Thursday, March 31, 2011


30 Mar 2011 16:42


Source:  Reuters

By Marton Dunai


March 30 (Reuters) -

In the past three years Hungary Roma, or gypsies, have been shot dead in their homes, killed by hand grenades and attacked with petrol bombs. Now they are going to be policed by right-wing vigilantes.

Next month, the far-right Jobbik party, which gained its first toehold in parliament last year on a right-wing tidal wave that put the Fidesz party in power, will field 200 vigilantes in the hardluck northeastern town of Hajduhadhaz.

"This will be a kind of demonstration," said Gergely Rubi, a Jobbik MP and the local leader of the Brighter Future Vigilante Association.

"The government likes to sweep gypsy crime under the rug but that leads nowhere," Rubi said. "If the government can't guarantee our safety they shouldn't wonder we organise our own defence."

Hajduhadhaz, a town of 13,000, some 30 percent of whom are Roma, was once a prosperous agricultural centre with a wood-products factory but is pretty much a perfect breeding ground for trouble today.

Unemployment is 40 percent, many households survive on $150 month and on a recent visit there was little activity beyond a handful of publicly employed gardeners tending the main square.

"The lack of order and security in Hajduhadhaz is horrid," said Marika Ferenczi, a 65-year-old retired railway worker. "A lot of people dare not sleep, fearing who might lurk outside."

She is not a Roma, but she does not think vigilante justice is the way to go.

"For (vigilantes) to insult and provoke everyone on the streets, against that... All this is tied to extremists.

"Should I name them? Jobbik."

Mayor Denes Csafordi said the police would not stop the vigilantes from patrolling, as long as they break no laws, but predicted they would not cure the town's ills.

"I find it deeply unsettling that self-styled arbiters of truth should descend upon this town and try to tell us how to get our house in order. They come here for a week or two... They will not solve anything, only generate more problems," he said.


Hungary has long struggled to reintegrate its Roma, who lost their jobs en masse when communism collapsed. A Roma generation has grown up since then with few memories of regular work, many of them living on welfare and a revolving door to jail.

Friction between Roma and the rest of population is endemic. In 2008, two Roma were shot dead in their home in northeastern Hungary, firebombs were lobbed into three Roma homes west of Budapest and shots were fired at three homes nearer the capital.

A group of men accused in those killings, and woundings of dozens of Roma, went on trial in Budapest last week, but the effort to solve the crimes does little to ease the tensions, which are compounded by recent economic woes.

The centre-right government, which parted ways with the IMF last year and needs market trust to roll over the highest debt burden in the region, recently bowed to market pressure to trim social spending.

Unemployment benefits will be cut to three months from nine and public employment -- often the only type of job going in places like Hajduhadhaz -- is capped at four hours a day, with a monthly pay of $150 per month.

"The $150 doesn't pay our bills, let alone cover our living costs," Balint Bernath, a local Roma leader, said.

"We voted for this government because they promised hundreds of thousands of jobs. It's been nearly a year. We can't see them."

"They want us to stop crime," he added. "If it goes on like this, they take the jobs and they take the aid, then crime will rise in Hajduhadhaz, and all over the country, I assure you."


While Jobbik got into parliament on rhetoric vilifying the Roma, Fidesz grabbed a two-thirds majority on promises of a million new jobs in 10 years and a return of public safety in two weeks.

However, Fidesz has struggled to boost the economy and has yet to bring unemployment lower.

Meanwhile, Jobbik continues playing the Roma card. Its vigilantes held a rally in a conflict-ridden village in northern Hungary earlier this month where 2,000 people, many in black uniform, marched through the Roma settlement on the outskirts.

"Had we not ordered police to critical scenes in significant numbers, ugly things could have happened," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said afterwards.

In Hajduhadhaz, Roma say the vigilantes only add oil to the flames, and promised they would not back down.

"They have not dared come to these areas yet," Bernath said, speaking near a litter-strewn shanty town where a few brick houses stood among a scattering of adobe shacks and makeshift huts with walls made of blankets cast on wooden poles.

"If the vigilantes don't escalate this, we won't either. If they declare war on us, I will declare war on them, too."

Csafordi, elected mayor in October, said the local Roma were isolated, impoverished and that unemployment will take years to erase.

"I believe the country, like our town, cannot afford pseudo measures any more," he said. "We need to do more than trying to be popular. We need to dig down to the root of the problem."


The government says it plans to boost public employment again, but welfare benefits will be linked to work.

"The only way to get welfare will be through work," Mihaly Varga, state secretary of the Prime Minister's Office, told state radio.

Peter Kreko, an analyst for the research firm Political Capital, rejected this approach.

"There is no way public works projects alone can employ all these people," he said.

He warned that in a worst-case scenario, Hungary's Roma could end up in revolt, much like Slovakia's Roma revolted in 2004 when government measures stripped them of aid with few alternatives and they broke into stores in search for food.

"Of course, it's not automatic, it needs an ideological catalyst, which is a given now because of Jobbik," Kreko said.

"All we need then is a spark for the mix to explode."

 (Reporting by Marton Dunai; editing by Michael Roddy)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



'I cried when I saw them marching'

Roma residents of a Hungarian village describe the far-right vigilante group that has been patrolling their streets.


28 Mar 2011 11:44

The Hungarian far right looks set to roll out a campaign of Roma intimidation after meeting little resistance to its vigilante "law and order" mission in Gyongyospata, a Hungarian village of 2,800 people 80km north-east of Budapest.

For A Better Future, a paramilitary organisation deriving its name from a Nazi youth movement slogan, entered the village at the start of the month. It conducted foot and car patrols, followed Roma around and stopped them from entering shops.

On March 10, the intimidation reached its peak when 1,000 black-uniformed neo-Nazis marched through the village, some reportedly armed with dogs, whips and chains.

Many Roma were afraid to leave their homes or take their children to school. The local mayor, Laszlo Tabi, who is not officially allied to a political party, allegedly offered his seal of approval, while the police sat on their hands.

"I cried when I saw them marching," says Janos Farkas, the spokesman for the village's 450-strong Roma community which centres around a dirt road in a shallow valley at the edge of the village. Many of the dilapidated homes do not have mains water and few of their occupants jobs.

"I can't see how this could happen in a democratic country? The police are now present, but why did they let it go on for three weeks?" asks Farkas.

Nothing has been done to stop the vigilantes from restarting their activities here or to prevent them springing up elsewhere.

A national 'example'

"This looks like a local conflict, but it is a national one," says Kristof Szombati of Politics Can Be Different, a liberal green party. On this, if nothing else, the far right agrees with him.

Gyongyospata provides an "example for future situations" says Gabor Vona, the leader of the extreme-right Jobbik party, which is behind the uniformed intervention, at a press conference in the village council chamber. His party hopes to use the vigilante campaign to mark the first anniversary of its entry into parliament, with 17 per cent of the vote, next month.

Among those areas targeted for vigilante takeover is Hajduhadhaz, a town of 13,000 in the east.

"The police do not have enough power to handle the situation," says Gabor Kovacs, a Gyongyospata-born vigilante volunteer in full black uniform, fumbling with his black baseball cap.

"The Roma have stolen vegetables and grapevines," he says, although he explains that the identity of culprits is rarely known because thefts often happen at night when victims are asleep.

"We have a good working relationship with the police. I also have criticisms, but I do not want to talk about them publicly," says Vona. The county police are reported to be aware of the formation of a permanent local branch of the vigilante movement.

"I feel better with For A Better Future patrolling here than with the police," says a non-Roma villager, unwilling to give her name, for fear that her Roma neighbours will find out. She says Roma have scaled her fence and stolen two hens, one this year, one last.

"I can't let my hands rest in my lap for a second while Roma might come along and burn my house down." The best solution, she says, would be to "take them away".

Her middle-aged neighbour, Sandor Torok, prefers far less drastic action. He had a chainsaw stolen from his yard in late January but got it back after three hours after offering a Roma boy a 5,000 forint ($26) reward for its return.

Allegations of more serious Roma-misdeeds are doing the rounds among non-Roma villagers too, none of which can be confirmed. One elderly non-Roma man is even said to have killed himself because he thought Roma neighbours might move in. According to a clerk in the council offices, some Roma beat a young female school teacher, although a fellow teacher said she had not heard of the incident.

