Thursday, June 30, 2011


Cardiff Gypsy children's film about travelling life



Gypsy and Traveller children in Cardiff have made a film about their community's traditional ways with funding from BBC Children in Need.

The youngsters from the Shirenewton site worked with the Romani Cultural and Arts Company and animation firm Cinetig, providing drawings to illustrate Laurel Price's memories of travelling life.

Gypsy Ways is being shown at the Riverfront Arts Centre in Newport on Thursday as part of an event celebrating Gypsy Roma and Traveller History Month 2011.

Film shown here courtesy of the Romani Cultural and Arts Company.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Tadic: We remember so it would not be repeated


26. June 2011.


The village of Jadovno, western Croatia, marked the 70th anniversary of war crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma in World War Two, and Serbian President Boris Tadic said the memory of those crimes promoted peace in the region, not conflict and divisions.

The village of Jadovno, western Croatia, marked the 70th anniversary of war crimes against Serbs, Jews and Roma in World War Two, and Serbian President Boris Tadic said the memory of those crimes promoted peace in the region, not conflict and divisions.

Tadic stated he was honoured to pay his respects to the victims for the first time as Serbian President. The crimes committed here should never be forgotten, he added.

"Tens of thousands were killed here just because they had their own identity, name, belief and faith. No one should ever forget that. Innocent victims deserve our remembrance," Tadic remarked.

He pointed out that political ideas that lead to suffering came alive again in recent history.

"I am aware of this suffering, but not only by the Serbs, but by Croats and other people as well," he underscored, adding it was important to stop that once and for all.

The president stated that he promoted a policy of remembrance that would not cause a conflict between Serbia and Croatia, but would allow them to live in peace and tolerance and condemn war crimes.

"To live like that, the way the French and Germans live nowadays, we need a lasting peace and an understanding of our common history. Serbia and Croatia have a special kind of responsibility to victims and a special role to play in Europe," he commented.

He also noted that he was there to honour the anti-fascist efforts by former Croatian president Stjepan Mesic and his successor Ivo Josipovic, adding that he supported anti-fascism in Croatia.

The commemoration was attended by head of the Croatian parliament committee for EU integration Vesna Pusic, Culture Minister Jasen Mesic, Serb National Council (SNV) President Milorad Pupovac and Deputy Prime Minister Slobodan Uzelac.

President of the association of anti-fascist veterans and anti-fascists of Croatia Ratko Maricic and Secretary of the Mačabi World Union Macabi Carasso were also there.

The Croatian president did not ačept the invitation by the SNV to attend the event.

The Serbian president's mother, Nevenka Tadic, was also there to pay her respects, since her father, Strahinja Kicanovic, was one of the victims of the Jadovno concentration camp.

More than 40,000 people, 38,000 of whom were Serbs, were killed in the camp between May and August 1941.

The camp was established by the authorities of the nazi puppet state called the Independent State of Croatia soon after they ašumed power in 1941. The Italian army shut down the camp late August the same year.

Jadovno was the largest World War Two concentration camp in Croatia along with Jasenovac.

The memorial centre which was built some ten years after the war was demolished in early 90s

Monday, June 27, 2011



Czech MEP Březina supports Romani residents in Přerov gathering against neo-Nazi march

Přerov, 26.6.2011 08:52, (ROMEA)

About 150 neo-Nazis marched through Přerov yesterday, supervised by 700 police officers. Their march route passed by a place where several hundred Romani people had gathered to counter-protest. Police riot units succeeded in preventing the neo-Nazis from attacking the Romani residents, who laughed at the neo-Nazi march and shouted "good-bye, good-bye" to them as they passed. With the exception of minor scuffles between the neo-Nazis and police officers, the police cordon managed to prevent serious incidents from occurring.

Participants in the right-wing extremist event, which was convened by the Workers' Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti - DSSS), ended their march at around 15:30 at náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square), from which they had departed about an hour and a half previously. They started to disperse once the rally was over, and life in the town began to return to normal. "Promoters of the Workers' Party are gradually leaving Přerov, either by train or in personal vehicles," police spokesperson Michaela Sedláčková told the Czech Press Agency after the event was over.

