Sunday, October 31, 2010


Talk about world music.  Buika combines African, Spanish and Gypsy influences, all of which reflect her heritage and experience.

Buika grew up in the only black family in a Gypsy neighborhood on the Spanish island of Majorca. Her politically active parents went there after escaping the brutal government in Equatorial Guinea in Africa.

 Her neighbors, Spanish Romani people (Romano Calo/Gitanos), imbued in her the traditional "cante" flamenco.

While she learned how to play the guitar, piano, bass, and drums as a child, she found more opportunities as a singer or vocalizing on the street.  Her music mixes flamenco and coplas with soul and jazz.

I am so happy to have discovered Buika and can't believe it took me this long.  She is wonderful.

Hope this connection to YouTube works.

We got a comment suggesting a Buika blog.  I'm putting the address here.


Thursday, October 28, 2010


Today, in 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France, was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.

And there is so much more to the story.  The statue was not raised in the harbor for quite awhile because no one would pay to build a base for the statue.  The necessary money was raised predominantly by poor immigrants who lived in New York City and throughout the country.  They contributed cents per paycheck.

And dear old Grover.  He declared that the festivities would be too rowdy for the sensibilities of women and that they were banned from the celebrations.
A group of Suffregists, however, ruined his stag party by rowing a boat all around the beautiful lady in the island.



Suspended sentence for Czech author of "The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question"

Písek, 26.10.2010 17:47

Today the District Court in Písek, Czech Republic sentenced Jiří Gaudin, the author of a study entitled "The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question", to a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years. Gaudin had faced up to three years in prison for inciting racial hatred.

Until this year, Gaudin had been a member of the leadership of the ultra-nationalist National Party. The release of his study on "The Final Solution to the Gypsy Question" was celebrated last April by 20 members and promoters of the National Party at Lety, the site of a Nazi concentration camp for Roma during the Second World War.

The publication, which court experts said refers in its title to the Nazi plan to murder European Jews, was adopted as official National Party material last year. At the time, Gaudin said his study was a solid piece of work: "This is not a provocation, it's a serious scholarly work including contributions from experts who are currently publishing." The other experts' names are not listed in the publication; Gaudin said this was because they did not want to encounter problems in their other work as a result of their participation in the project.

The extreme-right National Party entered the Czech political scene in 2002, agitating against the European Union and immigrants for several years before falling apart last autumn.

Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert




Ben Daniel.Presbyterian Minister and Author,
Posted: October 27, 2010 02:03 PM
Why Do We Ignore the Plight of the Roma in Europe?

Last July I was in Córdoba, Spain doing research for a book I am writing about the relationship between Islam and Christianity. It was hot. The thermometer on a bank said 42 degrees Celsius, and I'm not sure how hot that is in Fahrenheit, but let's just call it "Africa hot." After almost two weeks away from my family on a journey that took me through Israel, France and Spain, I was feeling lonely. I was grateful for the adventure but missed my wife and kids.

As I walked on the ancient cobblestones of the city that once was a Muslim beacon of tolerance at a time when Christian Europe was getting ready to start up the Inquisition, a striking young woman with dark hair and skin stopped me and pressed a sprig of rosemary into my left hand.

"This is for good luck," she told me in exotically accented Spanish, "and now you must let me tell you your fortune."

We were standing in front of the main entrance to Córdoba's cathedral, once the most beautiful mosque in all of Islam. The only shade on the street was cast by the brim of my hat, and I was on my way to buy a pair of ladybug-patterned flamenco shoes for my six-year-old daughter. I wasn't really in the mood for a hustle.

I told the young woman that I didn't want to have my fortune told. But that didn't stop her. She just gave me my fortune in double time, something about me being kind and generous and, in the not too distant future, rich. It was four or five fortune cookies worth of soothsaying. I gave back the sprig of rosemary and tried to walk off in search of my daughter's shoes, but the woman did a nimble dance step and blocked my path.

"You have to pay for your fortune," she told me.

"But I didn't want the fortune in the first place," I reminded her.

"I gave you a fortune, now you must pay."

By this time the heat was starting to make me dizzy and sweat was running down my back. The elastic band on my boxer shorts was like a wet sponge. I needed to get out of the sun. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the only coin on me -- 2 Euros, it turns out -- which I handed over to the purveyor of cheap fortunes. Once more, I tried to walk away. Once more I got the dance step and my pathway was blocked once more.

"Not enough," she told me. "I gave you a good fortune."

I started to walk again, but this time I did a dance step to match hers and I was able to shake the skakedown in the narrow, crowded and sweltering medieval streets of Córdoba.

I've been thinking about that experience in Córdoba recently while considering the fact that Roma people (often, and erroneously, called "Gypsies") currently are victims of ethnic cleansing -- through forced evictions and deportations -- in France, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Kosovo, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania. In the last month alone, Amnesty International has issued 14 policy statements calling on European governments to abide by international law and common decency while dealing with local Roma populations. I wonder why there is so little passion in America around defending the human and civil rights of the Roma people in Europe.

I went on Facebook and found a few sites dedicated to the Roma cause, but they weren't large, and most of fans on the page seemed to have Romani names. By contrast, pages dedicated to human rights in Darfur and Palestine have tens of thousands of fans from all over the world. News of the plight of Roma people in Europe is never to be found on the front pages, and I've yet to read an op-ed in my local newspaper calling on the world community to do more about defending the rights of the Roma.

How is it that the people of Europe and North America are so quick to forget? Just 70 years ago, Roma people in Europe were being sent to the gas chambers alongside Jews, gays, lesbians and persons with disabilities. In the years since the Holocaust, we've come a long way toward rejecting anti-Semitism, we're making some progress toward overcoming homophobia and the world is becoming more accommodating and accessible. But what about the Roma? How is it possible that we can remain so passive when modern, open, democratic countries such as France, Germany and Italy start deporting the Roma en masse?

My only answer brings me back to Córdoba. Most Americans who have traveled in Europe have some version of my story about having to fend off Roma hustlers or pickpockets on the streets or in the subways of Europe. Those American who haven't traveled to Europe certainly have heard the reports, and it's hard to get overly enthusiastic about coming to the defense of those who annoy us.

But think about that for a moment. Our better angels remind us that the entire Roma population is not represented or defined by a few street hustlers, and what kind of shallow people are we if we allow a few bad experiences to insulate us against a potential human rights disaster? In a worst case scenario, you might have your passport and credit cards nicked by a Roma child on the Ponte Vecchio, and so you'd have to spend the rest your Italian vacation figuring out how to pay for meals and how to get a replacement for your passport. Is that crime sufficient that we should countenance the collective punishment of all Italian Roma, or look the other way as Roma throughout Europe suffer indignity?

For years we've honored the victims of the Holocaust by promising never to forget and never to sit idly by while crimes against humanity are visited upon the less powerful people of the world. In the contemporary plight of Europe's Roma population, we have the opportunity to get make good on our promises.


This link will take you to a very good video.

It's produced by the U.S. Mission to the OSCE on Romani issues and the recent OSCE Review Conference in Warsaw.

Check it out.



Violent battle feared as 1,000 travellers are to be evicted from UK's biggest gipsy site

A government agency has offered to rehouse 1,000 travellers when they are evicted from the UK's biggest gipsy site.

By Patrick Sawer

Published: 8:15AM BST 24 Oct 2010
Photo  Crays Hill Encampment  By PETER LAWSON/EASTNEWS
Standing on Green Belt land and stretching far into the distance, the hundreds of caravans and bungalows which make up Britain's largest and longest-established gipsy and traveller site have long attracted the ire of nearby residents.

Workmen refuse to fix potholes in case travellers riot For the past eight years councillors have struggled through the courts to rid their area of the 1,000 travellers who, without planning permission, have made their home on the fields once known as Dale Farm, on the outskirts of Basildon, Essex.

Now the site's inhabitants are preparing for what many fear could be a violent confrontation with bailiffs and council officials determined to evict them.

Families have erected barbed wire fencing and stockpiled planks, rubble and tyres with which to build barricades in the event of any attempts to remove them by force. A banner erected across the gates to the site proclaims: "We won't go".

"They won't be moving us from here without a fight," said one of the site's matriarchs, Mary Anne McCarthy, a 69-year-old Irish-born traveller.

