, be they on the left or the right, offer few direct solutions for overcoming the crisis, there is always the risk of people casting votes for someone who claims simple solutions to complicated problems.


In Hungary, for instance, Jobbik, or the Movement for a Better Hungary, is a far-right party with an agenda that includes reinsituting the death penalty, "economic independence," and throwing all citizens of Roma origin out of the country. They may enter the European Parliament in June's elections. The party feeds on Hungarian society's fears: a shrinking national economy that suffered from stagnation long before the global meltdown, rising unemployment, crime and a Roma minority that remains un-integrated. Jobbik profited from the mainstream political class' inability or unwillingness to address those fears. Polls say Jobbik carries between 4 percent and 5 percent support, which is enough to pass the threshold to gain seats in Parliament.

Established in 2002 as a youth organization of the right-wing Fidesz - Hungary's biggest parliamentary opposition party and the likely winner of the next elections - Jobbik transformed into its own party a year later and ever since has built its position with hate speech and violence targeting Roma, Jews and "left-liberal elites." In August 2007, a group of 56 men, wearing black-and-white uniforms and distinctive Bocskai caps from the interwar period, gathered in Budapest at the famous Castle Hill, or Budai Var, next to the Presidential Palace. Jobbik's leader, 31-year-old Gabor Vona, took an oath swearing to struggle for "one nation, one religion and one homeland." Fidesz politicians and Hungary's first post-communist defense minister, Lajos Fur, attended the ceremony. The number of members in Magyar Garda - a paramilitary group associated with Jobbik - has since increased to about 2,000. Judicial attempts to outlaw the group, registered by Jobbik as a "cultural association," have been unsuccessful. The driving force for the group, according to Vona, is "protecting the Hungarian nation."

Although right-wing inclinations for uniforms and military knack have remained unchanged since the 1930s, such groups have tried to modify their image over the years. Modern nationalists are nothing like their predecessors from the 1990s, who seemed to live mostly in the past. Dressed in a well-tailored suit and smiling, Vona looks like a businessman trying to gather investment rather than a leader of a self-proclaimed "radically patriotic Christian party." A history and psychology graduate and former teacher, Vona weighs his words as he answers journalists' questions. Instead of invoking racist slogans, he speaks of "the unsolved situation of the ever-growing Gypsy population." In place of anti-EU rhetoric, he says that his party "supports European cooperation, but not the current bureaucratic state alliance."

Jobbik's young leader knows that, in order to attract a wider spectrum of voters, he has to deliver extreme content in moderate packaging. That is why the party chose Krisztina Morvai, a professor at Budapest University, as its lead candidate in European elections. Her eloquence, style and résumé, which includes work for the United Nations, make her a perfect candidate for Jobbik as it struggles to improve its image. The new nationalists know that a loudspeaker and a group of violent militants is not enough to win a seat in Parliament. They try to expand their influence over traditional political frames by entering media or convincing foreign businessmen to sponsor their activities, as is the case in Poland, where the extreme-right has managed to infiltrate public media.


Although two major nationalist parties - LPR, or the League of Polish Families, and Samoobrona, or Self-Defense - have not sat in Parliament since 2007, their supporters have kept seats at various inflential bodies, like on the supervisory board of public television. In December 2008, Piotr Farfal, a former LPR member and, in his youth, a neo-Nazi, became the chairman of public television broadcasting.

After the electoral defeat of the LPR in 2007, Farfal and his fellow extreme-right politicians started to organize the Polish branch of the pan-European Libertas movement, founded by the Irish multimillionaire Declan Ganley, hoping that a new foreign brand with a wealthy investor - just like in ordinary commerce - would bolster their chances in European elections. Though Ganley assures that his party is de facto pro-European, Libertas' candidates in Poland give a different impression. All key figures were previously associated with anti-EU, Christian fundamentalist and nationalist movements, pushing to sharpen Polish anti-abortion legislation (which is already one of the most stringent in Europe), ban prostitution, restore the death penalty and make Poland's economy fully self-sufficient. Ironically, the same globalization they so despise allowed Polish nationalists to receive financial support from an Irish millionaire.