Romani residents gathered at noon in a courtyard on Husova street not far from the train station. They had an excellent time playing music, barbecuing food, and giving speeches at a podium.

According to Richard Kořínek of the People in Need organization, the event was intended to express disagreement with the right-wing extremists' march in a peaceful way. The Archbishop of Olomouc, Jan Graubner, also attended to support the Romani residents. "It is impossible to approve of the extremists' actions. This illustrates the problems in this society as well as the fact that we have neglected solving them," Graubner told the Czech Press Agency.

"I believe that tolerance is the best way to respond to the DSSS march this afternoon. The Nazis will yell on the square for a while that they have the solution, but those are just empty words. The solution is equal access to education and working in a united way," Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, said from the podium in Husova street. He also sent greetings from Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková, who supported the entire event.

Jarmila Balážová, chair of the ROMEA association, sent the following greeting to the gathering: "I am very glad that your town decided to organize a happening against this event by [DSSS chair] Tomáš Vandas, his promoters, and neo-Nazism in order to express your disagreement with extremist actions and opinions. We can't just sit at home, withdrawing in fear. Thanks once again for deciding to hold - like Ústí nad Labem, Nový Bydžov, Krupka and Brno - a civil, non-violent protest."

Clergyman František Lízna, Czech MEP Jan Březina, and Jozef Baláž, a member of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Romani Community Affairs, also attended the event to show support for the Romani residents of Přerov.

When the DSSS march passed through Husova street, Romani people left the courtyard to watch them, laughing and whistling at them. Some neo-Nazis wanted to rush at them, but police officers prevented that.

According to Sedláčková, police did not have to detain anyone. However, the neo-Nazis were armed. "We confiscated (during personal searches of the extremists) one firearm, for which the owner was licensed, two collapsible nightsticks, three smaller knives, some rods and one set of brass knuckles on a man who was pretending to be a journalist," she said. DSSS chair Tomáš Vandas criticized the thorough personal searches of all people heading to náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square), calling them harassment. However, police rejected those claims given the need for security at the event.

Vandas himself was disappointed by the low turnout of his followers at the gathering. According to our correspondent, he complained off-mic that too few people had attended.

The DSSS event completely paralyzed the center of Přerov and the outlying areas. Police riot units were on the streets from late morning, as were mounted police. A police helicopter circled over the town. Transportation was halted, the streets along the march route were fenced off with police tape, and local residents could not access them. Shops in the neighborhood of the train station were shut and boarded up their display windows.

Two years ago in April the streets of Přerov were transformed into a battlefield when about 700 neo-Nazis attempted to break through police cordons when their event was officially over. Pieces of benching, firecrackers, paving stones and smoke bombs flew through the air near the bus station.

The DSSS is the successor to the Workers' Party, which was dissolved by the Czech Supreme Administrative Court last year. The court found the party's ideology, program and symbols included chauvinistic and xenophobic elements, a racist subtext, and was linked to national socialism, the ideology connected to Adolf Hitler.

ROMEA, Czech Press Agency, translated by Gwendolyn Albert


Sunday, June 26, 2011



Published: June 25, 2011 

A film that tells the story of integrating three “gypsy” children into the mainstream school system in a small Eastern European town captured the Sterling award in the U.S. film category Saturday at the AFI-Discovery Silverdocs documentary film festival in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In "Our School," directors Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coca-Cozma follow three students in Romania over a period of four years, with an eye toward documenting barriers to providing access to education in a race-
based, hierarchical society, after the town, in 2006, receives funds in exchange for promising to integrate the schools.





Gianfranco Bongiovanni from the Occhio del Riciclone organisation which provides social integration for the Roma community through recycling initiatives.