Yet a remarkable intervention by a Government agency has opened up the prospect that the travellers could be given new homes only a mile from Crays Hill.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) has offered to rehouse the evicted travellers on land it owns.

Officials from the agency held a secret meeting with Basildon council in August, at which they proposed to turn over some tracts of land in the district owned by the agency for use as one or more authorised traveller sites.

Details of the meeting were later leaked, leading to fears among residents living close to HCA land that the Crays Hill travellers would soon be relocated among them.

Just the other side of the A127 arterial road to Southend, residents are nervously anticipating the prospect of the travellers turning up in their backyard in the event of any eviction from Dale Farm.

"We're all dreading the possibility they may end up moving here," said one such resident.

The battle to rid the area of the Crays Hill encampment has been a tortuous one, exposing the deep-seated tension that exists between 'settled' communities and travelling families who arrive in their midst.

Small numbers of travellers had been living legally at the site since the 1960s, but in recent years a marked increase in their numbers – the majority moving in without planning permission – has led to complaints about anti-social behaviour and petty crime.

At every stage the travellers have challenged Basildon council's attempts to remove them, employing batteries of solicitors – largely paid for by Legal Aid – and bolstered by advice from the human rights activists who regularly visit.

When the council tried to send in bailiffs, the travellers went to the High Court where they won an eleventh-hour reprieve to stop the eviction. In Jan 2009 the Appeal Court reversed that decision and told the council it could go ahead with the removals.

This summer Basildon announced that it was preparing to issue new notices, giving the travellers 28 days to quit. In a preliminary move, seven families from the nearby Hovefields site were forced out.

Council officials began to believe the end was in sight, having already run up £1 million in legal bills with estimates that the total cost, including the restoration of Dale Farm to Green Belt condition, will top £3.5 million.

On top of this, the policing bill for evicting the travellers could reach £10 million if the situation turns violent.

But just weeks before eviction notices were due to be issued, the HCA – a quango which survived this month's Government cull – came forward with its rehousing offer.

Encouraged by the turn of events, the travellers are now preparing to submit planning applications for HCA land across the A127, just over a mile from Dale Farm.

One such plot, at Pound Lane in Basildon, is currently a mixture of open fields and woodland, overlooked by the picturesque village church of St Nicholas and bordered by a row of semi detached houses and bungalows.

Here, comments from furious residents illustrate the intractability of the problem, both at Crays Hill and similar flashpoints around the country.

Rob Cresswell, 34, said: "I provided site accommodation for the bailiffs and security carrying out the eviction at Hovefields and now they could end up literally in my back yard. We're all scared they'll just come and take what they want."

Emma Cracknell, 21, a sales assistant, said: "This is a nice street and we don't want it overrun by travellers. We look after our homes here, it's a friendly neighbourhood and we don't want that to change."

Another long-standing Pound Lane resident, a 69-year-old retired credit controller who has lived in the street for decades, said: "What is the point of moving them from Dale Farm only to create a new problem here?

"I know everyone has to have somewhere to live, but frankly we don't want travellers here. They'll ruin what are still green fields and bring traffic and noise with them, never mind the social problems."

For their part the Crays Hill travellers say all they want is somewhere to raise their children away from the prejudice of 'settled' people.

They have vowed to defy their imminent eviction – unless they are found an alternative site of an equal size, allowing them to stay together as one community.

Mrs McCarthy, who has lived on the site since 2002 and now shares it with her seven children, 20 grandchildren and four great grandchildren, said: "If it comes to an eviction we'll put up a good fight. We'll put up resistance.

"The council says there are too many travellers in Basildon so they want to evict us and make us go away. But they couldn't say and do that about black and Asian people, could they? So why us?"

She added: "Wherever we go people complain before they even get to know us. Why can't we stay here instead of being forced to move and creating a problem somewhere else?

"This is our home, our community. We don't want to be split up and forced to move to sites around the country. We don't want to be a burden on anyone.

"We've installed gas and electricity here ourselves. Our men go out and work. We don't allow our young girls to sleep around or get drunk. But people are immediately prejudiced against us."

Grattan Puxon, a travellers campaigner who represents the Crays Hill families, claimed officials had encouraged the travellers to begin submitting planning applications for HSA land at Pound Land and nearby Gardiners Lane.

Mr Puxon said: "At the meeting the council made it clear it did not want to see more sites developed in Basildon, but the agency has advised us to draw up the applications.

"Plans have been drawn up for a 20-pitch site at Pound Lane, Laindon, which will go in shortly.

"As a result of the Hovefields eviction we are also trying to prepare applications for two smaller sites in the Gardiners Lane area. We have to find agency land in the area which is currently unoccupied."

The outcome depends in part on the ruling in an ongoing test case at Southend County Court, where four travellers argued last week that Basildon council should offer them a chance to continue their traditional way of life.

John Sheridan, 33, Barbara O'Brien, and John and Mary Flynn, 77 and 79, have rejected the council's offer of "bricks and mortar" homes, and say they will be homeless if they are evicted from Crays Hill.

If the court ruling goes in their favour next month, the council would then be obliged to find another way to provide for them.

The HCA, formerly the Commission for New Towns, was formed in 2008 to oversee the construction of affordable homes and revive areas with run down housing.

It controls over £1 billion worth of land and property assets around Britain. Last year it spent over £5 billion and it aims to reclaim over 1,042 hectares of brownfield land by next year.

It has defended its decision to offer land to Basildon council, saying it had a responsibility to help local authorities meet the "housing needs and priorities" of people from all sections of the community.

A spokesman for the HCA said: "We have put forward to the council all land we own in the Basildon district as potential alternative provision for the travellers at Hovefields, Wickford, and Dale Farm.

"Discussions are still ongoing on the suitability of any sites to take forward. One of the key aims of the HCA is to enable opportunities for people to have homes they can afford in places where they want to live.

"This includes providing sites for that section of the gipsy and traveller community who want to preserve their tradition and live in a caravan."

Should Basildon take up the offer, the HCA would retain ownership of the land and offer it to the council on a long-lease basis. A housing association would manage the pitches and collect rent and a service charge from the travellers.

However, the council pulled out of the talks with the HCA after details of the secret discussions were leaked.

Tony Ball, leader of the council, said the authority would not now provide new land for the Crays Hill travellers unless other districts in Essex were prepared to do the same.

"We've been working with the HCA and the travellers to find alternative sites throughout the county and not just in Basildon," he said.

"We have 100 authorised sites in our district and another 100 unauthorised sites and we will only be willing to consider making further provision for travellers if other councils in Essex are willing to do so as well."

Meanwhile, Essex Police confirmed it has applied for money from the Government to help pay for the eviction. A spokesman for the force said: "Essex Police will continue to work with Basildon Council and its appropriate agents.

"In doing so, there will be a financial costs as well as the abstraction of officers from other duties. We have made a bid to the Government for funding."

Additional reporting by Michael Howie
Mary Anne McCarthy

Mary Anne, 61, is one of the oldest female Travellers living at Dale Farm. Born in Ireland, Mary Anne moved to England when she was five and traveled throughout England before settling at Dale Farm six years ago.

Like many other Travellers living at Dale Farm, Mary Anne lives in a chalet, inhibiting her from moving her home to another site if a forceful eviction occurs. Tragically, Mary Anne’s husband died two year ago, rendering her dependent on her children for financial support.

For many Travellers in Mary Anne’s age demographic, a forceful eviction represents serious threat. If Travellers like Mary Anne are separated from the support systems that they have created at Dale Farm, it is feared that they will not survive. They are no longer young and need a permanent location on which to reside peacefully.

Monday, October 25, 2010



Interview: Viktoria Mohacsi

A Roma political leader and celebrated human rights campaigner speaks to FP on hate crimes, segregation, and why Europe needs to protect its most vulnerable minority.

OCTOBER 20, 2010

In recent weeks, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has come under fire from the European Union and human rights organizations for its expulsion of Roma migrants. Less attention has focused on the deteriorating situation for the Roma in their home countries in Eastern Europe. A newly released report from the U.S. NGO Human Rights First documents a recent uptick in hate crimes -- including murder and arson -- directed against the Roma community in Hungary. The upsurge in violence coincides with the growing influence of the far-right Jobbik party, which has been eager to pin the country'seconomic woes on the "Roma problem."