While Farfal did not join the new party, the chairman's political sympathies are more and more evident as the June 7 elections approach. At first glance, the television content does not seem to have changed significantly, but it is the details that matter. When Ganley visited Poland March 20, public television interrupted normal programming to broadcast his press conference. The same day, a special interview with Ganley aired just after a popular news program; an anchorwoman who was originally supposed to conduct the interview but refused to do so was suspended a few weeks later. Though political manipulation has always been an issue in Polish public television, "customizing" its programs to the needs of a party with less than 1 percent support in pre-election polls caused quite a stir. A number of prominent public figures protested against Farfal's nationalist colleagues taking over public broadcasting and replacing managers and journalists from within their ranks.


In Slovakia, extremists have similarly learned to value pragmatism over idealism. The far-right SNS, or Slovak National Party, is part of Prime Minster Robert Fico's bizarre Social Democrat and nationalist-populist coalition that has governed since 2006. The SNS accuses Slovak newspapers of favoring the opposition but does not hesitate to use them instrumentally itself. Its talent for manipulating the media was on full display April 5, when President Ivan Gašparovič secured his second term in office with the backing of the ruling coalition. His main opponent, liberal Iveta Radičová, largely owes defeat to a negative campaign launched by the SNS. As election day approached, Slovak nationalists paid for full-page newspaper advertisements falsely accusing Radičová of promising autonomy to the Hungarian minority. In a country where unemployment surpasses 11 percent and the government offers few solutions to the financial crisis, the temptation to blame everything on Hungarians and Roma during the campaign became increasingly appealing and found a willing constituency .

Modern public relations skills and more subtle branding proved useful tools for the far-right yet again. Unfortunately, this is increasingly the rule and not the exception. Extremist politicians are becoming adept at portraying themselves as reasonable alternatives; this is perhaps as worrying as the messages themselves.

- The author is is a Polish freelance writer who divides his time between Warsaw and Istanbul. He writes about Central Europe for the Journal of Turkish Weekly.

Jaroslaw Adamowski can be reached at © The Prague Post 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009


This article was forwarded to us. It is followed by the response sent by a supporter of Rroma/Sinti and Lolo Diklo.

The "Gypsy Question"
By Cameron Hewitt, co-author of Rick Steves' Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is home to a silent population — mostly in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia — of millions of dark-skinned people who speak an Indian dialect and live according to their own rules. Whether roaming the countryside in caravans, squatting in dilapidated apartment blocks, conning tourists in big cities, or attempting to integrate with their white neighbors, these people are a world apart.

The most common name for Europe's overlooked culture, "Gypsy," is a holdover from the time when these people were thought to have come from Egypt. While the term isn't overtly offensive to most, it's both geographically mistaken and politically incorrect. It's also taken on a negative connotation — as with the ethnic slur, "I've been gypped!" (The most commonly used word in most Eastern European languages is Cigany, which is very closely related to the word for "liar." And the German name, Zigeuner, likely comes from Ziehende Gäuner, or "traveling thieves.") Instead of these outdated names, today's most widely accepted term for these people is "Roma."

The Roma most likely originated in today's India. In fact, the language still spoken by about two-thirds of today's European Roma — called Romany — is related to contemporary Indian languages. The Roma migrated into Europe through the Ottoman Empire (today's Turkey), arriving in the Balkan Peninsula in the 1300s. Under the Ottomans, the Roma weren't allowed into towns, but were still treated relatively well. Traditionally, Roma earned their livelihood as entertainers (fortune telling, music and dancing, horse shows, dancing bears); as thieves; and as metalworkers (which is why they tended to concentrate in mining areas, like Slovakia and Kosovo).

Roma were initially not allowed to enter Austrian territory, but as the Hapsburgs recaptured lands once controlled by the Ottomans (like Slovakia and Hungary), they allowed the Roma already living there to stay. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as "Gypsy music" funneled into the theaters of Vienna and Budapest, a romantic image of Europe's Roma emerged. Many people's image of the Roma date from this era: a happy-go-lucky nomadic lifestyle; intoxicating music, with dancers swirling around a campfire; mystical, or even magical, powers over white Europeans; and beautiful, alluring, sultry women. But white Europe's image of the Roma also had a sinister side. Even today, Europeans and Americans alike might warn their children, "If you don't behave, I'll sell you to the Gypsies!" This widespread bigotry culminated in the Holocaust — when half a million Roma people were butchered in Nazi concentration camps.