Against a backdrop of discrimination and forced re-housing, the Roma community plays an important role in recycling in Rome Rudi Salkanovic is one of Rome’s estimated 8,000 Roma. Born in Montenegro, he has been living in Italy for 30 years. He speaks and writes Italian well and has worked as a social mediator help­ing his community to integrate and access social services such as schools and healthcare. But like many Roma throughout Italy Salkanovic has been forcibly moved out of his home several times – last year he was made to leave Rome’s biggest camp for Roma, Casilino 900.

He says: “After living there for many years, I was kicked out. This made me sad because, apart from losing my house – a spacious cabin we built ourselves where my whole family could live well – we also lost the small authorised market where we could sell second-hand goods.”

So in just a few hours, Salkanovic lost not only his family home, but also his livelihood. This is part of the city’s plan to address the issue of illegal camp sites for nomadic ethnic minorities (called the piano nomadi – even though many Roma and Sinti are no longer nomadic).

Salkanovic now lives in one of the city’s seven centres that house 1,200 Roma. But conditions, he says, are not ideal: “I live there with my wife and seven children in a camper van, which has electricity, water and a shower. We can cook there but it is really too small for us, and the children have to sleep in a heap.”

Criticisms of the city’s re-housing plan focus on the policy of housing some families in separate locations. Being separated is unacceptable to many families and simply pushes them to leave sites earmarked for destruction and rebuild their homes on other unauthorised sites.

The issue of housing for the Roma was in the news in February when four children were killed in a fire in an illegal Roma camp in Rome’s southern suburb of Tor Fiscale. This highlighted the need for safe and se­cure housing for the Roma, while emphasising the need for a solution appropriate for numerous extended families. The forced evacuations from camp sites made the headlines again when more than 150 Roma took shelter in the basilica of St Paul’s Outside the Walls for three days over Easter. Rome’s local government has now stopped its forced evacuations, but the issue of providing appropriate housing and social services for the Roma remains.

A 2006 report by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was damning of the lack of progress made in Italy towards improving the lot of the Roma and Sinti. It said: “The use of racist and xenophobic discourse in politics [in Italy] has intensified and targets in particular non-EU citizens, Roma, Sinti and Muslims.”

Between 120,000 and 150,000 Roma and Sinti live in Italy; about 60 per cent of these are Italian citizens while the remaining 40 per cent retain their original citizenship from the Balkans or Romania. However, they are among the most deprived communities in Europe, according to ECRI.

One organisation that has been working with Roma and Sinti since 2003 is Occhio del Riciclone, a non-profit initiative to improve social integration for marginalised groups while addressing one of the country’s urgent issues: that of household waste.

Gianfranco Bongiovanni from Occhio del Riciclone says: “At the moment, many objects end up in landfill and 60-70 per cent of these can be used again. We aim to bring discarded objects back into commercial circulation. Items such as furniture, clothes, shoes, toys, kitchenware, electrical and automotive parts can be cleaned, repaired and recycled.”

This philosophy ties in well with the way of life of the Roma, who also have a strong culture of mending, recycling and re-using. Bongiovanni explains that, since Rome’s local authorities shut down the second-hand flea markets, the Roma have had nowhere legitimate to sell the goods that they retrieve.

If they set up unauthorised markets, they are forced to move by city police.

The practice of taking discarded objects from communal (not recycling) waste bins is illegal, as well as being a risky activity exposing people to serious health hazards through toxic waste, excrement and broken glass or needles. However the Roma are obliged to do this work, partly because of the lack of other opportunities.

Occhio del Riciclone estimates that, with 45,000 green (general mixed-waste) bins in Rome and an average of two re-usable objects thrown into each bin every day, there are potentially 33 million re-usable objects a year going into landfill. A solution it proposes is that Rome’s recycling centres, the so-called isole ecologiche, could sell objects to the Roma for a small fee. “At the moment there are no recycling islands that officially re-sell objects. This could be a way of formalising the presence of the Roma in Rome while at the same time avoiding the risks they face when sorting through rubbish,” says Bongiovanni.