This week, Hungarian Roma political leader Viktoria Mohacsi visited the United States to receive Human Rights First's 2010 human rights award. Mohacsi represented Hungary in the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009, when she lost her seat as a result of Jobbik's electoral gains. She spoke with FP about the challenges facing the Roma in Hungary and throughout Europe.

Foreign Policy: What message are you looking to bring on your visit to the United States?

Viktoria Mohasci: This is the biggest opportunity I've had to request help [from the U.S. government] to combat hate crimes in Hungary. We have an ongoing racist serial-killing spree happening in my country which has not ended. The FBI cooperated with the Hungarian police in the investigation. That cooperation was very successful and that's why they caught the killers. Four perpetrators were caught last August. But even since they've been caught, the hate crimes [against Roma] are continuing. The police have found six dead bodies and nine instances where Molotov cocktails have been thrown at houses. And according to my research, there have been at least three times the amount of attacks than what the police have reported.

Now, [far-right political party] Jobbik, who received 15 percent of the vote in last year's parliamentary elections are promoting the idea of "gypsy crime" and the whole atmosphere in my country is unbelievable. It's not comfortable for a Romany person to live in Hungary.

This is why I've come here to raise the issue with the State Department. We've had very good cooperation in the past and I hope that with this cooperation we can create pressure to make combating hate crime part of the planned EU-Roma strategy.

FP: To what do you attribute the rise of Jobbik and this recent wave of anti-Roma sentiment?

VM: The main reason is because of the economic crisis. So many people lost their jobs -- like everywhere in the world. Some people are blaming my people for the lack of jobs. Of course, we didn't have jobs 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or now. [The Roma] haven't lost anything with the economic crisis. We've never had anything!

FP: Is that what's going on in France as well?

VM: Yes, partly. But France is just the latest place where this is happened. I believe that many of the people being expelled from France had previously been in Italy. This is a group [of Roma] that came from the Balkans, as well as from Romania and Bulgaria. We fought against the fingerprinting and other policies in Italy because we knew that if we let this pass, other states would copy. [In 2008, Italy's parliament passed a controversial measure to fingerprint all Roma in the country as part of an anti-crime campaign.]

What I want is for these people to be treated as EU citizens. If they're found committing a crime, they should be treated as criminals -- but the whole group should not be targeted as "gypsy criminals." Most of the people who left Italy went to France, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany. We've heard already a statement from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who has threatened migrants, saying that they will be punished for not integrating into society. Switzerland has almost entirely expelled them. These probably won't be the last.

FP: Why is anti-Romany racism so engrained in Hungary?

VM: When we joined the EU, we put together a desegregation plan based on the experience of the United States. We took a survey and found that94 percent of Hungarians didn't want their children sitting next to Romany kids in school. We knew that this would be the hardest issue in the country, but we knew that without mixing them into schools, full integration would never be successful.

Twent-five to 30 percent of Romany kids have been declared mentally disabled by the [Hungarian education system]. For the general population in Europe, the average is 3 percent. The World Health Organization has said that it's not physically possible for one population to have more than 3 percent. This is because of prejudice as well as the fact that school districts can get extra funding for having more special needs kids.

Sometimes, people say that Romany parents want their children to be declared disabled because they'll get extra state benefits. This is a lie. The money goes into the pockets of the local government.

The students themselves wind up in lower-quality ghetto schools. That's why I feel very alone. There are no Romany teachers, doctors, judges, or human rights activists. There's nobody who can be successful.

FP: Have Roma tried to become more active in the political system?

VM: My fellow MPs and MEPs would always tell me, "Teach your people to vote. You have to teach them to participate." But my research discovered that the election percentages were exactly the same. In EU elections, 60 percent of Roma people voted and 60 percent of [the total population] voted. It's the same thing when you hear people say that our kids are not attending school. Less than 1 percent of Romany kids are not attending school in Hungary.

Of course, I don't know how it is in other countries. If I get the chance, I'd like to extend this research to all of the 27 EU member states.

FP: But if Roma are voting, why aren't Roma politicians more influential at the national level?

VM: All the major political parties [in Hungary] choose one Roma representative. Most of these are not effective because the parties always choose someone who won't speak up too loudly. I heard one of them say, "We have to teach the Romany people to work before we can have integration." A Romany politician said this! It's shameful. But this is because they were chosen by the party. I was chosen by the Liberals, and we wound up fighting a lot because they thought I would be silent and not get involved. When they saw I was going to independently pursue my issues, they wanted to kick me out. We've created several Romany parties, but none of them have been successful.

FP: How have the open borders in the EU changed life for your community?

VM: People thought that they could have a better life in the West. Instead they experience discrimination, exclusion, having their kids taken away from them by authorities. It's worse for us today than it was when the border was closed under communism.

Please visit the youtube video listed below.  It was made by Human Rights First.


"We have just received positive support from Senator Feingold in the USA. He has sent the first report to the Chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee. This is as high as one can get in America, short of the President himself. However, he has also promised to act to ensure that our petition, when ready, will be delivered personally to President Obama."


Also please visit this website for updates and photos on the Romani of Kosovo


Published: 25/10/2010
Fair way to see how gypsies and travellers live

BY Jordan Day

Debbie HallThousands of gypsies and Romanies descended on Milton Country Park over the weekend for the park’s first gypsy and country crafts fair.

Following the success of the park’s My Big Fat Gypsy Fair in June, gypsy families from across the country travelled to the park for the festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Organiser Candy Sheridan, a North Norfolk district councillor and member of the Gypsy Council, was “delighted” to see local settled families visiting to get a deeper insight into traveller life.

Mrs Sheridan said: “The weekend was a huge success and I am delighted with how well it went.

“The fair was not just well supported by the gypsy and Romany community but the settled community, too, and we had so many local people coming along to discover what we travellers are all about.

“My family are Irish travellers and we are very proud people.

“The main aims of fairs like these are to celebrate who we are and our culture and to break down the negative image that people have of gypsies.

“By coming along to these events, the settled community can see that there is no reason to be scared of travellers, that we are positive people and that we have the right to be part of the community.”

Visitors were able to see a wide range of traditional rural practices and there were demonstrations for people to get hands-on with various Romany crafts.

Beautiful gypsy carts were also on display, as well as horses, chickens and other animals that traveller families brought with them.

Travellers, exhibitors and stallholders taking part in the fair were able to stay at the park from Friday evening to this morning.

Wayne TiddChris Goodwin, a ranger at the park, said: “The atmosphere over the weekend has been so positive.

“We’ve had people of all walks of life coming together and learning more about each other, which is what the main aim of this fair is about.

“The feedback from the travellers themselves and visitors over the two days has been brilliant and we hope this will become a regular event on the park’s calendar.”



Roma, not just human rights groups, need to speak up

PHOTO BY AUGUSTIN PALOKAJ--Roma from Kosovo in a Brussels park


EUOBSERVER / COMMENT - Spurred on by recent headlines on the treatment of Roma in Europe, many EU policy-makers are now realising that they can no longer move forward on the issue of inclusion without speaking with those most directly affected - the Roma communities themselves.

Take for example EU Commissioner Viviane Reding's recently announced five-point action plan that promises a dialogue with Roma. The problem is that the Roma are the least organised and most underrepresented ethnic minority group in Europe while the EU is the most advanced and powerful transnational political organisation in Europe. The promise of a dialogue prompts two fundamental questions - who exactly is commissioner Reding going to speak with? Who can, and who should, enter into dialogue with the commission on behalf of the Roma?

The context of social exclusion and economic marginalisation that characterises the current situation of Roma reproduces itself in the realm of politics. In the face of widespread hunger, segregated education, employment discrimination, poor health, appalling living conditions, and hate-based attacks, the issues of active citizenship and political representation for the Roma have never been high on the agenda of the European Union, or for that matter the communities affected. Now, when its crunch time and there is an urgent need to enter a dialogue about reforms and responsibilities, the EU needs credible and legitimate counterparts around the table who can discuss social and political exclusion.

In the absence of Roma political representation, civil society advocates and organizations, Roma and non-Roma alike have been a driving force in policy dialogues with the EU and national governments. However, despite their best intentions, they are not elected officials and as such, their legitimacy and political accountability toward Roma community can be called into question.