Today's Roma are Europe's forgotten population — estimates range from 6 to 12 million. Unemployment among the Roma hovers around 70 percent. While only 3 percent of the Hungarian population is Roma, nearly two out of every three male prison inmates is a Roma.

Roma are subject to a pervasive bigotry unparalleled in today's Europe. Local news anchors — hardly fair or balanced — pointedly scapegoat the "liars" for problems. A small town in the Czech Republic tried to build a wall between its wealthy neighborhood and the Roma ghetto — until the European Parliament forced them to stop. Schools are sometimes carefully segregated, with signs reading, "Whites Only."

It's easy for us to criticize Eastern Europeans for their seemingly closed-minded attitudes. But to be fair, the Roma's poor reputation is at least partly deserved. Many Roma do turn to thievery for survival. It's downright foolish not to be a little suspicious of a Roma person hanging out in a tourist zone. And the Roma population puts an enormous strain on the already overtaxed social welfare networks in these countries. To an Eastern European trying to make his way in today's world, the Roma are a problem.

Still, the situation is tragic. Attempts at cooperation are often unsuccessful. The Roma — whose culture is inherently nomadic and independent — generally aren't inclined to settle down and integrate. Roma who do find jobs and send their kids to school often find themselves shunned both by their fellow Roma, and by the white Europeans they're trying to integrate with. The communists attempted to force integration, splitting some apartment buildings between Roma and Slavic people. The Slavs moved out as soon as the regime fell.

So far, the Roma haven't produced a Martin Luther King, Jr., to mobilize the culture and demand equal rights — and many experts think they likely never will. The greatest "crossover" success stores are musicians and artists, with no political aspirations. But the white European community is beginning to take note. The Decade of Roma Inclusion — launched in 2005 by Hungarian-American businessman George Soros — is an initiative being undertaken by eight Eastern European counties to better address the needs of their Roma citizens (

Despite the best efforts of many well-intentioned people, the so-called "Gypsy Question" in Eastern Europe still doesn't have a satisfactory answer. Hopefully the Roma will find a place in the new, united Europe.


I am not sure if this was the correct place to comment on this article- if it is not-please pass it on to the most appropriate person.
I find Rick Steves to be an interesting resource for travel but I found this article addressing "The Gypsy Question" to have some serious flaws. I appreciate much of what it has to say in regards to explaining certain facts however some of its content is continuing a real problem in the way Roma are viewed. There are some things such as seeing the Roma as a "silent" population-I would say silenced- if you look in the right places you will find a bustling response to racism through organizations, media and music-the silence is imposed by the racist structure of Europe. Roma are from India- this is a fact- I know it can be hard to find good information on Roma that goes beyond seeing them as "Mysterious"- I would recommend We Are The Romani People by Ian Hancock. Ian Hancock is himself Romani and I would say one of the most recognized and respected Romani scholars.
What is most troubling about this article is what is contained in this paragraph:
It's easy for us to criticize Eastern Europeans for their seemingly closed-minded attitudes. But to be fair, the Roma's poor reputation is at least partly deserved. Many Roma do turn to thievery for survival. It's downright foolish not to be a little suspicious of a Roma person hanging out in a tourist zone. And the Roma population puts an enormous strain on the already overtaxed social welfare networks in these countries. To an Eastern European trying to make his way in today's world, the Roma are a problem.
I am not sure if you keep up on the news in the Roma world-
( is a good resource)
but the inexcusable violence against Roma has only been increasing resulting in the deaths of Roma including children. These attacks are based on similar rhetoric that the Roma are "the problem." Really they are the scapegoats even more intensely since the current economic downfall. I ask you to examine closely what you are saying in that paragraph and consider the current context for those ideas.
Most Roma live in extreme poverty due to racism causing them not to be able to be employed. They are not standing in the way of Eastern Europeans' success and in fact are being murdered because of that idea. Also there was no mention that the Roma were enslaved for 500 years until the late 1800's which has set them up for a particular place in society. This is generally addressed through talking about discrimination yet I would go further to question the idea that Roma are "taxing" the system when in fact Eastern Europe was built literally on their backs and continues to systematically disempower them.
I hope that this has been helpful feedback- my intention is not to attack- but to educate. Your website is a huge resource for many people and that makes it all the more important that you are as accurate as possible.
I also question who these "experts" are who claim there will never be a Roma civil rights movement-and if they are in fact non-Roma "Experts"-that also must be questioned. Who could know more about the Roma than themselves? Also it is important to note that Romanies from around the world gather to address these very issues.
If you have any questions or desire clarification on these ideas, feel free to contact me. I hope that as a world we can work together to further the freedom of all people through respectful dialogue. As a person with Romani heritage, I appreciate your time.
Thank You,
Finn Cottom