"Roma have lived here for 500 years and have always stuck to the law. Only one or two youngsters have done anything wrong," says Farkas.

There is no evidence that even petty crime has risen in Gyongyospata, but the financial crisis has driven up the significance of people's everyday possessions and the far right is only too happy for the chance to profit from the heightened sensitivity.
Source: Al Jazeera
Here is a link to an Amnesty International petition in support of the Romani of Hungary


On 29 March 1951 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage.  They were executed in June of 1953.

The following is a synopsis of the case and its aftermath published by BBC

"The Rosenbergs were sentenced to death on 5 April 1951 and despite numerous appeals for clemency were executed by the electric chair at Sing-Sing Prison on 19 June 1953.

They were the only people in the United States ever executed for Cold War espionage, and their conviction fuelled US Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist crusade against "anti-American activities" by US citizens.

The couple's two sons, Robert and Michael, who were six and 10 when their parents were executed, were adopted by friends of their parents, the Meeropols, under new names.

They only revealed their true identities in the 1970s when the Freedom of Information Act enabled them to gain documents which they believed could prove their parents' innocence.

David Greenglass escaped the death penalty, and gained immunity for his wife, after agreeing to give evidence against his sister and brother-in-law. He served 10 years in jail.

Years later he admitted he had fabricated his story to save his own skin but had no regrets about what he had done.

However, records and testimony from intelligence sources in the US and Russia, suggests Julius Rosenberg had been involved in giving some sensitive information to Soviet contacts in support of the war effort against Hitler."
To read the transcript of the BBC report the day after the verdict was announced, please visit

Interestingly, on this same date in 1972 Army Lt. William Calley Jr. was convicted of murdering 22 Vietnamese civilians in the My Lai massacre.

He served very little time, most under house arrest.  Several years ago, he "apologized" to the people of Vietnam.  Few were impressed.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Partying with the Gypsies in the Camargue

Every May, Gypsies flock to the French seaside town of Saintes-Maries, for a festival in honour of a black Madonna – the Gitan Pilgrimage

BY Garth Cartwright
The Guardian
Saturday 26 March 2011

Here they come now, two rows of men on white stallions, wearing black hats and carrying lances, providing a guard of honour for a squat statuette wrapped in gold cloth. Surrounding the horsemen are thousands of people, many cheering and chanting "Vive Sainte Sara!" Musicians play bursts of flamenco guitar or squeeze Hungarian melodies out of accordions. The horsemen and the crowd head towards the sea, seeming to move as one, suggesting a mix of religious procession and party. And that is exactly what this Felliniesque scene represents.

Every 24 May the small seaside town of Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer hosts the Gitan Pilgrimage. This legend of St Sara accompanying St Marie-Jacobé and St Marie-Salomé when they arrived here from Palestine (so giving this former fishing town its name) dates back to the 16th century and the pilgrimage is a unique opportunity for Europe's Gypsies – largely drawn from French- and Catalan-speaking communities – to come together and affirm their faith and culture. And party hard.

The Gitan Pilgrimage takes place in the Carmargue, a vast, swampy delta immediately south of Arles. The Carmargue is extremely exotic, with tall marsh grasses where pink flamingos, black bulls and white horses roam freely. And the Carmargue's main base is Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a delightfully working-class riposte to St Tropez and other snooty Eurotrash resorts. Van Gogh painted Gypsies in the Carmargue while living unhappily in Arles with Gauguin – and Saint-Maries' medieval church is home to Sara-la-Kali (aka Black Sara, aka the Black Madonna), the statuette the horsemen carry to the sea on the 24th. Black Sara is not recognised by the Vatican, yet she is celebrated as the patron saint of the Gypsies.

I first heard about the Gitan Pilgrimage when reading about Django Reinhardt, a regular attendee who, at the time of his death, was composing a mass for the event. I then found out that the Gipsy Kings literally formed around a campfire here, the two sets of brothers who make up the band having first played and sung together here as teenagers back in the 1960s. Obviously I had to attend, and the first year I stayed in Arles and bussed back and forth. Since then I've always stayed in Saintes-Maries (there's lots of reasonably priced accommodation) and it is a gem of a town.

A visit to the church's crypt where Black Sara resides is essential for Gypsies. Here you can buy a candle, light it and pray that she will help with whatever ails you. Scribbled notes are placed close to Black Sara and bright linen robes are draped on her. This Romanesque church fills with smoke and heat and noise, and in its fervour and passion gives off a primal atmosphere as powerful as the flamenco being danced to outside.

The feast of music accompanying the Gitan Pilgrimage transforms this sleepy seaside town into a wild carnival of music and dancing in the streets. As the procession reaches the beach, the horsemen ride into Mediterranean waters carrying Black Sara high. They are accompanied by a young Gypsy woman, chosen to represent Sara that year. As the surrounding waters fill with people, the experience is both beautiful and ridiculous.

Black Sara is then returned to her crypt and celebrations get under way: alongside Catalan flamenco musicians and Parisian Gypsy jazz duos there are now Balkan brass bands and Hungarian string musicians. Observing these musicians from Europe's frayed edges gather, the listener gets a sense of how Gypsy music reinvents itself.

Exactly how much longer the community will be able to celebrate in Saintes-Maries is debatable: American evangelical churches have converted many Catalan Gypsies in recent years and they ban their flock from attending this loud, proud Catholic procession. And the town's mayor, a Front National supporter, has done his worst to make the Gitan pilgrims unwelcome.

The following day the procession is repeated, this time with the two Maries the town takes its name from. While still an entertaining procession, it is a much calmer event than the previous day's excitement, with the Gypsies having seemingly vanished overnight. Not that you also need move on – the local bullring has a running of the bulls, there are plenty of horse treks or boat tours to take through this marshy land and the sea is just about the right temperature for the first swim of the year. "Vive Sainte Sara!"

Garth Cartwright is the author of Princes Amongst Men: Journeys With Gypsy Musicians (Serpents Tail, £8.99)






THE Big Fat Gypsy eviction at Britain’s biggest traveller site has stalled because the penny-pinching Government has not bankrolled police for the job.

Locals are furious that the ten-year saga to turf out the travellers, some of whom starred in the Channel 4 hit Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, has been put off.

Families living illegally on green belt land at Dale Farm in Essex have been issued with a 28-day notice to quit.

Basildon Council has £8million in its coffers for the operation but the Home Office has so far failed to come up with the cash the police say they need.

Sources say Home Office minister Nick Herbert wanted Essex Police to pay as much as £10.5million.

More than £3million has been set aside but much more is needed for a “worst case scenario”.

Police have promised £5million but they want the Home Office to match that.

A police authority spokesman said: “It’s been decided negotiations with the Home Office would continue.

“At the moment there has been no commitment from the Government.

“The minister has asked the police to reassess its budget to see if they could fund the whole operation.

“It’s not a good time to be asking for funding.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011




Published On Fri Mar 25 2011

A 2-page order, signed off by a Canada Border Service Agency supervisor, cited "faking medical condition" and "uncooperative" as reasons for transferring Jan Szamko from an immigration holding centre to the Toronto West Detention Centre. Szamko was found dead in his detention cell two days later.

Everyone saw Jan Szamko as “uncooperative.” No one, it appears, believed — or detected — the Roma refugee’s dire medical needs.

From the guards to doctors and nurses at the immigration holding centre and Toronto West Detention Centre, everyone who testified at an inquest into Szamko’s death this week thought the man’s bizarre behaviour, including defecating on himself and ignoring instructions, was just an attempt to avoid his imminent deportation.

Did he choose, as some suggested, simply to disregard everyone he came into contact with in his final days in Canada, far from his native Czech Republic? Or was he too sick to respond?

On Dec. 8, 2009, Szamko became the first person to die in the GTA while being held for immigration reasons.

No one had believed his complaints about chest pains or heeded his refusal to eat or drink over the last two days of his life. His constant moans and groans in a segregated cell yielded no attention.

What is clear, according to forensic pathologist Kristopher Cunningham, is that Szamko died of heart failure, probably stemming from a viral infection which led to a lethal level of fluid buildup that compressed the heart, lowered his blood pressure and subsequently shut down his bodily functions.

That’s the conclusion drawn by the inquest jury Friday, who recommended a better system of sharing information on medical issues and emergency contacts when transferring inmates between the immigration holding centre and the Toronto West jail.