It is the promise of democracy that every person will be represented in decision-making. Only then can a person feel bound to respect and comply with the common rules that bind a polity. And it is only when Roma are represented and fully recognized as citizens that decisions concerning their lives will acquire legitimacy and relevance. Otherwise, top-down policy interventions - most egregiously manifested in the brute power of bulldozers leveling Roma households - will continue to corrode the notion of Roma as citizens.

Ideally, political parties should represent their constituencies, including Roma citizens. However, this has not been the case. Mainstream political parties provide extremely limited space for candidates of Roma origin and poorly represent the needs of Roma communities. The EU cannot sit around and wait for political parties to change. It must take action itself.

The European Union should find a model for stimulating Roma representation. Regulations on gender quotas could be adapted as a midterm solution for increased Roma elected representatives in the European and national parliaments. In the long term, the commission needs to include the concept of active citizenship in its future EU Roma policy. Provisions must be made to ensure every citizen of Roma origin is registered to vote, has access to the polls, and can make informed decisions.

In the meantime, commissioner Reding is right to promise a dialogue with Roma ourselves. The EU can no longer only speak with policy with experts - it must engage with elected representatives of Roma communities. In European, national, and local parliaments, there are elected politicians who are Roma and who should be part of the dialogue.

The current level of political representation of Roma is plainly inadequate and the level of exclusion so pervasive that Roma do not feel a sense of common belonging as citizens. The more profound and longer-term challenge is to strive for proportionate political representation of Roma within the union, and to promote a sense of citizenship among the millions hitherto excluded. The sooner the better, because if integration is to work and effective policies are to take root, dialogue alone will not suffice.

Integration requires a sense of ownership and responsibility from all sides, government and opposition parties, and all citizens, Roma and non-Roma.

Zeljko Jovanovica is Roma leader from Serbia and the director of Roma programmes for the Open Society Foundation.

Saturday, October 23, 2010



The unexpected rebirth of a Saxon village in Romania

Sunday, 17 October 2010

It could have been the end of the centuries-old village of Viscri in the hills of Transylvania when almost all its inhabitants, Saxons of German origin, left in 1989 at the collapse of communism.

After all, how could such a small village survive in the poor and remote Romanian countryside?

But Romanians - Roma Gypsies as well as non Roma - have breathed new life into the picturesque village.

They moved into the abandoned houses and worked with the remaining Saxons to forge a new future based on cultural tourism, sustainable agriculture and a revival of ancient craftsmanship.

Last year more than 11,000 tourists from around the world came to see Viscri's pastel-coloured houses and its fortified church, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Even Britain's Prince Charles has bought a house there.

"We are proud of the rebirth because after the departure of the Saxons, their traditional farm houses lay derelict," said Caroline Fernolend, one of the few members of the German minority who stayed behind.

"Then some Romanian Roma families who had been living outside the village in wooden houses moved in," Fernolend told AFP.

The Saxons had settled in Transylvania, the centre of today's Romania, in the 12th century at the request of a local king.

In January 1990 there were 300 living in Viscri. In December of the same year there were only 68.

Today the population is back up to 420, a large number of whom are Roma although many prefer not to be referred to as such because of the negative stereotypes associated with this community in Europe.

With the help of the Mihai Eminescu Trust set up with British support, the new inhabitants, "Romanian Roma and non Roma, learned how to restore and preserve this rich heritage," said Fernolend, vice president of the Trust.

They revived ancient crafts, such as making tiles, and rebuilt old Saxon buildings, restoring villages in work that will be on show in an exhibition opening at the Romanian embassy in Washington on Thursday (October 14).

Gheorghe Lascu, 47, never thought he would do the same work as his grandfather. But for three years now he has been making traditional bricks and tiles to renovate Saxon buildings.

"I am very proud of what we do," he said, watching over a fire warming the kiln in which his latest bricks and tiles were being "cooked".

Gheorghe and his wife Dorina mould every tile and brick themselves. They use clay from the neighbourhood, which English experts had tested and identified as the most suitable raw material.

"The idea was to help maintain traditional skills while providing a living for a family," said Colin Richards, head of a conservation and archeology unit in the Shropshire council in Britain and also a Trust expert who visits once a year to help the Lascu family.

Viscri's inhabitants were also encouraged to open bed-and-breakfasts to accommodate visitors drawn by its ancient way of life restored. Today there are 11 pensions run by local families.

"At the beginning, we started to rent only one room. Now we have three," said Maria Panait, who with her husband renovated a house in the centre of the village.

"We have a lot of tourists from abroad. They usually like traditional food and organic cheese from our sheep," she said.

The Panaits set up another project in which village women knit woollen socks, a venture that took a knock during the global economic crisis with orders, mostly from Germany, plummeting from 12,000 pairs to only 2,000 last year.

The Gabor brothers, Matei, 32, and Istvan, 28, also took up their grandfather's craft.

"He was a very skilled blacksmith who was called by the Saxons to work in Viscri. We learned a lot from him," Istvan said.

He and his brother make traditional locks, intricate hinges, horseshoes and even chandeliers.

"We here, we are proud to know that our iron works are used in the fortified Saxon church of Viscri," Istvan said.

He and his brother are among the very few inhabitants of Viscri who call themselves Roma.

"I am first and foremost a human being, like we all are here, but I am also proud to be a Roma," Istvan said.

Romania's Roma community is the biggest in Europe: the official census puts the number at 530,000 but pressure groups say it is as high as 2.5 million, with most Roma not declaring themselves as such fearing discrimination.

A French crackdown on Roma, which the French government has linked to crime, has highlighted problems afflicting the community including prejudice, poverty, housing segregation and education and labour market barriers.

The topic was the focus of a European Union conference in the Romanian capital this week that called for member states to do more to improve the situation of the Roma people.

For Istvan, the peaceful village of Viscri has shielded him from many of these worries.

"Here it does not matter if you are Romanian Roma, Hungarian, German or something else. We consider ourselves human beings first," he told AFP.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Co-Chairs Welcome Justice in Attack on Romani Household

Case of Baby Natalka Focuses Attention on Growing Czech Extremism

WASHINGTON—Leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) today expressed their support for the stiff sentences handed down in the Czech Republic to four neo-Nazis who firebombed a Romani family’s home in 2009.
The court found David Vaculík, Ivo Müller, Jaromír Lukeš, and Václav Cojocaru guilty of complicity in attempted murder and property damage in an attack that left an infant with second and third degree burns over 80 percent of her body and injured three others. The four men were all sentenced to at least 20 years in prison. The sentences are reportedly the toughest ever handed down for a racially motivated crime in the Czech Republic. The rehabilitation ordeal of Natalka Sivakova, who will be maimed for life, has gripped the Czech nation.
“We welcome the verdict in this case as a small measure of justice for a Romani family that was clearly targeted for no reason other than their ethnicity,” said U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD). “The transparency of these court proceedings helped to remind the world of the horrific nature of this crime and the fact that the perpetrators of such extreme acts of violence and hate cannot hide from the law. Nothing can compensate for the baby's injuries and unfathomable suffering, but hopefully this sentence will not only deter future hate crimes, but send a signal to extremist elements in the Czech Republic that their day of reckoning is at hand.”

The four men allegedly committed the crimes to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s 120th birthday. In court one defendant, Lukeš, wore the shirt of a White Power band. In the past three years, the Czech Republic has witnessed an escalation of arson attacks on Roma, attempted pogroms masquerading as “law-and-order” marches, and other manifestations of extremism.

“I am heartened to hear Czech political leaders supporting justice in this notorious hate crime,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “We call on the new Czech Government to address Romani human rights comprehensively, including by strengthening public understanding of Romani experiences during the Holocaust. I will also be greatly interested in the outcome of the ongoing trial of eight alleged perpetrators of the mob attack on Roma in Havirov.”

In Havirov, a group of men attacked several Roma on November 8, 2008. One teenager was savagely beaten into a coma and suffers permanent disability.

The Co-Chairmen, who have been tireless advocates for equal rights for Romani people, expressed their hope that the Natalka case would help focus needed attention on issues affecting Roma in the country.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.