Czech pig farm on Nazi Gypsy death camp

Czech Cabinet minister said he will try to collect money to pay for the removal of a pig farm from the site of a Nazi camp for Gypsies in World War II.

Michael Kocab, Czech minister for minorities and human rights, Wednesday said he will urge companies to help form a foundation to provide $35 million to relocate the large pig farm at the southern Bohemian town of Lety, Prague Radio said.

In the Lety concentration camp, established by the Nazis in 1942, hundreds of Czech Gypsies, including 241 children, were killed.

Addressing a commemoration at Lety, Kocab said he would like to transform the camp site to a memorial.

In the 1970s, communist authorities of the former Czechoslovakia built the large pig farm at Lety.

The European Parliament and Czech Gypsy rights groups have been unsuccessful for years in urging Prague to relocate the farm. Czech government officials argued they were short of money, the radio said.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


On May 13, 1985, a standoff between the Philadelphia police and the group MOVE ended when police dropped an explosive on the groups headquarters in a working class Black neighborhood.
The resulting fire swept through the neighborhood, destroying 61 homes and killing 11people.
And the beat goes on.....

TRANSITIONS ONLINE: The Arts: A Roma Vision for Eurovision
by TOL
12 May 2009

A Romani band stands up for the Czech Republic at Europe's biggest musical spectacle.

When the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest opens tonight in Moscow, one of the first acts to take the stage will be Prague's

Led by rapper and songwriter Radoslav "Gipsy" Banga and violinist Vojta Lavicka, the band has ridden a mix of hip-hop, traditional Romani music, and old-school showmanship to national stardom and success on the European world-music charts.

A much-beloved, much-derided competition featuring performers from across Europe and its near abroad, Eurovision has not been kind to the Czech Republic since the country first entered the contest in 2007. After two miserable showings, national broadcaster Czech Television this year dispensed with the traditional national contest and public vote for a representative, instead choosing as the country's entrant.

If the selection process was unusual, the choice itself was remarkable. The Czech Republic has been repeatedly criticized by Amnesty International and other human-rights watchdogs for discrimination against the Romani minority in housing, education, and law enforcement. In poll after poll a wide majority of Czechs list Roma as their most-disliked ethnic group and say they would not want Romani neighbors. Recent months have seen far-right groups raising their public profile with frequent rallies and marches, as well as a seeming uptick in racist violence, culminating in a Molotov-cocktail attack in the village of Vitkov last month that destroyed a Romani family's home and left a 2-year-old girl severely burned.

It's one thing to be the Czech Republic's highest-profile Roma; it's another to stand up as its representative in a spectacle that, for all its kitsch, is watched by hundreds of millions and is for many a focal point of national pride. On the eve of the first telecast, Gipsy spoke to TOL's Andy Markowitz by phone from Moscow about representing both his country and his community on Europe's biggest musical stage.

Transitions Online: How does playing and representing your country change your approach or attitude to a performance? Does it at all?

Gipsy: To me, to represent Czech Republic is a big [source of] proudness. On the other side I have to say we have some problems with extremism in my country. That's maybe making it much more controversial and much more important that Gipsy is representing the Czech Republic. That means that somewhere, deep inside, it's changing. That some people are trying to say, "Look, we are not all racist." So it's controversial, but I like it. I'm proud that I can hold the Czech flag and represent my country, of course. Same as I'm proud to represent gypsies. And the best way is to represent Czech gypsies, you know?