Referring to an “acute inflammatory condition,” Cunningham said the lack of blood flow killed some of Szamko’s brain cells, probably explaining his bizarre behaviour.

“It can be a tough diagnosis, because the signs and symptoms are vague and non-specific,” Cunningham explained in an interview.

On the day he died, Szamko was found face down, naked on the concrete floor of his jail cell, with feces and urine on his body and smeared on the wall and floor.

This week’s inquest heard from 20 witnesses in an effort to determine how Szamko, a stocky 5-foot-8, 240-pound man ended up dying in government detention.

“It cannot be said that (Szamko’s) medical concern was ignored, because he was seen by many nurses and doctors,” coroner’s counsel Lorraine Cavion told the inquest. “But his death certainly raises medical issues.”

Szamko, a factory worker, joined his wife, Nadezda Peterova, and 9-year-old daughter, Sabina, in Canada in 2008. He filed a refugee claim based on alleged persecution by neo-Nazis in their homeland.

When Szamko heard in 2009 that his mother was dying back in the Czech Republic, he withdrew his asylum claim and made plans to leave voluntarily. But he allegedly changed his mind after learning of her death.

He was twice booked to be deported but missed the appointment due to undisclosed medical emergencies. He was arrested Nov. 28, 2009, on a warrant and detained at the Rexdale immigration holding centre.

Dr. Brian Zidel, a physician at the holding centre, said the health team had difficulty obtaining medical information from Szamko, who was said to have “adequate English” and not require interpreters.

Officials were unable to track down Szamko’s family physician or identify the medication he was prescribed to control his adrenal gland disorder, a chronic hormonal problem requiring medication.

On Dec. 5, Szamko complained about chest pains and was sent to the William Osler Health Centre, where test results suggested nothing was out of the ordinary. An emergency room doctor declared the patient “good to fly” for his scheduled deportation next day.

The autopsy doesn’t clarify how long it took Szamko’s heart to deteriorate, but his health seemed to take a dive from that point.

Overnight, he was found to have defecated all over his body, bed and room. He was taken in a wheelchair to a segregated holding area.

A 45-minute video taken in the holding area shows a frail Szamko slouching in a wheelchair, head tilted to one side, being spoken to by border services officer Steven Bean.

“He has been checked out and he’s fine. . . He was not responding to verbal instructions or conducting himself in normal fashion,” Bean testified, explaining why he deemed Szamko to be uncooperative and faking his medical condition.

Szamko was taken to the Toronto West Detention Centre on Dec. 6

Mark Holley, the detention centre’s operation manager, also said he found Szamko uncooperative.

“He refused to walk. He was not catatonic, but he was not responsive to directives. He was conscious. His eyes were opened. He would turn his head when someone was talking to him,” said Holley. “He chose not to communicate.”

On Dec. 7, 2009, Dr. William Mueller, a physician at Toronto West, visited Szamko but was unable to conduct a physical exam because the patient was “uncooperative.”

“Whether he understood (me) or not, he was not responding. He was completely mute,” Mueller recalled. He ordered a psychiatrist to see Szamko the next day.

Like other inmates in the segregated unit, Szamko was checked every 20 minutes by jail guards, who kept a log on his position changes and behaviour.

“He was covered head to toe in fecal matter. . . I washed his upper torso front and back as best I could but the feces on his legs was caked on and very dry,” guard Kristian Zandwyk-de Hass wrote in a statement.

Yet, he said, Szamko was strong enough to stand on his own while he helped clean the inmate up.

Dr. Graham Glancy, the detention centre’s psychiatrist, said it is not uncommon for inmates in segregation to defecate as a means of protest.

“Corrections officers are pretty good at differentiating between people who are ill and people who are simply difficult,” Glancy testified.

For most of the two days at the jail, guards reported Szamko lying naked on the concrete floor behind the cell door and refusing to eat or drink.

At around 7 p.m. Dec. 8, guard Joyliz Nassanga-Sessanga spotted Szamko face down soon after she started her shift.

“I kept banging the door, but he wasn’t moving,” said the guard, who activated a medical alert.

EMS district supervisor Steve Venerous and two ambulance crews soon arrived. At 7:50 p.m., after attempts to revive him failed, Szamko was pronounced dead.

Friday, March 25, 2011



Movie Review: ‘Korkoro’

Chaplin’s Grandson Embodies Romani Word for Freedom

By Joe Bendel

 Mar 24, 2011
They have been romanticized by some and vilified by far more. Once an enslaved people, their traditional lifestyle and culture reflects a unique commitment to freedom. They are the Romani people, or so-called Gypsies, the forgotten victims of the Holocaust.

Tony Gatlif, perhaps the most celebrated Romani filmmaker, dramatizes a chapter of his people’s tragic past in the historically inspired “Korkoro,” which opens today in New York.

In 1943, French authorities were only too willing to pass restrictive laws targeting the Romani.

Duly reporting to a provincial city hall with passbooks in hand, one Romani family finds the rules have been changed on them once again. According to the sympathetic Mayor Rosier, new laws have been established outlawing their nomadic ways. At first, they try their best to ignore his warnings, but it soon becomes clear that their legal position is even more precarious than usual.

Using his position with the fascist militia, a former business associate confiscates their best horses. With their mobility impaired, the Romani family is eventually interned in a deportation camp. By signing over the deed to his family cottage, the good mayor is able to save them, at least temporarily. However, tragedy is clearly inevitable, for all parties of good conscience.

Indeed, “Korkoro” is as much a tribute to the “Justes,” the non-Roma gadjo who saved Romani during the Holocaust, as it is a portrayal of Romani suffering. In fact, Gatlif shrewdly avoids a reductive depiction of victimization through his central Romani protagonist, Félix Taloche, a decidedly unsentimental figure.

Wild almost to the point of being feral, Taloche has a pure recklessness that might be self-defeating, but it personifies the film’s title: “Korkoro,” the Romani word for freedom.

Played by James Thierrée, the grandson of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandson of playwright Eugene O’Neill, Taloche is a force of nature with innate musical talent. The sight of him tearing through the French countryside will rightly become the enduring image of the film. Yet, Thierrée expresses something hauntingly human in Taloche.

Effectively counterbalancing Thierrée are the primary Justes, Mayor Rosier and his halting romantic interest, Mademoiselle Lundi, the town’s school teacher and resistance volunteer. As Rosier, Marc Lavoine looks the personification of integrity, while Marie-Josée Croze projects genuine strength and vulnerability beneath Lundi’s icy schoolmarm veneer.

Perhaps what is most striking about “Korkoro” is the sense of musicality Gatlif brings to the story, separate and apart from the scenes of the Romani family in performance. He captures the rhythms of wagon wheels and horses’ hoofs in a way that powerfully evokes the Romani family’s way of life.

Despite the ugliness of the period, cinematographer Julien Hirsch gives it a beautifully wind-swept look. Indeed, this is bravura filmmaking, boasting a truly bold lead performance from Thierrée.

Highly recommended, “Korkoro” opens today (March 25) in New York at the Cinema Village

Thursday, March 24, 2011


On March 24, 1999, the Nato offensive against Yugoslavia began.

The Romani of this area, especially those in Kosovo, condemned to live on abandoned lead mines, are still suffering from this "humanitarian action". 

How we worry about Libya.

Someone on the radio just said that Obama has launched more rockets than any other Nobel PEACE Prize winner in history.  That would be funny if not so true and sad.


25 March 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of  the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City.

146 workers, mostly young women, Jewish and Italian immigrants perished in the fire.  Many burned to death, but many more jumped from the building in an effort to survive.

The exits had been locked to prevent workers from "sneaking out for a smoke, or leaving work early".

The owners moved to another building and continued business (exploitation) as usual.

The fire became a pivotal turning point in the struggle for workers rights.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


How many countries can we (U.S.) bomb at one time.

Some time there is so much sadness in my soul.



International Poetry Contest in Memory of Papusza

2010.02.17The Ethnographical Museum in Tarnow, Poland announces a poetry contest in to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the poetess Papusza. Poems may be submitted in Polish and in Romani.

Dear Roma and non-Roma poets!

It is my pleasure to invite you to participate in the second edition of the International Contest of Romani Poetry in Memory of Papusza on the title “For the Golden Pen of Papusza”. The contest is dedicated to Romani poetess Bronisława Wajs, called Papusza, who died in 1987 - to commemorate her 100th birthday. The aim of the contest is to support and exhibit the integration and mutual contacts of Romani and Polish culture and looking for the young talents in the field of poetry.