Neil Simon
Communications Director
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe


I just can't get over this article.  I sure don't know of any Romani individuals or groups who have been contacted by Obama---extending an open invitation to those suffering in Europe.  As a matter of fact, we have been trying to get his support for the Romani living on lead mines in Kosovo.

To me a ludicrous statement in this article is about Missy Connors, who was arrested for assaulting a "Gypsy who moved into her house..."  Okay that got my attention.  Now what's really the story.

I printed a comment left with this article just as an example of the prejudice we face.




Posted on Monday, October 18th, 2010

By Frank Lake

CLEVELAND - Roma Gypsies are invading Cleveland, taking advantage of the current economic crisis to set up tent neighborhoods.

Roma, called Gypsies, had traveled around rural areas of America in the 1930s. Many Roma from Russia and the Balkan countries came to the U.S. and Canada during the late 1800s. Experts believe Roma originated from northwestern India, but hundreds of years ago they were labeled Gypsies because people incorrectly thought they came from Egypt. Gypsies were persecuted by the Nazis during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Nearly 500,000 Roma people died in concentration camps.

Since then, Gypsies have roamed all over Europe – Eastern and Western. Recently, thousands of Roma gypsies deported from France are heading for the midwest of the United States. Many have been spotted in Pennsylvania and Michigan but there has been a large number seen in recent weeks in Ohio, with close to 50,000 setting up camps in Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs.

Ohio has the perfect weather for us,” said Radva Kurcik, a Roma leader from Romania. “There are also many empty office buildings and houses in Cleveland, that we intend to take over. We love Cleveland!”

The Cleveland Police have not yet taken any action against the gypsies. “We do not want to racial profile any group. We are taking this gypsy situation seriously, but we’re going slowly.”

“Going slowly?” said Jim Scott of Hudson, Ohio. “We got gypsies all over the place. There was over five hundred setting up camp on our town football field. Somebody has to do something!”

Many of the gypsies have already managed to get onto the unemployment rolls in Ohio. “They make it very easy for you to get unemployment benefits and food stamps. Plus, President Obama met with us over the weekend and promised us free healthcare, said Katrina Vldoch. “America is the greatest nation in the world.”

Many Cleveland residents are upset about the influx of Gypsies. “They are thieves and robbers. They don’t work and they don’t contribute to society. We want the government to do something! We want them out!” said Missy Connors of Cleveland.

Connors was later arrested for attacking a gypsy that had moved into her house. “The Police are siding with the gypsies. This is outrageous!” said Scott.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that the city is planning to have a meeting to discuss forming a panel to address the Gypsy situation. “We don’t want to discriminate about anybody. Cleveland loves diversity.”

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration has told the Roma leadership that gypsies are welcome in America – especially in Ohio. But, if Ohio voters promise to vote for Obama in 2012, the Administration said that they will encourage Gypsies to head to Missouri.
This is a comment on the original article.
Well if they have 'settled' , then by definition, they must not be 'gypsies' anymore. But just you wait and see, as soon as the neighbors start complaining, they'll just take the money and run. That's how they operate. Which is why so many people, including nazis hate them. As long as they stay off my property, I won't shoot them. They're a noosance, just like gypsy moths (hence the name).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010



Nicolas Cage to attend charity ball for Gypsy children

Canada, 19.10.2010 12:00, (ROMEA)

Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage will be in Romania to film the sequel to Ghost Rider, where he will also be attending a charity ball aimed at helping underpriveleged Gypsy children get an education.

Times and Transcript reported that the star will be in Romania at the end of October to film Ghost Rider- Spirit of Vengeance.

Discrimination against the Roma is widespread in Romania and many childen do not receive basic education.

Cage will be guest of honour at the event.

Saturday, October 16, 2010



AP - This October 4, 2010 photo shows several thousand people demonstrating against racism in Parliament Square in Stockholm in a protest against the right-wing Sweden Democrats party taking their new place in parliament.

09/10/2010 - Observers have noted with alarm the growing assertiveness of Europe's far Right and the political legitimacy it has come to enjoy in many countries on the back of an increasingly anti-immigrant public mood.

Last month, as sparks flew over the French government's crackdown on immigrants, particularly the way President Nicolas Sarkozy personally intervened to order expulsion of Roman gypsies, the New Statesman carried a cover story headed: “France Turns Right.” While the French controversy rumbles on with the European Union threatening legal action against France for being allegedly in breach of one of its fundamental principles — the right of its citizens to move and work freely within the EU — it has been overtaken by reports of a broader Europe-wide lurch to the Right.

Observers have noted with alarm the growing assertiveness of Europe's far Right and the political legitimacy it has come to enjoy in many countries on the back of an increasingly anti-immigrant public mood. Post-war Europe has experienced Right-inspired social tensions before but this is thought to be the first time so many countries across the continent, including former communist societies, are affected.

According to Slavoj Zizek, Marxist intellectual and director of the London-based Birbeck Institute for the Humanities, the French move is “just the tip of a much larger iceberg of European politics.”

“Incidents like these have to be seen against the background of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space in western and eastern Europe,” he wrote in a newspaper article warning that the traditional liberal European consensus was under threat from “overtly racist neo-fascist groups.”

Another commentator likened the trend to an “infection” seeping through the continent's body politic. In the words of Abdelkader Benali, a leading Dutch writer of Moroccon origin, Europe is in the grip of a new “cold-blooded politics” of hate and fear. He says it is threatening the once-tolerant countries such as his own adopted homeland, the Netherlands, where the stridently anti-migrant and Islamophobic Freedom Party is within striking distance of sharing power after emerging the third largest party in the general elections earlier this year on a platform to ban further Muslim migration and outlaw construction of mosques.

Even as its leader Geert Wilders is being tried for inciting hatred, he is shamelessly wooed by the Liberals and the Christian Democrats to prop up a minority coalition government. In return, they are willing to pay the price he is demanding: a ban on burqa and stringent curbs on immigration.

No wonder, Mr. Wilders boasted that the development was a sign of a “new wind” blowing in the Netherlands and proof that voters supported his party's determination to stop “Islamisation” of the country.

Immigrants like Mr. Benali say they find their country's transformation from a haven of tolerance and multiculturalism into a hothouse of prejudice and social tensions shocking. “In the 1980s, this message [‘stop Islamisation'] would have made people laugh, but not now. Look around. In Sweden, the debate around Islam and migration is growing in urgency. And Islam is just a particularly toxic element in the anti-immigrant movement. Nicolas Sarkozy, who is part Jewish, is throwing out the Roma. In Germany, the country of the Holocaust, a former head of the Bundesbank, Thilo Sarazzin, is making a plea for reducing working class immigrants because of their low IQ. The idea that Europe is being kidnapped by an ever-growing non-western population is creating fear and populist parties are winning,” Mr. Benali warned, writing in The Observer. Tellingly, the article was headed: “I migrated to Europe with hope. Now I feel nothing but dread.”

In Sweden, hitherto seen as an “oasis of civility and openness,” the “neo-Nazi” Sweden Democrats party (SD) has, for the first time, won seats in Parliament in a development that has shocked liberals. The country's political map is being redrawn in a way few Swedes could have once imagined.

“We're in,” the SD's young leader, Jimmie Akesson, told his supporters. Liberal Swedish intellectuals have called for mainstream parties to reflect on why the SD was able to attract so many votes. “From no representation, it now has nearly 6 per cent of the vote, which means that it will get 20 MPs; it also destroys the previous centre-Right majority and creates an uncertain situation in Parliament,” Swedish writer Henning Mankell pointed out but said that instead of denouncing those who had voted for it as racists and xenophobic, it was important to ask why 3,00,000 people, among whom were many working class voters, chose to support it.

Blaming the SD's success on the refusal of mainstream parties to listen to voters' concerns about immigration, he said: “If we had the debate, the SD might have got into Parliament, but with far fewer seats. In fact, they could have been kept out of Parliament altogether.” In a chilling warning, he said: “But respect for the 3,00,000 people who voted for them [SD] demands that we accept the necessity of dialogue, before these 3,00,000 become two or three times as many.”

According to media reports, many of those who voted for the SD had been life-long supporters of the liberal Social Democratic Party. They insist that they are not racist and have nothing against foreigners but believe that there are too many immigrants and their alleged refusal to “integrate” threatens Swedish values. “It's become crazy around here. You can't go out in the evening. I've got nothing against foreigners. I've been married to a Bulgarian for 40 years. But these people don't share values,” one woman told a British newspaper.