TOL: When you're performing there, are you going to feel like you're taking the stage as the representative of Czech Roma, or even European Roma, as well as carrying the flag of the Czech Republic?

Gipsy: A little bit, of course. I think it's the first time that gypsies have entered Eurovision. If they did, they probably didn't say they were gypsies. I think that for gypsies this is very important, to be involved in such a big action. It's been hundreds and hundreds of years where gypsies have not been too active in public. I think that for us – for me and Vojta Lavicka, especially, the violinist – this is a step to go forward to the world, and to just say, "See? It's 2009. The world has changed. It's multicultural." The game of black and white, I hate it already. Just quit it. So this is the best way to say it, to really prove something's really changing.

TOL: It's an interesting time for this to be happening for you because of what's going on back in the Czech Republic. There's been a lot more attention paid recently to racism and extremism, there have been the far-right parties
becoming more open, there was this horrible incident in Vitkov a few weeks ago. There were even some protests about you being selected [to represent the country at Eurovision]. In what way are these issues on your mind when you're preparing for this performance and for the contest?

Gipsy: There are a lot of thoughts in my mind. On one side, I feel so sick about extremism rising up like that. When you see 1,000 Nazis walking the street, you probably smile, because that's normal, that's what people already told me [is happening]. But when you see behind 1,000 Nazis another 1,000 normal people, that's what's making me feel really sick. Say your "no" now. Say your "no" loudly. Because if you will be silent, that means you agree. ... I think the government should really take that sign as, look, normal people walking with Nazis, that's not good. That's wrong. We should do something with this.

It's making me really scared, because now I'm on Eurovision, I'm holding a Czech flag, you know? I'm holding a Czech flag, and I'm questioning myself, like, who do I represent? I've got so many Czech friends, Czech Television is so brilliant to us, so kind to And on the other side you got these racists. So it's of course a weird situation. But my ID is Czech. I speak the Czech language. I was born in Czech. Yes, I'm gypsy. But Prague is my home.

TOL: What was your response when you learned that Czech TV had made this decision, to simply declare that would be the representative at Eurovision? Why do you think they did that?

Gipsy: First is that Czech Television knew that in the two [national] contests before this [year's] Eurovision, was really successful. We always rated very high. So they knew we had some chance. The second was, we always had very good relations with Czech TV. I think that they've been always trying to support us, so that's really brilliant. And the main thing is, when we saw that the way [was] to let the nation choose ... it was really, not only not successful, it was a fiasco. [The previous, publicly selected Czech entrants, hard rock band Kabat in 2007 and dance diva Tereza Kerndlova in 2008, finished last and next-to-last, respectively.] It is possible in the rules, legal, that they just take the right to make their own choice. And because they have good experiences with, they decided to choose us. That's all, you know? People, they want to see much more drama, but it's not a big drama.

TOL: Romani music and the combination of Romani music with Western musical styles has become so much more popular. Do you think they were thinking that now, with that trend, this is a winning combination for an international contest?

Gipsy: Well, the song Aven Romale [that will perform at Eurovision] is a quite tasty combination. I don't know if it's gonna work. It's a risk on one card, because it's so different, it's so energetic, and it's so funny. And it also has some inner big message. There are lots of Roma people all around Europe. If they vote for us, they would maybe change [the result]. ...

If we go to the final [to be held 16 May after two semifinals], I think that for the Czech Republic, that's really enough. If we win it, that would be incredible, and God knows I wish it inside of my heart, and I believe we can do it. You know why? Because that would make these Nazis shut the fuck up. They had some demonstration about, we're against on Eurovision. And to win, that would make them really shut the fuck up. And I would have such a good feeling that I made them shut up.

TOL: Do you think your being there represents any kind of breakthrough in the Czech Republic for attitudes about Roma, or for greater integration?