The organizer of the contest is the District Museum in Tarnow (Poland), partners are: Centre of the Roma Culture in Tarnow (Tarnow, Poland), Romani Baxt (Warsaw-Tirana-Paris), INALCO - Institut National des Languages et Civilisations Orientales (France).

The character of the contest is open and is addressed to adults, students and pupils of secondary schools in Poland and abroad. The topics are the inspirations in culture, tradtion and history of Roma. The contest has 2 categories of competition: poems in Romani and poems in Polish. The Contest participants submit no more than 3 poems in the chosen category. Deadline for sending poems is 31st of March 2010.

For the participation form and contest rules please see the Tarnów Regional Museum website.

Natalia Gancarz
The Ethnographical Museum in Tarnow
"Studia Romologica"



March 23, 2011, 7:53 CET

US Ambassador condemns Jobbik MP's call for "Hungarian Ku Klux Klan"


The United States commends the Hungarian government's commitment to protect all citizens irrespective of their race or social heritage and condemns a call, attributed to a far-right politician in the press, for the emergence of a "Hungarian Ku Klux Klan", a statement by the US Ambassador to Hungary said on Tuesday.

"The comments attributed by press reports to a far right politician on March 21 calling for the emergence of a Hungarian Ku Klux Klan are despicable and represent the worst kind of incitement of racial intolerance and hatred," the statement said.

Magyar Nemzet daily on Tuesday quoted Gyorgy Gyula Zagyva, a lawmaker for the radical nationalist Jobbik party, as saying: "Just as there was a time in the United States for the Ku Klux Klan, the time has come for the emergence of a Hungarian Ku Klux Klan."

Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis said in the statement that both American and Hungarian societies were based on common values of free speech and freedom of expression.

"There is no place in civic political discourse for groups that foster a climate of fear and violence. In recent meetings with government officials, I have heard assurances that the government will not tolerate violence against its citizens or a climate of intimidation, and will take appropriate action to ensure that citizens' rights are protected."

"We stand together with Hungary ready to counter hatred wherever it should appear – either here or in the United States," the statement said.

Ambassador Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis


The comments attributed by press reports to a far right politician on March 21 calling for the emergence of a Hungarian Ku Klux Klan are despicable and represent the worst kind of incitement of racial intolerance and hatred. Both American and Hungarian societies are based on common values of free speech and freedom of expression. However, there is no place in civic political discourse for groups that foster a climate of fear and violence. In recent meetings with government officials, I have heard assurances that the government will not tolerate violence against its citizens or a climate of intimidation, and will take appropriate action to ensure that citizens’ rights are protected. We commend the government’s commitment to protect the rights of all Hungarians, no matter what their racial, cultural, or social heritage. We stand together with Hungary ready to counter hatred wherever it should appear – either here or in the United States.

March 22, 2011



The infinite hypocrisy of the West

ALTHOUGH several articles on this subject were published before and after September 1st, 2010, on that day the Mexican daily La Jornada published one of great impact entitled "El holocausto gitano: ayer y hoy" (The Gypsy Holocaust: yesterday and today) which reminds us of a truly dramatic history. Without adding or removing a single word from the information contained in the article, I have selected some lines referring to certain events that are really moving. Neither the West nor -most of all- its colossal media apparatus have said a single word about them.

"1496: the boom in humanist thinking. The Roma peoples (gypsies) from Germany are declared traitors to the Christian nations, spies in the pay of the Turkish, carriers of the plague, witches and warlocks, bandits and kidnappers of children.

"1710: the century of Enlightenment and reason. An edict orders that adult gypsies from Prague be hanged without trial. Young people and women are mutilated. In Bohemia, their left ears were cut off; in Moravia, their right ears

"1899: the climax of modernity and progress. The Bavarian police found the Special Section of Gypsies’ Affairs. In 1929, the section is promoted to the category of National Central section and is moved to Munich. In 1937, it is established in Berlin. Four years later, half a million gypsies die in the concentration camps of Central and Eastern Europe."

"In her PhD thesis, Eva Justin (assistant to Dr. Robert Ritter of the Racial Research Section of the German Ministry of Health), asserted that gypsies’ blood was extremely harmful to the purity of the German race. And a certain Dr. Portschy sent a memorandum to Hitler suggesting that gypsies should be submitted to forced labor and mass sterilization because they jeopardized the pure blood of the German peasantry.

"Labeled as inveterate criminals, the mass arrest of gypsies began and, from 1938, they were interned in special blocks at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Gusen, Dautmergen, Natzweiler and Flossenburg camps.

"In a concentration camp he owned in Ravensbruck, Heinrich Himmler, chief of the Gestapo (SS), created a space to sacrifice gypsy women who were submitted to medical experiments. One hundred and twenty Zingari girls were sterilized. Gypsy women married to non-gypsy men were sterilized at the Dusseldorf-Lierenfeld hospital.

"Thousands of gypsies were deported from Belgium, the Netherlands and France to the Polish concentration camp of Auschwitz. In his memoirs, Rudolf Hoess (commander of Auschwitz) wrote that among the gypsies deported there were elderly people almost one hundred years of age, pregnant women and a large number of children.

"At the ghetto of Lodz (Poland) […] none of the 5,000 gypsies survived."

"In Yugoslavia, gypsies and Jews were equally killed in the forest of Jajnice. Campesinos still remember the screaming of the gypsy children who were taken to the places of execution."

"At the extermination camps, only the gypsies’ love of music was a source of comfort to them on some occasions. In Auschwitz, starving and infested with lice, they gathered together to play music and encouraged the children to dance. But the courage of gypsy guerrillas who fought as part of the Polish resistance in the region of Nieswiez was also legendary."

Music was the factor that kept them together and helped them to survive, just as much as religion was for Christians, Jews and Muslims.

The successive articles published by La Jornada from the end of August onwards have reminded us of events that were almost forgotten about what happened to the gypsies in Europe. After having been affected by Nazism, they were consigned to oblivion after the Nuremberg trials in the years 1945 and 1946.

The German government headed by Konrad Adenauer declared that the extermination of the gypsies prior to 1943 was a result of the state’s legal policies. Those who had been affected that same year did not receive any compensation. Robert Ritter, a Nazi expert in the extermination of gypsies, was released. Thirty nine years later in 1982, when most of those affected had already died, the government recognized their right to compensation.

More than 75% of gypsies, whose total number is estimated to be between 12 and 14 million, live in Central and Eastern Europe. Only in Tito’s socialist Yugoslavia were gypsies recognized as having the same rights as the Croatian, Albanian and Macedonian minorities.

The Mexican newspaper described as "particularly perverse" the mass deportation of gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria ordered by the government of Sarkozy –a Jew of Hungarian descent-; these are the exact words used by the newspaper. Please do not take this as an act of irreverence on my part.

In Romania, the number of gypsies is estimated to be two million.

The president of that country, Traian Basescu, a US ally and an illustrious member of NATO, called a woman journalist a "filthy gypsy." As can be observed, this is an extremely delicate person who speaks politely.

The website posted some comments about the demonstrations against the deportation of gypsies and the "xenophobia" in France. According to AFP, around "130 demonstrations were due to take place in France as well as in front of the French embassies in several European Union countries, with the support of tens of human rights organizations, trade unions and left wing and environmental parties". The extensive report refers to the participation of well-known cultural personalities such as Jane Birkin and the film-maker Agnes Jaoui and reminded readers that Jane "together with Stephane Hessel, a former member of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of France (1940-1944), was part of the group that later on met with the advisors to the minister of Immigration Eric Besson.

"‘The conversation fell on deaf ears, but it is good that it took place, for it showed that a large part of the population was enraged at that nauseating policy’, said a spokesperson of the network ‘Education Without Borders…"

Other news about this thorny issue are coming from Europe: "Yesterday the European Parliament put France and Nicholas Sarkozy on the spot for having deported thousands of Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies during a tense debate in which the attitudes of José Manuel Durão Barroso and the Commission were described as scandalous and ridiculous for their apparent pusillanimity and for failing to condemn the decisions by Paris as illegal and contrary to community rights", according to an article by Ricardo Martínez de Rituerto published by El Paí

In another article, La Jornada published the astonishing social data that neo-natal mortality among the gypsy population is nine times higher than the European average and their life expectancy rate barely exceeds 50 years of age.