A backlash against immigration, targeted mostly at Muslims, is also said to be behind the rise of extreme right-wing groups in Austria, Denmark, and Italy. In former communist countries such as Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania there is, in addition, a whiff of homophobia, anti-Semitism and a host of other social and cultural prejudices against minority groups. Far-Right groups have also made electoral gains in Latvia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The economic crisis, with millions of people losing their jobs and facing an uncertain future, has heightened public hostility towards immigrants who are seen as “spongers” — foreigners who are “stealing” local jobs and being a “drag” on public services and other resources. The current climate offers a fertile ground for the Right, which is making the most of it.

Matthew Goodwin, who teaches at the University of Nottingham, says far-Right parties are cynically exploiting people's anxieties. “When we ask voters in a range of different surveys about their views about immigrants and about Muslims we can see quite significant pockets of anxiety in populations across Europe. These parties are the tip of a much deeper trend,” he told al-Jazeera television.

“Their strategy is to mobilise opinion by arousing fear of the “other” — of anyone who is different: the fear of immigrants, the fear of crime, the fear of godless sexual depravity, the fear of the excessive state,” as Professor Zizek puts it, echoing the findings of the Minority Rights Group (MRG), a London-based international campaign group.

In a report, it points to a significant increase in “right-wing radicalism” in the past two years — a period of deep economic crisis. In 2009, there were unprecedented gains for Right-wing parties in parliamentary elections across Europe.

“Successes in the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, and at the national parliamentary level, have allowed these populist right-wing parties to shift formerly far-right ideas, on immigration for example, into the mainstream,” said Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.

There is concern that the anti-immigrant backlash could undermine European unity. The strong reaction in Brussels to President Sarkozy's attacks on Roma settlers is a sign, analysts say, of how seriously the EU is taking the issue. “The battle between France and the European Union over Paris's treatment of Roma migrants … goes to the heart of the growing threat to one of the foundation stones of the EU — the right of the bloc's 500 m citizens to live, work and study in any of the bloc's 27 countries,” said the Financial Times.

Critics warn that President Sarkozy's move — seen as an attempt to outflank Jean-Marie Le Pen's anti-immigrant National Front to which his party lost much ground in regional elections earlier this year — is a sign of the shape of things to come. They say it illustrates the “timidity” of mainstream centre-right parties in Britain, France and Germany to take on the far-Right politically. They have gone for the defeatist and lazy option based on the old playground adage that if you can't beat them, join them. In Britain, the Labour and the Tories have for long been engaged in a competitive rhetoric on immigration to steal the British National Party's thunder, and now we have President Sarkozy trying to give the NF a run for its money giving a new momentum to “a race to the bottom as to who can be more nasty to immigrants,” according to Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Britain's leading rights group, Liberty.

The prognosis doesn't look good.

Friday, October 15, 2010



Gypsies, or How to Be Invisible in Mexico

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 2:48 PM



In the story "Gente bella" (Beautiful People), the Mexican dictator of the day sends a

mission to Europe to import 300 families and thus "whiten the race, to put an end to laziness." Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria cheats him and sends, for the price of gold, gypsies.

This social critique by leftist Mexican politician and writer Eraclio Zepeda, who was born in 1937, is a veiled reference to President Porfirio Díaz (1830-1915), and depicts the persistent negative stereotype of gypsies that partly explains their invisibility, even today, despite their deep roots in the country.

Ysmed Nebarak, who lives in Acapulco on Mexico's southern Pacific coast, knows about that invisibility. Her grandfather, a Hungarian who came to Mexico around 1920, kept mum about the story of his first wife, who was a gypsy.

"I honestly don't know about his ancestors, because he never wanted to tell us about them," she told IPS.

This Latin American country of 107 million people is home to 15,850 gypsies - or Roma as they prefer to be called -according to the 2000 census by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. However, the figure is considered an underestimate due to the narrow criteria used to classify members of the ethnic group, and researchers put the total much higher.

The main activities of the Roma community in Mexico are buying and selling fabric, clothing, cars, trucks and jewelry, as well
as performing and teaching singing and dancing.

"Gypsies have been 'de-historified'; they do not appear in the history of Mexico," David Lagunas, of the National School of Anthropology and History, told IPS. "We know very little about hem, which gives rise to stereotypes and negative images. Mexico is a mix of groups with different histories and pasts."

The Spanish-born anthropologist said the fact that Roma people administer their time, work and money in a non-traditional manner makes mainstream society wary and suspicious. Lagunas knows all about this, because he spent 10 years living with gypsies in Andalusia in southern Spain and Catalonia in the northeast, living in their caravans and selling clothing at their market stalls, while writing his thesis.

The first wave of Roma arrived in Mexico in the 1890s, when they came to the Americas from Hungary, Poland and Russia and mainly settled in the United States and Brazil, but also in this country, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. And in the period between World War I and World War II, many more Roma left Hungary for Mexico, Venezuela and other nations.

But in 1931, when there was already a large community of Roma in Mexico, the immigration laws were reformed to ban them from settling in this country, after growing accusations of criminal activities.

The last major influx of Roma occurred in 1969. They came from Spain and mainly settled in the central Mexico City neighbourhood of Juárez, where they are chiefly dedicated to selling textiles and leather garments.

Today there are Roma communities in the capital and in the cities of Veracruz on Mexico's eastern coast, Puebla in the south, Guadalajara in the west and Monterrey in the northeast.

But the best-known Roma communities are in San Luís Potosí in central Mexico.

One of the biggest proponents of gypsy culture, the leader of the Roma community Pablo Luvinoff, was killed Sept. 24 in a hospital in the Mexican capital, even though a police guard had been posted outside his room.

Luvinoff had survived three attempts on his life since 2004, blameId on a dispute for control of the Roma community in the capital. Since his murder, the authorities have arrested several suspects, all of them Roma.

Although the Roma in Mexico, as in other countries, are known to suffer from discrimination, few complaints have been filed.

In 2006, the National Commission to Prevent Discrimination, a government body, investigated the case of a member of the Roma community in the northern state of Baja California, but in the end the complaint was dismissed.

In recent years, several authors and photographers have sought to break down the ignorance about the Roma community in Mexico, and the silence surrounding them. In 2001, researcher Ricardo Pérez Romero published "La lumea de noi. Memoria de los ludar de México". Lumea de noi means "our people" in Romanian, and the book is about the history and day-to-day life of the Ludar people, who are gypsies from Romania.

"Piel de carpa; Los gitanos de México", a book with a similar focus, by Mexican photographer and researcher Ruth Campos Cabello and Spanish artist and photographer Antonio García, was published in 2007.

"Gypsies are like indigenous people: there are many different groups, and they are not all the same," Lorenzo Armendariz, a Mexican photographer who is well-known for his portraits of different ethnic groups, told the magazine Artes Visuales. "The nomads among them still travel with their family tents, and their groups include clowns, magicians and dancers, although the main attraction is mass hypnosis."

In 1994, when the famed photographer was 33, he discovered that his grandfather, who had been known simply as "el húngaro" (the Hungarian), was a gypsy. After the discovery, Armendariz began to get involved in the world of the Roma in Mexico, living with them for long periods and putting together photo exhibits. He even got married under Roma rites, and in order to do so he was first adopted by a gypsy family.

"I would love to know everything having to do with their history and their customs," said Nebarak, whose grandfather raised roosters.

ike in the book "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Colombian Nobel literature prize winner Gabriel García Márquez, some groups of Roma in Mexico travel around with battery-powered film projectors in the back of their trucks, bringing movies to villages and towns.

In fact, Luvinoff's father used to drive around in a truck with a 35mm projector and a collection of old Mexican films.

"We haven't seen progress made in terms of public policies, like in other countries," said Lagunas, a graduate of the public University of Barcelona, in northeastern Spain. "Our political associations have not really taken shape, and our issues are not on the political agenda; there is no recognition of the rights of the Roma."

Where the captivating world of the Roma has not gone unnoticed is in the soap operas of different Latin American countries, including Mexico.

Televisa, Mexico's largest television network, broadcast "Yesenia", about a young gyspy woman, in 1970, and produced a remake in 1987.