More than 2,200 Roma work on recycling in Rome. Salkanovic has been working as a collector of abandoned objects ever since he was a child. While his main job as a cultural mediator with Opera Nomadi has dried up, he continues to collect iron and sells it at flea markets. It is a job that Salkanovic claims can earn from €1,500 to €2,000 a month if the whole family is working on it.

He explains: “I’m satisfied with my work because it feeds my family and we’re also doing good by reusing things that would otherwise be thrown away.” But overall, his view of the community’s current situation is bleak: “Unfortunately for the Roma here in Rome, as in the rest of Italy, it’s getting harder. There is a lot of racism and they don’t give us opportunities to work or get proper housing. They talk a lot, but if they close the flea markets and don’t allow us to work, how are we meant to feed our children?”

Saturday, June 25, 2011



Borders repress the Roma, but can't trap their spirit

Quebec director Serge Denoncourt was determined to put Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats in the spotlight


The Gazette June 25, 2011

Some of the performers of GRUBB - a song-and-dance show by 27 Serbian Roma teenagers - rehearse Thursday at Place des Arts. Their music addresses issues of love and identity, joblessness and segregation, in the Romani language

When a musical troupe of 27 teenagers from Serbia hits the stage Monday night at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, it will be a long, arduous dream come true for Serge Denoncourt, the Quebec director who made it happen. Not that it's such a rare feat to discover raw talent in a faraway land, hone that talent and bring it home. But it is a big deal when the performers are Roms, one of the most marginalized peoples of Europe.

Gypsies, gitans, manouches - or Romani people, as they call themselves - are outcasts wherever they go. Stereotyped and reviled as beggars and pickpockets, forced to live in squats and shantytowns and ghettos, they inhabit the fringes of society. When the parents work, it's often as night labourers on the black market or as garbage collectors. Young Roms are shunned at school or don't go at all. The daughters are married off young. And the borders of Europe are tightening against them.

But the Roma are not as cut off from the world as they seem, as Denoncourt discovered three years ago when he went to Belgrade for the first time. He'd been invited to give a one-week master class in theatre arts for a Britishbased educational charity called RPoint, which runs a school for 400 Roma youths in Serbia. The kids Denoncourt met didn't speak much English, but they listened to hip hop, Turkish and Arab rap and American pop. They were part of the global village.

"I was completely blown away by what I saw," Denoncourt recalled. "Not just by the poverty and the way they're treated, but also by the desire of these young people to rise above it. They were proud be clean-cut, to go to school, to write songs. They wanted to live in a way people weren't used to seeing them, in a way people wouldn't allow them to live. So I decided to help them do that."

The result is GRUBB - Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats - a song-and-dance show that blends hip hop with traditional Roma music; it starts a six-night run Monday at UQAM's Centre Pierre Péladeau. This is the first time the show - featuring 27 Serbian Roma teenagers - will be performed outside Europe, following on the heels of successful previews in Belgrade in May and, two weeks ago, at London's IndigO2 music hall.

The musicians are from Novi Sad and Nis, and the singers and dancers are from Belgrade. Everything is sung in the Romani language, with surtitles in French and English so the Montreal public can follow. In the songs, the teenagers explore issues of love and identity, joblessness, segregation, even a bit of history (the original Roma are thought to have migrated from India 1,000 years ago). And though it's not mentioned, the kids' religion - for the vast majority, Islam - also informs their consciousness as European outsiders.

Denoncourt, 49, enlisted several other volunteers from Quebec's artistic establishment to develop the show: Francis Collard (music), François Barbeau (costumes), Nico Archambault (choreography), Gabriel Coutu-Dumont and Olivier Goulet (sound design). They, in turn, were helped by three veterans of international showbiz: Italian quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti, British production designer Michael Curry (Cirque du Soleil, Metropolitan Opera) and British lighting specialist Patrick Woodroffe (who will do the 2012 London Olympic Games).

The teenagers were impressed by all the professionals, but they didn't have high hopes that they'd ever really get to put on a real show, nor be paid for their work. Denoncourt kept his word, though, returning to Belgrade once a month for two years to get to know the kids better and, with the other volunteers, shape their material. At the end, this past winter and spring, he spent four months in the Serbian capital, mounting the show from start to finish so that everyone was primed and ready to tour.