Prior to that, on August 29, it had reported that "although there has been plenty of criticism –from the European Union institutions as well as from the Catholic church, the United Nations and the broad spectrum of pro-immigrants organizations – Sarkozy insists in expelling and deporting hundreds of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens – and therefore, European citizens – using as an excuse the alleged ‘criminal’ nature of these citizens."

"It is difficult to believe that in the year 2010 – concludes La Jornada – after Europe’s terrible past with racism and intolerance, it is still possible to criminalize an entire ethnic group by labeling them a social problem."

"Indifference, or even consent towards the actions carried out by the French police today and the Italian police yesterday – more European, in general terms – leave the most optimist analyst speechless."

Suddenly, while I wrote this Reflection, I remembered that France is the third nuclear power in the planet, and that Sarkozy also had a briefcase with the keys required to launch one of the more than 300 bombs he had. Is there any moral or ethical rational in launching an attack against Iran, a country condemned for its alleged intention of manufacturing this kind of weapon? Where is the good sense and logic of that policy?

Let us assume that Sarkozy goes crazy all of a sudden, as seems to be the case. What would the UN Security Council do with Sarkozy and his briefcase?

What will happen if the French extreme right decides to force Sarkozy to maintain a racist policy, contradicting the laws that prevail within the European Community?

Could the UN Security Council respond to those two questions?

The absence of truth and the prevalence of deception is the greatest tragedy in our dangerous nuclear age.

Interestingly, last summer when Angela Merkel raised the issue of the Holocaust in relation to France's deportations of Romani, Sarkozy acted both outraged and hurt.
The conversation became the "inappropriateness" of the comparison, and nary a word about Romani and the Holocaust, Porraimous.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



March 22, 2011

U.S. Helsinki Commissioners Call on Slovakia to Acknowledge and Condemn Past Practice of Targeting Roma for Sterilization

WASHINGTON–Following oral arguments today in the first case ever heard by the European Court on Human Rights alleging coerced sterilization, U.S. Helsinki Commissioners urged the Slovak Government to acknowledge and condemn the past practice of sterilizing Romani women without informed consent.

Representative Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, observed, “This case puts a spotlight on a dark and shameful chapter of 20th century history. I urge the Slovak Government to finally acknowledge clearly and unequivocally that Romani women in Slovakia were, at one time, targeted for sterilization. As a matter of justice for the victims and truth about the past – due to all the people of Slovakia – this practice should be condemned as a grave human rights violation.”

Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (MD), Commission Co-Chairman, said, "I have personally urged both Czech and Slovak officials to condemn the communist policy of targeting Romani women for sterilization and to admit to the failure of post-communist Czechoslovakia to immediately and completely halt this despicable practice. I was heartened that, in November 2009, the Czech Government formally acknowledged and regretted this past abuse, but more should be done. Slovakia should not wait for yet another judgment from Strasbourg before taking responsibility for past transgressions against Romani women.”

Representative Alcee L. Hastings (FL-23), Ranking Member of the Commission, added that “improving respect for the rights of the Romani minority requires improving respect for Roma, and that should begin by owning up to past discrimination and abuse.”

The case, V.C. v. Slovakia, is being argued before the European Court on Human Rights on Tuesday, March 22, 2011. The suit has been brought by a Romani woman from Slovakia who alleges that she was sterilized without informed consent in August 2000. A second sterilization case, I.G., M.K., and R.H. v. Slovakia, has also been declared admissible by the court but oral arguments have not yet been scheduled in that case.

A webcast of Tuesday's oral arguments will be available at


In the 20th century, eugenics theories formed the basis of coerced sterilization practices in numerous countries. Thirty-three states in the United States implemented such programs, which were all discontinued by the 1970s. These programs generally targeted persons perceived as having a “hereditary deficiency” and, over time, some programs exhibited a racial bias in their implementation. In Europe, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland are among the countries that have investigated, reported on, and condemned past sterilization programs.

Based on eugenics theories, the Czechoslovak communist state targeted Romani women for sterilization. Although the sterilization policy ended with the fall of communism, the practice continued sporadically and without official sanction in both the Czech and Slovak Republics even after the end of communism.

On December 13, 2006, Slovakia’s highest court ruled in favor of three Romani women who alleged they had been sterilized without informed consent. The court held that a regional prosecutor had improperly closed his investigation into their claims and that the investigation had been so faulty that it violated both the Slovak Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

In Case of K.H. and Others v. Slovakia, decided in April 2009, the European Court on Human Rights found a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a hearing regarding civil rights and obligations) and article 8 (right to family life) in a case in which Romani women had been denied access to their own medical records.
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.

Monday, March 21, 2011



Ms. Abbe Raven

CEO of A&E Network
235 East 45th Street
New York NY 10017
16 March 2011

On Friday, March 11, 2011, the repeat episode of Criminal Minds titled Bloodlines ran on A&E network.

The story of this episode tells how a family of Gypsies kidnaps two young girls, age ten, wanting to make one of them the bride of their son. The Gypsies slice the throats of parents, and we learn through the investigation that the boy was forced to kill one of the parents while his father gave him instructions. This is considered a ‘rite of passage’ from boyhood to manhood. Later, the boy is being taught by his parents how to steal from a dummy that has bells hanging from it and the audience is informed by the “expert detectives” that this is the test of the seven bells, a method Gypsies use to teach their children to pick pockets. While the boy is practicing, the first girl kidnapped has a seizure. The father decides to murder her. His wife reminds him that they do not kill little girls. As the show continues, the “expert detectives” explain that “a lot of Romani make their living as petty thieves” as well as other statements based on racist and stereotypical beliefs. In the end, it is revealed that there are numerous Gypsy families living in the United States, murdering parents and kidnapping their daughters. The final scene in the show depicts yet another ten year old boy and his parents preparing to murder yet another set of parents and kidnap their daughter.

As this episode aired, a demonstration by white supremists began in Novy Bydzov in the Czech Republic. This demonstration was prompted by a Czech mayor who claims "They (the Romani) are roaming the town, being a nuisance, stealing and raping. During the time a decent citizen works, gypsies lazily sit on park benches in the square, happily chatting.”- Prague Daily Monitor, November 26, 2010.

The conditions of the Roma in the Czech Republic are appalling. Forced sterilizations have been in place from the 1970s until as late as 2007. Romani children are placed in schools for the mentally handicapped, even if they score well on tests. The Romani have sued and won the right to be educated in the public school system in the Czech Republic, yet they have yet to be allowed to set foot inside a regular classroom. Elsewhere in European Union, the Romani are being fingerprinted and photographed in Italy, a direct violation of the human rights regulations set down by the UN. The last time this happened, Hitler was in power and the Romani were sent to the gas chambers. Romani are being deported from France, Italy, Germany, with England soon to follow, even though these people have been living in these countries for over ten years.

Forced sterilizations, the denial of education, the denial of work, being fingerprinted and photographed; these actions are obscene to the American way of thinking, and yet, we don’t mind, because Gypsies really are dirt, after all, that is how they are portrayed on TV.

Contrary to the comments made on the show, most Romani do not steal. I will not deny that some Romani do steal, but can you name a race whose members have never committed a crime? Romani children are not ‘born to steal’ nor do parents teach their children to do so. The bell man is a creation of author Victor Hugo for his novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Romani children in Europe are denied an education to help themselves out of poverty. Parents do not steal brides for their sons and they do not kidnap children. The show claims that the Gypsies in the US have gotten away with murder and kidnapping because they are nomadic, yet 85 – 90% of the world Romani population are settled. But more importantly, the crime of murder is considered not only heinous to the Romani, but a crime of such evil that those who commit it are put out from the society.

European politicians villianize and scapegoat the Romani, claiming they are to blame for high crime rates, poor economic conditions, and most social ills. Yet they refuse to follow through with the European Union’s plan for Romani inclusion and ignore the EU’s regulations regarding the treatment of minorities within the EU’s borders. By using such tactics, the politicians in Europe guaranty the continued persecution, discrimination, and murder of the Romani for years to come.