A series called "Gitanas" (Gypsy Women), a co-production by TV Azteca, Mexico's second-largest network, and the U.S.-based Spanish-language network Telemundo, is currently airing here.

Luvinoff, the late patriarch of the Roma community, served as a screenplay consultant on both Gitanas and the remake of Yesenia.




In Italy, local politics appears to drive latest round of Roma Gypsy expulsions

By Anna Momigliano

Oct 14 2010
MILAN, ITALY — On the heels of controversial Roma Gypsy expulsions in France, which may lead to European Union sanctions, cities across Italy have increased pressure on Romas, recently tearing down more camps and driving them out of town. But while France is risking EU punishment, Italy may avoid legal action since the expulsions are being carried out at the municipal level, which does not violate any EU regulation since there is no formal expulsion.

In Milan, for instance, where local authorities have been evacuating Roma Gypsy camps for years, upcoming mayoral elections appear to have renewed officials' interest in going after Roma Gypsy communities - a move that is widely popular throughout Italy.

“The strategy is clear and simple: Rather than forcing someone on the airplane, authorities keep demolishing gypsy camps so that eventually Roma people have no place to go and leave the country,” says Roberto Malini, a representative from EveryOne, an nongovernmental organization that defends minorities' rights in Italy.

Other than Milan, camps have been evacuated in Rome, Naples, and now Italy is talking about evacuating camps near Venice.

In 2006 there were at least 170,000 Roma in Italy, now there are just about 40,000, according to Mr. Malini, who claims that many of the gypsies that are now being expelled from France were previously forced out of Italy: “I had at least 15 of them calling me on the phone asking me what to do."

“In a sense, Italy has anticipated the French trend in cracking down on Roma," points out Maurizio Paganini, leader of the Opera Nomadi gypsy organization.

Mr. Paganini says that dozens of Roma camps have been destroyed all over the country in the past two years. In 2008 the government introduced a controversial “gypsy census” taking files of the inhabitants of the major Roma camps in the country.

Taking the crackdown to new proportions

“But this whole crackdown has recently been taking new proportions in the area of Milan,” continues Paganini. This week in the Milan area, three Gypsy camps have been evacuated: a major one in the Treboniano northern neighborhood, and two minor ones in Rizzo street and Toledo street.

“We have kicked out 150 squatters in 24 hours and have evacuated 355 people since 2007," deputy mayor Riccardo De Corato proudly declared to Asca news agency. He was recently quoted by The Washington Post as describing Gypsies as “dark-skinned people, not Europeans like you and me,” and as having declared: "Our final goal is to have zero gypsy camps in Milan."

Paganini, the Gypsy leader, says that the recent acceleration in the crackdown against Roma is politically motivated: “We are getting close to the [2011] mayoral elections and authorities want to impress the public with a policy of zero tolerance.”

Gypsies as the public enemy

Paganini says that the ruling conservative party has “successfully turned Gypsies into a public enemy.”

The policy is no doubt popular.

According to a 2008 survey taken by Roberto Mannehimer group, 81 percent of the Italian population “cannot stand Gypsies," who are often blamed for petty crimes.

Since then, the conservative parties' rhetoric against Roma has grown stronger. "Many of them are criminals," Vice Mayor De Corato, who belongs to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom Party, told the Post.

“The problem is that the progressive opposition [parties have] no alternative plan," points out Paganini, who says left-wing parties blame themselves for having lost the elections for being too soft on crime and so-called dangerous minorities. “There is no alternative narrative ... the Gypsies are always the bad guys."





Berlin’s unwanted Roma

Published: 14 Oct 10 13:57 CET

France's expulsions of Roma have caused international outrage, but what's life like in Germany for the people once known as Gypsies?

Like no other thoroughfare in Berlin, Flughafenstraße in the Neukölln district is a street marked by a new influx of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma families who have come to Berlin since their countries’ accession to the EU in 2007.

Up and down the street, which stretches from Karl-Marx-Straße to Hermannstraße, you can find tacky new nightclubs with names like “Sofia” advertising well-known Bulgarian Gypsy chalga singers. Intermingled with Turkish bistros, Arab shops, African hair salons and second-hand furniture stores are brand-new bordellos with flashing red lights operated by the Bulgarian mafia.

No one knows exactly how many recent arrivals there are, but everyone has stories about Gypsies in this part of Neukölln. Zoran Markovic, owner of a Serbian music and grocery store called “Kod Zoran – Balkan Spezialitäten,” has been running his Flughafenstraße shop for more than two decades.

“The Gypsies are the worst,” says Zoran. “Especially the Bosnian Gypsies. They come in here and steal everything. I had a Gypsy woman come in here the other day with a baby in her arms. I watched her steal a CD and stick it under her baby. I said, ‘Give me the CD.’ She said, ‘What CD?’ I took the CD from out under her baby and hit her over the head with it and told her, ‘Get out of here! Before I call the police’.”

“There’s no doubt about it, the Gypsies steal the most,” says Metin, who works in a family-run Späti nearby. “They come in with their babies, don’t speak any German. It’s clear they are Gypsies.”

“Of course they steal,” says Hamze Bytyci, an activist from a Roma advocacy group called Amaro Drom, which this past September organized a “Roma Action Day” aimed at drawing attention to the problems faced by Balkan Roma families in Neukölln.

“They have no choice. But let’s not forget that these Roma from Bulgaria and Romania have been driven here by the EU. For years now, the EU has been dismantling the traditional jobs of the Roma in Bulgaria. These people have no other choice but to come to the rich West. And some of them do steal.”

For centuries, Roma have lived in large numbers in eastern Europe and the Balkans, sometimes in harmony with their neighbours and sometimes suffering overt persecution.

But one thing is clear: in countries like Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, the Roma belong to the cultural and physical landscape. They intermarry, play music at gajo weddings and funerals, and live in Roma mahallas (ghettos) or else side-by side with their Slavic neighbours, making money and prospering like everyone else. They are nothing new.

Now western Europe has a ‘Roma problem’. Since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, countries like France, Italy and Germany have been finally making contact with the Roma people, who number about 10 million, constitute Europe’s biggest minority, and are testing its alleged principles of tolerance and multiculturalism.

In Italy, on the outskirts of Rome, Roma camps were cleared out by the police last year. Now Sarkozy’s France is at the center of a scandal over the systematic and accelerating deportation of Roma back to their home countries. Germany does not have large Roma encampments to speak of, but when some 50 Roma from Romania set up camp in Kreuzberg’s Görlitzer Park last summer, police were quick to disperse them; they were hunted from site to site until finally the families were flown back to Romania.

The first Roma to come to Germany were from the Balkans and arrived with the Gastarbeiter of the 1970s and 1980s. According to Südost Europa Kultur, an organization that promotes Balkan culture in Berlin, these Roma are now fairly integrated and spread out throughout the city. The next wave came with the war in Bosnia. Many Roma – particularly from the town of Bijeljina – came to Berlin as refugees, then forced to leave when the conflict ended.

However, many returned to Berlin by hook or by crook, and many of these Gypsies from the 1990s now live in Neukölln and Wedding. The most recent wave consists of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma, who live predominantly in the “Schillerkiez” area of Neukölln.

According to the Berlin Institute for Population and Development, there are 120,000 Roma in Germany. Up to 20,000 are estimated to live in Berlin.

A burning issue is the fate of the more than 130,000 Roma who fled Kosovo in the wake of intense persecution, including arson attacks and expulsions. Many of these came to Germany. Under a deal signed in April, 14,000 refugees are to be returned to Kosovo – 10,000 of whom are Roma.

“Now, 10 years on, Germany is trying to deport the Roma living here. Most don’t want to go; 4,000 have already been deported,” says Hamze Bytyci of Amaro Drom.

According to Unicef, half of the Roma to be deported are children, most of whom were born and raised in Germany. But unlike France’s Roma (who mostly originate from, and have been expelled back to, Romania and Bulgaria), they do not have the right to return because they are not EU citizens.

Bytyci is himself a Kosovan Roma. He came to Berlin as a refugee during the war and married a German. “Seventy years ago, Roma were killed by Nazis in this country,” he says. “And Germany was massively involved in supporting the nationalist forces in Kosovo and the UÇK [Kosovo Liberation Army], which resulted in the expulsion and persecution of Roma. We think that Germany has a responsibility towards these people.”