Gipsy: I think it is important, a very important step. It is like Barack Obama. That was a very, very important step for the United States. It was something such as was impossible for a lot of Americans. It's so incredible that there is a black president. It is changing some people's minds. It reminds them, look, something is changing here. It's not 1955. There is a black man that is president. You should think about a new world, a multicultural world. A world where we judge a person, not race. If would win Eurovision, that would be such a beautiful moment. Because a lot of Czech people would see a gypsy holding the Czech flag – that's like a fairy tale. Like, a psychological thrill. And also for gypsies, they would have some kind of example: Yeah, he was there, Eurovision! The gypsies, they won it! That would maybe make them motivated, active. I don't know, a couple, maybe 10, 20, maybe 2,000 gypsies feeling proud, starting to do something. And if we can win it, let's win it, and see [what] it's gonna do.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Hungarian Roma take to streets in self-defence
Nick Thorpe in Tiszal?k, Hungary
Sunday May 3 2009
The Observer

Panicked Roma communities in Hungary are forming self-defence groups after a spate of attacks on their settlements claimed five lives in 10 months. The murders have led police to double the size of a task force investigating anti-Roma crimes and police sources believe the same group may be responsible for attacks using rifles and home-made explosives. Far-right groups have denied any links to the attacks, but emphasise the need to fight "Gypsy crime".

"We're getting organised," says Gyula Borsi, a Roma leader in Tiszal?k, north-east Hungary, where the latest victim was buried last week. "We have no other choice. We won't permit our members to carry weapons of any sort," he said, "no guns, no axes." The new Roma civil defence groups will patrol until dawn in groups of six in the streets of the cig?ny-telepek - the Gypsy ghettoes - where the Roma of eastern Europe are usually found.

Ninety per cent of Roma interviewed in Hungary in a recent EU survey said discrimination due to ethnic origin was widespread, followed by 83% in the Czech Republic and 81% in Slovakia. The report, by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, found "high levels of discrimination and victimisation among the Roma in the seven member states surveyed".

The figures for Hungary are particularly alarming, because until now, the country had claimed to have one of the more enlightened pro-Roma policies in the region. There are elected local minority councils, a system of scholarships for secondary and higher education, and carefully calibrated funds for schools to try to ensure classes have no more than 25% minority pupils.

In the Czech Republic, 500 activists of the far-right Workers Party attacked a Roma settlement in Litvinov, north of Prague last November, with machetes, pitchforks and Molotov cocktails. Three hundred Roma, also armed, gathered to defend their community. At least seven riot police and seven demonstrators were injured in running battles. In Slovakia last month, the minority rights ombudsman called for an investigation after a video was broadcast showing policemen forcing Roma boys to strip and slap each others' faces, in the eastern city of Kosice.

In Hungary, the latest victim of the attacks on the Roma, 54-year-old Jeno Koka was buried in Tiszal?k on Wednesday, with all the honour and pageant that a poor, marginalised community can muster. Hundreds of mourners came from miles around.

"A storm has descended on us," Sandor Gaal, the Protestant bishop of eastern Hungary, told the assembled crowd. As a Gypsy band played, many onlookers wept.

"Everyone in the community, regardless of ethnic background, condemns this murder," said Sandor Gomzem mayor of Tiszal?k. "Many people are afraid that recent tension between the majority and minority will increase." Tiszal?k recently came third in a national league for offences per head of the population. At 20%, unemployment is double the national average. Factories are closing, or cutting their workforces, as a result of the recession.

According to liberal commentators, Gypsies have now replaced Jews as the main butt of middle-class hostility in eastern Europe. Jobbik, a far-right party hostile to the Roma, won only 2% in the last elections, but now expects to easily break the 5% threshold and enter parliament in the next. Its party website states: "The phenomenon of Gypsy crime is a unique form of delinquency which is different from the crimes of the majority in nature and force."

"What we're saying is that there is a problem in Hungary that has been swept under the carpet for quite a while," says Zoltan Fuzessy, a spokesman on foreign relations for the party. "Jobbik is basically just trying to open a discussion about it." A paramilitary off-shoot of Jobbik, the Hungarian Guard, was formed in 2007, as a "uniformed self-defence group".

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009

Saturday, May 9, 2009



The Nis City Assembly decided to name a street after the legendary Roma singer, Saban Bajramovic, despite protests by residents.

At a council meeting where the naming was discussed, just 2 councillors from the 'Nis Region' party, objected, and South Boulevard will now be called 'Saban Bajramovic Boulevard', because, as the councilors said, Bajramovic was a world famous musician, a legend of Roma music, and a respectable citizen of Nis.