"It's not show business, really, because everything has been done with the kids' education in mind," Denoncourt said, noting that they have to stay in school in order to be in the troupe. "They've learned the discipline that theatre requires, the hard work, the constant repetition, striving for excellence, learning how to get along with others. It's been difficult for them, but the ones who wanted to come on board knew what they were getting into and stuck with it."

Not that there haven't been problems. In Quebec showbiz, Denoncourt has a reputation for having an abrasive temperament and a short fuse, and that intensity has been brought to bear in the tough love he metes out to the GRUBB cast. He demands total commitment, and is quick to ostracize those who don't give 100 per cent. His demanding attitude was on fiery display Wednesday after the troupe, newly arrived from Serbia, performed at Radio-Canada for a taping of Pénélope McQuade's TV talk show. It was the kids' first exposure to the media spotlight here.

In all the excitement on stage, one of the youngest Roms rapped out a line that earned him the derision of others in the troupe and, ultimately, Denoncourt. "Me nigga!" he said, imitating the ghetto slang of American rap. It was bad judgment, especially in prime time, but wasn't entirely misplaced. In the show, the kids rap that others call them a lot of nasty names, like Shqiptar, the derogatory "nigger" term that Serbs call Albanian Muslims and, by extension, Roms. The young performer had just improvised his own awkward affirmation of that in English, a language he can barely understand. No one in the studio audience noticed, and the incident would have ended there - except for what happened next.

Two St. Lambert teenage girls who'd raised more than $600 for GRUBB as a school project had come to the taping to present the cheque, and had asked to have their picture taken with the troupe. Upset at being mocked by the older kids for his mistake on stage, the young boy and another young member of the cast refused to be in the picture with everyone. When Denoncourt saw the boys sulking in a corner, he laced into them with all the invective he could muster, saying they'd insulted the donors, had ignored his order to act appreciative and humble in public, and should never have improvised in the first place.

As a result, the boys were separated from the rest of the troupe, sent back to the hotel in a taxi, grounded for the night, and even had their complimentary copies of the new GRUBB record (with their names and pictures and voices in it) confiscated. On the way out of the Rad-Can tower, Denoncourt took the CDs from the kids' hands and threw them in the garbage for the entire cast to see. Outside the building, Denoncourt chastised the boys again, reducing one to tears. He called them "little demons" who by their behaviour had essentially told their benefactors "F---you!" If togetherness is the message projected on stage, shaming, it seems, is part of the all-powerful director's method behind the scenes.

There's no question Denoncourt has had his share of frustrations in the long months he's spent getting GRUBB off the ground.

The girls were one. Denoncourt was never sure how many would leave the program to get married. In their culture, marriages are not done freely; they're arranged, and it's the father who decides how long his daughter will remain under his roof and when she will be married off to someone else from the community - in some cases, when they're as young as 14. Out of the 27 performers in Denoncourt's troupe, only three are girls.

At one point, he thought of eliminating girls entirely from the production, just to avoid dealing with unexpected defections. Sabina Uka, 18, is one of the lucky ones who stuck it out - initially, against her father's wishes. "I'm here because I love the music and dancing," she said in Serbian after the Montreal TV taping, with her dance instructor Darko Manasic acting as interpreter. "It's true that a lot of the girls leave to get married, but I didn't have to."

Another issue has been getting permission to travel. It was only in December 2009 that the European Union no longer required Serb citizens to have a visa to travel within Europe, but that openness might end soon. Too many bogus refugee claims by Serbian nationals, including Roma, in countries like Belgium and Sweden have made the EU consider making visas mandatory again. The GRUBB troupe didn't need visas to get to London last month, but those carefree days may be numbered.