But it seems no one wants the Roma. The media in Berlin, be it B.Z. or Bild, focuses on Gypsy squeegee gangs and Gypsy petty crime, presenting a stereotypical and overwhelmingly negative picture of the city’s Balkan Roma. And then there is Heinz Buschkowsky, the controversial mayor of Neukölln, who – while never explicitly singling out the Roma – spoke at length about his so-called “problem families”.

His threats to cut Kindergeld in half has succeeded in riling up many Neukölln Roma, who tend to have a lot of children and often live off of the state.

“And the latest thing is that he wants to make all our children go to kindergarten. Children should stay with their parents. It just means that people with children will leave Neukölln… It’s like fascism,” says Slavisa Markovic, a Neukölln Roma from Niš, Serbia, who runs Rroma Aether Klub Theater with his brother. “Heinz Buschkowsky can go to hell. You can tell him a Zigeuner said that.”

While Roma might have a hard time ‘integrating’ into Germany’s society and school system, Germans are not making the process any easier: Markovic recalls that finding a space for his café/theater wasn’t easy. “We said we were Roma. ‘Roma?’ they said. ‘You mean you come from Rome?’ ‘No, like Gypsies,’ we said. ‘Zigeuner’. ‘Oh, no, please – we have enough problems as it is.’”

It is a Saturday night in Neukölln in mid-September. The day has been marked by rallies and demonstrations: an anti-nuclear power demo at Hauptbahnhof, a neo-Nazi rally in Schöneweide and an open-air anti-police hip-hop concert in Neukölln organized by Autonomen and immigrant groups.

And today, September 18 – although not many people know it – is Roma Action Day and Neukölln Roma have been meeting to discuss issues amongst themselves or with journalists and town-hall officials. Now it’s party time.

Niko, a Romanian Roma with long sideburns and tattoos, takes the stage in the cellar of Shangl Hangl Musikcafé, a popular hangout for Gypsy musicians. He treats the mostly Roma crowd to some fierce Balkan accordion riffs and emotive singing, before ceding his spot to a four-piece Gypsy-style jazz outfit. The dancing continues late into the morning.

People puff on joints and sip shots of slivovitz. Niko takes a breath of fresh air outside. He doesn’t want to talk to journalists about the Roma. “Are you going to say something positive or negative?” he asks skeptically. The only thing he will say is that “Sarkozy is an asshole.”

Samir Biberovic – a Roma from the former Yugoslavia who lived in Berlin for a stint during the Yugoslav Wars and was then deported, only to come back again – is more open. He speaks of lively Gypsy parties in Roma nightclubs in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, scandals and fights and well-known Roma personalities (like Refik Petrovic, the owner of Hollywood, a popular Yugo disco on Potsdamer Straße that’s popular among Bosnian expats. Petrovic came here in 1990s from Bijeljina as a refugee, and made money selling cars before buying a club).

“What bothers me,” says Biberovic, “is that all we see in the media are pictures of poor Gypsies. We never see any pictures of the rich ones. And there are successful Gypsies, both down in the Balkans and here in Berlin.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Another excellent film by Mundi Romani

This is a preview of the film Guilty until Proven Innocent to be released at the end of November 2010. Since July 2010, the French government's policies on the expulsion of Eastern-European Roma from France have fed an unprecedented media frenzy in Europe and beyond. Rarely had the world heard so much about the Roma. Rarely had so many prejudices and oversimplifications been mirrored in public speech about the state of affairs.

 The Budapest-based Romedia Foundation, producer of the award-winning "Mundi Romani - the World through Roma Eyes" series uncovers the roots of the issues at stake in 2010, and brings to light damning evidence of institutionalized racism in Europe.

With the participation of: La Voix des Rroms, GISTI, Open Society Institute, Decade of Roma Inclusion, Sigrid Rausing Trust.

Monday, October 11, 2010



An Agenda for Integrating the Roma

October 8, 2010
by Heather Grabbe

The European Commission has given France until October 15 to come into line with EU law in allowing free movement of persons, including giving effective rights to the Roma whom France has been deporting without due process of law to determine individual guilt. Regrettably, the Commission pulled back from launching a ground-breaking legal case based on France's violation of the fundamental rights of an ethnic group by targeting them for discriminatory treatment. But it served notice that France will now have to provide evidence, not just assurances by ministers, that it is not targeting the Roma.

The boxing match of "France v. Commission" has been entertaining for the press corps. But it has not helped the plight of a single Roma person yet. Good could come out of this shameful episode if it leads to a comprehensive, pan-European strategy to integrate the Roma.

This is exactly the kind of cross-border, pan-European question the EU was created to resolve. The Roma are one of Europe's oldest and largest minorities, and the 12 million of them suffer discrimination and poverty across the continent, and outright persecution in many EU states. No wonder they are willing to move from poorer countries to richer ones, even if few are culturally nomadic. Their plight is the ultimate challenge for the "social inclusion" policies that the EU developed to accompany market liberalization, and the European values enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty.

The Iron Curtain no longer holds the poor and persecuted behind closed borders, while the EU is actively promoting free movement for citizens as a major benefit of European integration. European governments cannot stop people moving without undermining the Single Market, which is founded on freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and people.

EU member-states risk getting into a race to the bottom if they rely on coercion to make life more uncomfortable for the Roma in their country than in others. Security-based measures are legally dubious, usually discriminatory and unlikely to be effective. Periodic deportations and destruction of camps will not persuade people to stay in their countries of origin, while cash payments for "voluntary repatriation" encourage people to come back to claim more.

The EU's credibility as a values-based organization is at stake. The world's media, from Al-Jazeera to CNN Türk and Russian TV, are running stories about racist persecutions in Europe. It is much harder to preach human rights abroad when they are not respected at home.

Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Justice, announced to the European Parliament that she will develop five measures for a more comprehensive policy. This is a welcome departure from the Commission's previous caution about developing a policy specifically for the Roma, arguing that other disadvantaged groups would ask for the same. But governments are taking actions that threaten core principles of the European project, and many members have manifestly failed to integrate the Roma into their societies for centuries. This is not just a question of discrimination, but of social inclusion, for which the Commission has many tools and lots of money.

The EU's regional and social funds can be spent on housing for Roma, as well as education, training and employment. But only a fraction of this money is actually reaching the Roma in the poorest member-states, because their governments lack the political will and administrative capacity to use it.

The Commission's role needs to be that of a coordinator, ensuring that countries share policy expertise and best practice, while keeping them up to the mark by monitoring and evaluating their progress through social inclusion indicators. An EU-level policy should not let national governments off the hook, because most of the measures that would bring the Roma into mainstream society are national responsibilities rather than EU competences - particularly education, health, housing and employment.

It could take decades to improve the situation, as many Roma communities have suffered centuries of discrimination and generations of unemployment, so their expectations and those of the majority society will take time to adjust. But the start is already long overdue. The "Sarkozy v. Reding" show has been entertaining. Now the EU has to show that it is a community of values as well as a common market.

The outrage from many quarters at France's measures showed that Europeans are not so apathetic about their values as their politicians sometimes assume. The Charter of Fundamental Rights just came into force. For it to have meaning, the Commission has to set out a positive agenda for Roma inclusion in addition to slapping member-states for the most egregious violations of EU law.

To see the Charter of Fundamental Rights:



Sherlock Holmes star taps into her Gypsy rootS
By Nathalia Odwin

Stockholm, 11.10.2010 10:34, (ROMEA)

Noomi Rapace, the Swedish movie star set to star alongside Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law in Guy Ritchie’s new movie, the “Sherlock Holmes” sequel, has told peacefmonline, that she has a special reason for signing on to be in the movie: it will allow her to tap into her Gypsy roots.

Noomi is the daughter of Swedish actress Nina Norén and a Spanish flamenco singer of Gypsy descent.

She said to peacefm of her role that,"She is something that I have inside me that I've wanted to look more deeply into for many years. So when this came to me I was like, 'Yes, I've been waiting to have a reason to open up those things."

She is set to play a French gypsy in the forthcoming movie which will hit U.S cinemas in December 2011.

Nathalia Odwin