"All the people of Nis should be proud that this street was named after Saban and that's the least Saban deserves from his city and his neighbours," said former Serbian prime minister Zoran Zivkovic. Zivkovic, a Bajramovic fan, was one of the sponsors of one of the last albums made by the late singer.

But some residents in the renamed street bitterly oppose the assembly’s decision, and announced that they would block roads in Nis in protest.

Later however, they said they would register themselves at other addresses in neighbouring streets so that the "Saban Bajramovic Boulevard will have no residents at all".

"We wanted to organise protests and blockades, but eventually we opted for civil disobedience. We will change our registered addresses to those of our family and neighbours', so that the boulevard will have no registered residents at all," said one of the locals, Zoran Lukovic, who, together with several hundred neighbours, signed a petition against the name change.

"That man did not deserve to have a street named after him," says a woman living in the street, adding that not a single Roma lives in the street and that it would be better if a street in a Roma settlement were named after Bajramovic.

Citizens of the controversial street first claimed that the reason for their protest was the high cost of changing personal documents, but the local authorities then decided to cover those expenses. They deny that their protest is racist in nature.

But supporters of the assembly’s decision and human rights group say the residents are simply racist. . [The residents'] demand that Bajramovic, as a Roma, be 'rewarded' with the name of the street or building in a neighbourhood 'where his people live" was, said a spokeperson for the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, "thinly-disguised and malicious".

Members of the assembly who voted in favour of the change emphasised that "Nis has never been racist of chauvinistic". The president of the local assembly, Mile Ilic said Nis is a modern European city "full of tolerance. It has a correct attitude towards all deserving citizens."

"I appeal to citizens who were against the change of the street's name, for understanding, because time, history and culture will prove we have made the right decision," said Ilic.

Osman Balic, coordinator of the League for the Decade of Roma, an NGO, welcomed the assembly's politically courageous decision. "The assembly's decision is good news," says Balic.

Bajramovic's wife, Milica, said she was proud of the decision because her husband deserved it.

Saban Bajramovic was born in Nis in 1936. As a 19-year old he deserted from the army to be with his girlfriend, but was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison at the infamous prison on Goli Otok island.

Bajramovic claimed that he started his musical career in his cell at Goli Otok. He composed over 650 songs, among them the Roma anthem Djelem Djelem in 1964.

He died on 8 June 2008 from a heart attack, shortly after Minister Rasim Ljajic promised him a national pension as a deserving artist from Serbia.

(reporting by Z. Kosanovic)

Friday, May 8, 2009


For Mother's Day I would like to reprint the original poem by American poet and women's leader, Julia Ward Howe, for the establishment of a holiday for mothers.

Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts.
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor.
Nor does violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God,
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


On 5 May 1981 Irish Republican Army hunger-striker Bobby Sands died at the Maze Prison in Northern Ireland in his 66th day without food in protest against the British occupiers and their treatment of political prisoners.

Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan in drag, was the totally unsympathetic, reigning Prime Minister of England at the time.



PRAGUE, Czech Republic, May 4 (UPI) -- Gypsy vigilantes have been deployed in some regions of the Czech Republic in a bid to oppose rising extremism, Prague Radio said.

Gypsy activists, who call themselves Romanies, staged the first ever countrywide peaceful protests Sunday, sparked by an arson assault in mid-April on a Romany family that left a 2-year-old girl hospitalized with serious injuries, the radio said Monday.

Several thousand Gypsy protesters gathered Sunday in 14 Czech towns to demonstrate against discrimination of Gypsies.

In Chomutov, a town 50 miles northwest of Prague, police had to intervene when several dozen ultra-right extremists, shouting Nazi slogans, attacked one of the Romany marches.

Romany activists said they will not hesitate to fight back if their lives are threatened by neo-Nazis. Vigilante groups are now operating in some parts of the country, the radio said.

Monday, May 4, 2009


May 4, 1886---At Haymarket Square in Chicago, a labor demonstration for an eight hour work day turned into a riot when a bomb exploded. Though organizers among the workers were arrested and some later hanged, it was widely believed that the violence was perpetrated by police provocateurs.