Your mission statement for your company makes the following claims to your work environment:

We believe that our programs, products and services are only as good as the people who create them. Because of this, we have a commitment to high ethical values and to creating a workplace where employees are encouraged to strive for professional excellence. The diversity of our workforce plays an increasingly important role in meeting this commitment. Diversity extends beyond race, color, creed or sexual orientation. Diversity is that combination of traits and characteristics that makes each of us unique individuals and what brings us together to achieve our goals. Diversity is about respect, openness, innovation, and knowledge. It's what we practice in our business.

I ask you now to uphold that which you claim to embrace. I am not asking you to cancel the show, only to pull that episode. It promotes racism and the stereotypes that keep the Romani in both the United States and Europe in perpetual poverty and persecution


Sunday, March 20, 2011



Vigilantes threaten roma community - Amnesty Urgent Actions

18/03/2011 -

Following an anti-Roma march by the far-right Jobbik party in the village of Gyöngyöspata on 6 March, three vigilante groups have been ‘patrolling’ the area harassing and intimidating Roma residents. Local Roma have allegedly been racially abused and there is fear for their safety. The vigilante groups have announced that their next target will be Roma in the town of Hajdúhadháza. Police have reportedly taken no action.

On 6 March, Jobbik held a 2 to 3,000 strong march in the village, situated to the north east of Budapest, reportedly invited there ‘for the protection of Hungarians’ following an alleged incident where an elderly man had committed suicide following harassment by Roma residents. Gabor Vona, the leader of Jobbik spoke of ‘Gypsy terror’.

Following the march, up to 200 vigilantes from the groups New Hungarian Guard, Civil Guard Association for a Better Future and Vagabonds for the Protection of Hungarians, are alleged to have stayed in the village and are harassing and verbally abusing local Roma residents. The harassment has caused many Roma families to stop sending their children to school. The groups are also alleged to have shouted outside the houses of Roma residents during the night, made verbal death threats and threatened them with weapons and dogs. The vigilante groups were reportedly marching on the streets in military outfits, and in some cases carrying weapons such as whips and axes.

Local NGO representatives, Amnesty International Hungary’s staff and other activists have witnessed some of these acts of harassment and stated that the police have not acted to prevent it. However, four people were arrested on 16 March 2011, following a village meeting in which Roma residents of the village allegedly did not participate due to the climate of racism. Police check-points were eventually established but some reports state that Roma residents were told to ‘behave’ and nothing would happen to them.

Additional Information

The Hungarian authorities have an obligation under international human rights law to ensure the security and physical integrity of their citizens, without discrimination, and to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide redress for racially-motivated attacks including harassment by non-state actors. According to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the authorities are obliged to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitements to, or acts of, discriminatory violence. In its General Recommendation no. 27, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) recommends that state parties ensure protection of the security and physical integrity of Roma, without any discrimination, by adopting measures to prevent racially motivated acts of violence against them. The authorities are also obliged to ensure prompt action by the police, the prosecutors and the judiciary for investigating and punishing such acts; and to ensure that perpetrators, be they public officials or other persons, do not enjoy any degree of impunity.

The European Court of Human Rights, in its 2005 judgment in the case of Nachova and Others v. Bulgaria, stated that racial violence is a particular affront to human dignity and requires from the authorities special vigilance and a vigorous reaction. The Court stressed that the authorities must use all available means to combat racist violence, and stated that, “[w]here there is suspicion that racial attitudes induced a violent act, it is particularly important that the official investigation is pursued with vigour and impartiality, having regard to the need to reassert continuously society's condemnation of racism and ethnic hatred and to maintain the confidence of minorities in the ability of the authorities to protect them from the threat of racist violence.” The obligation to investigate possible racial motivation of attacks applies to attacks believed to have been carried out by state and non-state actors alike. In the case of Šečić v. Croatia, concerning police investigations into a racist attack against a person of Roma origin by individuals suspected of belonging to a skinhead group, the European Court underlined that “[t]reating racially induced violence and brutality on an equal footing with cases that have no racist overtones would be turning a blind eye to the specific nature of acts that are particularly destructive of fundamental rights”.

In Amnesty International’s report ‘Violent attacks against Roma in Hungary: Time to investigate racial motivation (AI Index: EUR 27/001/2010), the danger that racially motivated violence poses on Roma was highlighted through interviews with victims and their families. The report outlined a number of violent attacks against Roma in Hungary between 2008 and 2009 including a series of attacks in which six men, women and children were killed. The trial of the suspects in the so-called ‘series of attacks’ is due to start on 25 March 2011 in Budapest. These attacks highlight the necessity for the Hungarian authorities to address the seriousness of racially motivated violence by recognizing this danger and acting to prevent it.

Recommended action

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Hungarian or your own language calling on the authorities to:

•take immediate and proactive measures to protect Roma communities in Gyöngyöspata, Hajdúhadháza and other parts of Hungary from harassment and violent attacks;

•publicly condemn discriminatory violence, and incitement to discriminatory violence, against any section of Hungarian society;

•vigorously and thoroughly investigate acts of racially motivated harassment and violence;

•and ensure that the perpetrators of such acts are prosecuted under laws which provide penalties reflecting the gravity of the abuse.


Appeals to

Prime Minister,
Viktor Orbán,
1357 Budapest, Pf. 6,
Kossuth Lajos tér 2-4.,
Fax: +36-1-795-0381


Saturday, March 19, 2011



EU, US call for probe into violence against Roma in Albania

Thu, Mar 17 2011 10:21 CET

byThe Sofia Echo staff

 The ambassadors of the European Union and United States, along with the head of the OSCE office in Tirana, have called on Albanian authorities to investigate February 2011 incidents in which dozens of Roma families were forcibly evicted from their settlements in the centre of the capital city and were left homeless after their housing was set on fire.

The joint statement was issued on March 16 2011 by Eugen Wollfarth, the head of the OSCE office in Albania, Alexander Arvizu, US ambassador to Albania and ambassador Ettore Sequi, the head of the EU delegation to Albania.

"We note that these actions resulted in some serious injuries and the displacement of large numbers of people, including many children," the joint statement said.

The statement listed a number of conventions and plans to which Albania had committed itself, against discrimination and towards Roma integration.

"The European Commission, in its opinion on Albania's membership application, identified the fight against discrimination and the protection of the rights of Roma as key priority areas needing particular attention from the authorities."

"In this spirit, we strongly urge the responsible authorities to take the appropriate action by investigating the disturbing February events in order to ensure that such acts are not repeated. We also encourage the authorities to take the appropriate action to provide necessary social assistance, including housing, to those people who have now found themselves homeless."

"We are confident that the majority of citizens oppose such acts of violence against the minority group," the joint statement said.

"The OSCE, the US and the EU align themselves fully with civil society representatives in calling for an end to discrimination and violence against Roma families and children."

Thursday, March 17, 2011



Wednesday 16 March 2011 16.05 GMT

After nearly 10 years of legal battles, the largest eviction in recent history is about to begin. Basildon council in Essex has voted to force more than 80 Gypsy and Traveller families to leave their homes in Dale Farm, and in about a month's time the demolition of their homes will commence. The bailiff company selected by the council to enforce the eviction is notorious among the Traveller community for its methods, and I believe the eviction is likely to be brutal.

n 2008, a British high court ruled against the eviction, on the grounds of "unacceptable discrimination against Travellers". But David Cameron criticised the previous government for letting the site "mushroom in size", and believes that to ensure "fairness" the operation should now go ahead.

Half of the residents of Dale Farm live legally on the well-manicured plots, the other half illegally occupy official green-belt land. The Travellers were unaware that the land was green belt when they bought it in 2001; to them it was simply a disused scrapyard, strewn with vehicles and rubbish. Over the past 10 years they have turned the plot into a fully functioning community complete with amenities, a chapel and an education/youth club.

More than 80 children from the site currently attend school, while a significant number have completed primary education during their stay. We Gypsies and Travellers don't consider education a right, we consider it a privilege – a privilege that for the children will disappear, along with their homes, when the bulldozers appear.

The council is clearly in a difficult position: it can't or won't grant permission for the families to stay on the green-belt land, but uprooting them will cost Basildon council alone an estimated £8m, and that's not including the policing costs for the operation.

Dale Farm residents say they will leave the land of their own accord, in order to avoid the horrific eviction that looms over them, but they need somewhere to go. The government is obliged under international law to offer the Travellers a suitable alternative. In the eyes of the law, separating the community and forcing them into houses is a suitable option; in the eyes of the Travellers, such a change in their lives is simply unfathomable.

If the current site is completely out of the question, the sensible solution would surely be to invest some of the staggering eviction costs into developing a legal site for the Travellers. The government-run Homes and Communities Agency has identified a plot of land suitable for the Travellers to inhabit. The families would happily move there, but this peaceful solution requires Basildon council to grant planning permission on the new plot, which it is simply not willing to do.

Sadly the future is not bright for Gypsies and Travellers trying to uphold their culture in this country. Any progress made under the last government is now being reversed, and the people of Dale Farm are simply victims of marginalisation.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


On 16 March 1968, U.S. troops, under the command of William Caley killed hundreds of Vietnamese, peaceful villagers, mostly women and children in what has become known as the My Lai Massacre. 

Caley recently apologiized for the carnage.  Most survivors and descendants of survivors refuse to accept his apology.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011




March 30 - April 3, 2011

McCaw Hall, Seattle Center

321 Mercer St., Seattle, Washington, USA

Through reproductions of some 250 historic photographs and documents, Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 examines the rationale, means, and impact of the Nazi regime's attempt to eradicate homosexuality. The exhibit will highlight the lives of men whose life experiences serve to teach us about the dangers of intolerance.

Presented by the Holocaust Center, the exhibit coincides with the Seattle Men's Chorus production of Falling in Love Again. Exhibit on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. On display in the lobby of McCaw Hall, Seattle Center. Free and open to the public.


Wed, March 30 - Sat, April 2
Noon - 10:00pm

Sun, April 3
Noon - 5:00pm


Sat, April 2
1:15pm & 6:30pm

Sun, April 3

Additional docent-led tours available by appointment.


Performance ticket needed to attend.

Sat, April 2, 7:15pm

Session I: Resilience in the Face of Nazi Ideology

Lead by Dee Simon, Co-Executive Director, Holocaust Center. In the Allen Room, McCaw Hall. Exploring the ideology, laws and propaganda that led to a campaign of persecution against homosexuals, the Holocaust Center will draw parallels to events in our world today.

Session II: For a Look or a Touch, a Discussion

McCaw Hall, Norcliffe Room. Featuring: Mina Miller, Artistic Director, Music of Remembrance; Jake Heggie, Composer; Gene Scherer, Librettist; Dennis Coleman, Artistic Director; Eric Lane Barnes, Associate Artistic Director; Andrew Russell, Director (Associate Producer, Intiman Theater); Seattle Opera, Education Department.

Sun, April 3, 1:15pm

Session I: Resilience in the Face of Nazi Ideology

Lead by Dee Simon, Co-Executive Director, Holocaust Center

Session II: For a Look or a Touch, a Discussion

Falling In Love Again

The Seattle Men's Chorus presents "Falling In Love Again" on April 2 & 3, 2011 at McCaw Hall. The performance features music from pre-war Berlin's extraordinary, effervescent cabaret scene with Nick Garrison and Spectrum Dance Theatre plus Jake Heggie's riveting chamber opera, "For a Look or a Touch," featuring Morgan Smith and David Pichette. Click here for more information or call 206-388-1400.

Monday, March 14, 2011



Roma Women's Gala "Look at me as I am!" awarded women as representatives of Roma community on the International Women's Day

The activity of Roma women in Romania who contributed to improving the life of Roma communities was awarded at the first edition of Roma Women’s Gala "Look at me as I am!", organized by the Community Development Agency "Together", Center for Education and Social Development and Association of Social Inclusion and Development with the occasion of the International Women's Day in Bucharest.

Held under the slogan "Look at me as I am!" and with the idea of promoting Roma women less visible in the Romanian society, the event which brought together representatives of Roma communities from local and national level aimed to promote Roma women models from communities who contributed to improving the lives of Roma through their work in various fields.

Thus, were awarded for the following sections: Scripcariu Petronia (Education - school inspector), Rodica Batrana (Education - Romani language teacher), Alecu Florica (Education - Education / teacher), Elena Radu (Education - school mediator), Daniela Vaduva (Health - Medical Assistant), Ioana Constantin (Health – health mediator), Florentina Izbiceanu (Social Economic - Employment), Maria Ionescu (Economic Social - Entrepreneurship), Maria Ionescu (Community Development), Iudit Varga (Legal - Policewoman), Miron Luiza (Legal-lawyer ) Loredana Dumitru (Mass-media- TVR journalist), Viorica Gotu (Political participation-Counselor), ANA Raducanu (public participation), Vera Linguraru (Culture-actress).

A special award has been offered by the organizers to Ms. VASILE PAULINA, a Holocaust Roma woman’ survivor.

Roma women in this award-winning Gala were gratified for their efforts and constant commitment to improve the life and image of the Roma community in the Romanian society.

Gala” Look at me as I am!” wanted to gratify the work of Roma women less visible whom you can not see most of the times, but who do contribute to the local level. March 8 is a moment of recognition of their courage and devotion. They are Roma women with great achievements, mothers, daughters, wives. They are models for younger generations and society and we want to look at them as they are, "said the project coordinator Together Agency, Carmen Gheorghe.

By bringing together over 180 participants, Roma Women’s Gala "Look at me as I am!" joins a series of events through which organizers intends to promote the interests of women in general and especially of Roma women. The organizers aim to develop programs addressing the needs and socio-cultural events for increasing the visibility of Roma women at national level.

Also, at the Roma Women’s Gala "Look at me as I am!" organized a fundraising campaign for a single mother raising 4 children in Piteasca village, commune Găneasa.

Opened with the Roma anthem, in the interpretation of soprano Claudiana Calin Rotaru, Roma Women’s Gala was filled with musical moments of success, which had high public standing. The atmosphere was relaxed by the band Butiq Romano, as well as Roma singer Stefania Calofir and pianist Antonio Santos, who joined pro-bono for the event.

Roma Women’s Gala was organized with the financial support from Department for Interethnic Relations of the Romanian Government and with the support of sponsors such as Niro Group, AIDRom, KCMC- K Consulting Management and Coordination SRL.

Roma Women's Gala "Look at me as I am!" is designed to become a yearly tradition for celebrating and awarding the Roma women in Romania .

For more information and photos, please see


By Eszter Pásztor

08/03/2011 -

On the 15th March 2011, the Bodvalenke Women’s Choir is going to sing at the European Parliament during a slide-show presentation of the Bodvalenke Fresco Village Project.

Bodvalenke is a 95% Roma village in the North of Hungary, sunk in dire and hopeless poverty.

The Fresco Village Project ( was initiated two years ago: Roma painters paint monumental murals on the walls, creating thereby a fantastic permanent exhibition of Roma art. So far, 13 murals have been painted; as of this spring, they invite Roma painters from all over Europe , to give a European dimension to the project.

The goal of the Fresco Village Project is twofold: to fight prejudice and to create a venue for meaningful dialogue between the Roma and the non-Roma on the one hand, and to pull the village of Bodvalenke out of poverty by attacking poverty from all possible sides, on the other hand.

The women of Bodvalenke will have travelled twice two days to present their pains and sorrows and their hopes and plans to the EU decision-makers. They can do so only through the pictures, and their songs. This, however, needs to be verbalised for society, and the decision-makers to take note. Will they be heard? Will they even be asked?

Many have said, Roma people have amassed so much deprivation and so much disadvantage that it is virtually impossible to help them. The Bodvalenke experience proves how wrong this tenet is.

There are 10 million Roma in the European Union.






New campaign website exhorts Roma women to speak out and be the change

08/03/2011 -

Starting International Women’s Day 2011, videos, films, photos, news, life stories and experiences can be shared by an estimated six-seven million Romani women worldwide through the campaign website created by the Romedia Foundation, a Budapest-based Roma advocacy organization.

Katalin Barsony, the managing director of the Romedia Foundation and a Romani activist herself, initiated the “I’m a Roma Woman” campaign in 2009 with the release of the first campaign video, which features five young Roma women from all over Europe who speak out about their experiences, their dreams for the future, about who they are. A year later, the campaign extended to the Western Balkans with a new video release produced in cooperation with CARE International North-West Balkans. The success of the campaign among the Roma activists of the world prompted the Romedia Foundation to create a new campaign website, a membership-based online empowerment tool by and for Romani women.
These are the same women who are in the video
Please visit their website at


                                         FROM TODAYS  ZAMAN

Government initiative pays off, Turkish Roma say

14 March 2011, Monday


The government’s democratic initiative launched nearly two years ago to address the problems faced by Turkey’s minority communities is bearing fruit, as the country’s Roma population expresses satisfaction with some of the concrete steps taken as part of the project.