May 4, 1970---The Ohio National Guard opened fire on anti war student protestors at Kent State University. Four students were killed and nine others were wounded.


Marilyn French, born in Brooklyn, died Saturday in New York.
French, 79, was a writer and feminist whose debut novel "The Women's Room" propelled her into the public's eye as a representative of the modern feminist movement.
She once said, "Contempt for women is not an accident. It is not a byproduct of our culture, it is the heart...without it western culture would fall apart."

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Who is killing Hungary's Gypsies?

Posted: 03 May 2009 03:09 AM PDT

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The recent fire bomb attacks against Gypsy homes and the murder of Gypsies in a number of towns and cities across Hungary seem to all be linked in some way.

This brings to mind the horrible of the Arrow Cross and groups of a similar nature that operated in that country and elsewhere during the time of the Third Reich. The Arrow Cross and its partners were more eager to destroy Gypsies then than were the most ardent Nazis elsewhere and they are thus again today.

Anti-Gypsyism is a scourge in Eastern Europe and here very much so in the countries that were the sphere of influence of the former Warsaw Pact and which are now European Union (EU) member states with the EU bodies making a few noises but that is about all.

Were we talking here about Jews I am sure things would be rather different, but all we are talking about, as far as they are concerned, is Dirty Gyppos who have less value to them than do cats and dogs, and in some quarters, such a in statements by right-wing parties and grouping the Czech and Slovak Repulics, the former CSSR, where Gypsies are being referred to as maggots or even as “worse than maggots”.

Europe, so it would seem, is sliding down a very slippery slope at present and that rather at a rate of knots.

The lack of action, aside from a few non-binding mumblings, by the EU, European Parliament and Council of Europe, could lead one to think, if one would be conspiracy theory inclined, that there could be an official anti-Gypsy agenda, despite all the rhetoric from the EU bodies.

The way things are people could be forgiven to believe that, for it sure does look like it. The sin of omission is here as great as the sin of commission.

Until we see, I think, some definite action against what is going on from the side of the European Union bodies, and not just empty talk, the suspicion must persist that there is more to see here than meets the eye.

For a long time it has been looking, to some of us at least, that the EU was up to something, something no good, as far as the Gypsy People, the Rom, are concerned and the writing was could be seen clearly on the wall.

It is now becoming clearer by the day that something is afoot and that this is an ethnic cleansing and genocide by proxy.

Now that the economy has gone south the Gypsy is once again being blamed for those problems too and made the scapegoat.

Neo-Nazis and the public in general in many places call for the extermination of the Rom because, so the Nazis and their sympathizers, the Gypsies are a drain on a country's resources and an adverse effect on the world economy. This must be because of all the banks that are Gypsy-owned, I guess.

The Gadje society needs a scapegoat and while the Jews are only being accorded this “honor” once in a while the Gypsy is always it.

The organs of the European Union are complicit in this anti-Gypsyism and those murders of Gypsies in that they make no (real) effort to stop it. Anti-Jewish sentiments are always dealt with immediately and promptly.

Time that the Romani People also realized that no help will ever come from the EU. The opposite rather!

Ourselves Alone!

Friday, May 1, 2009


"Beggar" - Swiss inscription on Romanian Gypsies' passports

de Radu Rizea

Vineri, 1 mai 2009

Swiss authorities launched an investigation to find out which local
official wrote the term "beggar" on the passports of several Roma ethnics,
the website informs. "It is a felony. These persons are already
persecuted in their home countries. Imagine what they might suffer upon
their return", said the president of the Messemrom association, Monica

"We are currently running an investigation in order to find out whether it
is the fault of our agents or not", said Bonfanti, adding that agents that
made such mistakes will suffer disciplinary consequences" .

Swiss electors accepted in February, following a national referendum, to
renew the right to free movement agreement with the European Union and to
expand it to Romanians and Bulgarians. 59.6% of the electors were in favor
of renewing the agreement.

The referendum campaign was marked by xenophobia accusations, after the UDC political formation used posters showing white (Swiss) and black (Roma)
sheep, as well as posters in which foreign crows attack Switzerland.