There have been great improvements in the problem of housing, one of the most difficult issues faced by Roma, as the state-owned Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) prepares to deliver 6,884 apartments, some of which are still being planned while others are currently under construction, to their new owners, who are members of the Roma community.

State Minister Faruk Çelik, the architect of the project, says the democratic initiative process is proceeding well. “The Roma initiative is on track. First, there was a legal obstacle, but we managed to eliminate it,” he said, referring to discriminatory phrases left in some of Turkey’s older laws, which have now been removed.

“We have rolled up our sleeves to solve the issue of housing and accommodation. We are deciding on land for some of the new houses, and we have already started building some houses. We are also focusing on education and public employment. The process of integration is working well,” he said.

The steps that target the Roma specifically were started a year ago, after a meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and representatives of Turkey’s Roma community. Currently, a number of projects are under way to serve the Roma, who are already more visible in Turkey’ social and political life. Most Roma communities in Turkey are organized as associations, and these groups have openly expressed satisfaction with the government’s policies that seek to address their problems.

Efkan Özçimen, head of the Bursa Association to Promote Roma Culture, says the actual change started following a government workshop on the Roma held in December of last year. He says the Roma, who were earlier leery of government involvement in their lives, are now feeling confident and are more trustful of the project.

“The Roma have always been treated as second class people in state agencies. They were excluded from the country’s social life, for the most part. Access to education in particular was a major problem. But now the government is listening to us and lending its full support for the education of our children,” he adds.

Union of İstanbul Roma Associations Secretary-General Adnan Demirez said they were very happy to have finally found an interlocutor with whom to deal inside the state, in stark contrast with the past, when they were unable to make their voices heard for even the slightest of problems. He also agrees that government workshops on the Roma, in which government representatives and members of the Roma community worked together, have been of great help.

Demirez recounts an anecdote from his own experience that points to the improvements. “A few years ago, there were claims that a Roma died of starvation in Samsun. We traveled there to investigate along with a delegation. When we arrived in the city, we were met by the mayor, the district governor [kaymakam] and many other local officials. They supported us in every step of the investigation and were very helpful in their briefings on the case,” he said.

Fahrettin Savcı, head of the Federation of Trakya Roma Associations, said the change they have been awaiting for a long time has come with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). He said March 14, 2009, the date the first workshop was held to address the Roma community’s problems, attended by the prime minister, had been a turning point.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


A tale of Czech racism


Thank you for the patience which reading this story requires. This is a real story about real people. Only the names of the places and the people have been changed. We do not realize how many such stories are constantly playing themselves out around us.

Most people are not bad. They would never hurt anyone - at least not intentionally. As everyone knows, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. We are all just living our lives. For the most part we do our best to live as well as we can, and we are quite unaware of how much we are connected to other people, how one word can change someone's life for better or for worse. One sentence spoken, or not, and a human life can head in a completely different direction.

Our story starts in a grocery store in a district town. It's a rather small, nice shop, carefully kept up by a nice owner, an older gentleman who has worked in the grocery business his entire life. He liked his work even in the days when everything was state-owned, and within the realm of possibility he did his best, as the manager, to have fresh goods in stock (even though the selection was poorer) so his customers could always shop well and be glad to come again. He knew very well they did not have a lot of choice, that there wasn't a broad range of goods to offer, but even so.

Then the revolution came and at the start of the 1990s he opened his own grocery store. It was HIS shop. He sincerely loved it and the business flourished. He never became a multimillionaire, but neither did he do badly. He was happy.

So this owner (let's call him, say, Novotný) gradually expanded the shop's range of products and sometime after the year 2000 he even extended the opening hours so it could function partially as a convenience store. Understandably, his prices couldn't compete with the hypermarkets, but even so he had enough customers – mainly thanks to his friendly staff and quality goods. He was also accessible to those living nearby.

Sometime in July one of his staff went on maternity leave. The rest soon tired of the extra work, so Mr Novotný decided to hire a new salesperson. He put out a "Help Wanted" sign.

Jarmila Demeterová was a Gypsy - that's what she called herself, she wasn't concerned about whether the term "Roma" or "Gypsy" should be used. Either term can be used nicely, or pejoratively. She came from a family of five. Her father drank quite a lot and her mother loved the family with all her heart and took care of them. Jarmila went to school and was an average pupil. She wasn't stupid, but she wasn't a genius either. She was just a normal girl - with slightly darker skin than the others. After finishing school she served an apprenticeship as a salesperson.

Jarmila shopped fairly regularly at Mr Novotny's grocery store. She liked it there, mainly because she did not have the feeling she was not welcome there. No one ever followed her around suspiciously when she shopped there, something that usually happened in other stores. One the one hand she understood why that was. She knew very well that many Gypsies stole and didn't work, and she understood the ill feeling she encountered, the lack of trust. That doesn't mean it didn't bother her. It's true she herself was also sometimes tempted to steal something in the hypermarkets - if they're all looking at me like a thief, then let's give them a reason - but she never did it.

The "Help Wanted" sign had been hanging on the shop door for several days, and Jarmila kept passing by there. She thought about whether she should ask about the job, but she was afraid of being humiliated yet again. No one had ever told her directly that they wouldn't hire her because she was a Gypsy, but many times the eyes say more than words.

Finally Jarmila got up the courage to ask about the job. When she walked into the store where she had done her shopping so many times, her heart was pounding, as does the heart of any 19-year-old girl looking for work.

"Boss, you have a girl here who is interested in the sales job. Wait here just a moment, please, the boss will be right with you.“

This decent and agreeable treatment surprised her, and she calmed down a bit. It only took a few seconds for Mr Novotný to come out of his office, but to Jarmila it seemed like an hour.

"Hello, miss. Come into my office please.“

Mr Novotný knew Jarmila by sight. He knew she was a frequent customer, that she was well-mannered, quiet, and cleanly dressed. He liked her. He had never been a racist. He was a businessman, and customers are customers, no matter their color. After a brief interview he decided to give Jarmila a shot. They agreed to a standard three-month trial period, to the starting salary and other conditions. Jarmila didn't even pay much attention to the details. She was glad to have a job, and she began dreaming of living in her own place - even though she loved her family, she wanted a little bit of privacy. She was grateful to Mr Novotný.

The three-month trial period passed and Jarmila gained a lot of work experience. She wasn't perfect, but no one learning a new job is. What is there to say, school and an apprenticeship are a bit different - but she was competent and learned quickly. She enjoyed work in the way that work can be enjoyable - hardly any of us actually rejoice at going to work, but you all know what I mean.

One year later, Jarmila was an experienced salesperson. She was fast, friendly, and most people were used to her.

One day she was serving customers as usual. There were quite a few people in the store, including a bunch of young men.

"Do you see that chocolate one?“

"Hm, she should be standing on the E55 highway, not bothering people here in a shop. Let's get out of here before we catch hepatitis.“

The young men hadn't exactly shouted, but their words were heard. The rest of the customers paid them no attention. No one ever wants any unnecessary problems. Jarmila also ignored them, even though she felt terrible. She had not heard that kind of talk in a long time and she wasn't used to it. Sometimes all it takes is a few words to very quickly remind someone of the past.

It wasn't over. The young men started coming to the little store more and more often, and their attacks became more and more intense. One time Mr Novotný witnessed this and got involved.

"Is there a problem here, gentlemen?“

"Not us, you're the one with the problem, old man.“

"Get out or I'll call the police.“

People like those guys usually don't have much courage. They muttered something about seeing them later and left the shop.

When Mr Novotný came to work the next morning, there was graffiti all over his front window reading "Death to the Gypsies", etc.

The cycle started to repeat itself, but that wasn't the worst of it. What was worse was that the customers stopped coming. The young men didn't come inside anymore, but every so often rotten eggs, or vegetables, or other things would be left at the shop entrance. The customers no longer found the store pleasant.

The train had left the station and couldn't be stopped.

A few months later, a "For Sale" sign appeared in the shop window.

Slávek Pařenica, translated by Gwendolyn Albert