Getting to Canada is another matter entirely. Though their show was three years in the making, the GRUBB troupe only got their Canadian travel visas issued June 15, less than two weeks before they were set to perform in Montreal. "We worked hard with the Canadian embassy in Serbia to prove that the kids had all their papers, that they didn't have a criminal record - we even invited the staff to rehearsals so they see everything was legit," Denoncourt said. (A special case had to be made for one kid who had done prison time as a minor, after his parents were caught illegally crossing the Hungarian border with him - not an unusual occurrence in that part of Europe.)

Another problem: the culture barrier. When Quebecers hear the word "Roma," they think of Italy, not Gypsies. And about all they know of Gypsy music is the old jazz of Django Reinhardt or the noisy Balkan brass bands they see in movies like Latcho Drom or the films of Serbian director and bandleader Emir Kusturica. It's a steep learning curve into the modern era, but seeing and hearing teenage amateurs sing and dance their culture is the perfect way to get the public over the lack of knowledge.

"We've been on the news, we've been on Tout le monde en parle (the popular Sunday-night TV talk show on Radio-Canada), so people here are starting to know who the Roma are," Denoncourt said. "There are 12 million of them in Europe, and until now most Quebecers had no idea here who the Roma are, how alone they are and how little support they get. That's changing. We're getting a lot of attention. The Montreal shows are 80-per-cent sold already."

In an entertaining way, GRUBB has some explaining to do about another thing, Denoncourt said: stereotypes.

"It's like the kids say in the show: 'We're Roms. But when you think of Roms, you think of the people you see begging in train stations and stealing in the street. Us, you don't see at all. It's time you saw other Roms.' They're right. There is another image of Roms that can be put forth. Yes, there are beggars and thieves, but there are also kids who go to school, write, work, perform. They're trying to break the clichés."

Ibrahim (Bibi) Gasi is GRUBB's lead singer and, at 19, one of the oldest in the troupe. For him, performing is a way to show that Roms "have talent and can do something with it," he said after the Rad-Can taping. "We choose our own music. It's got to the point where people recognize us on the streets back home. It makes us feel much better about ourselves."

The first step was to be true to who they really are, not just imitate American rappers, recalled Collard, one of the professional volunteers. The successful Quebec music producer (Cirque du Soleil, Ariane Moffatt) was drafted in January to spend six months arranging the music, adding instrumentation and mixing the CD to professional quality. But first he had to talk the kids out of singing in English and using clichéd lyrics modelled on 50 Cent and other U.S. rappers they idolize.

The change was dramatic. "Before, they might have a line like 'I want to go clubbing and meet sexy girls' - you know, the most basic thing," Collard recalled at Rad-Can while the kids busied themselves on Facebook on a backstage computer. "We said, 'No, you have such an interesting background, we want you to talk about real life, about the real stuff.' So they went back to their texts, discovered they had a sense of humour, and came up with raps like this: 'If you want to meet a nice blond girl with a Gucci bag, don't tell her you're Roma...' It became a lot more fun, not just the regular hip hop."

Denoncourt knows first-hand how clichés can hurt. "Look, I saw how excluded these kids are," he said. "They can't sit down in a café, because Roms are simply not allowed in. They live in fear of days when there's a big soccer match in town, because they don't know if the fans will come after them and burn their settlement down. They live with the violence, the insults, every day."

He, too, has suffered for his art. Denoncourt rolls around these days in a wheelchair, the result of a hit-and-run accident in Belgrade he suffered a month ago when a car struck his scooter and left him with a badly fractured leg. He doesn't know why the driver fled. He's concentrating on staying well for GRUBB, seeing it through, and looking ahead to directing projects in the theatre. (He's booked for the next three years in Quebec and England.)

It will be hard saying goodbye to his troupe, but the story won't end there.

GRUBB has inspired copycat shows in Serbia, and a whole class of Roma understudies is waiting in the wings to ensure the show goes on, as it must, in their homeland or again on the road, possibly for a follow-up tour here to once again raise funds for RPoint. The important thing, Denoncourt said, is that 27 Roma kids now think of themselves as citizens of the world, not prisoners of misunderstanding and fear.

"In one song, they sing: 'We don't know exactly where we're from, but now we know where we're going.' They're going towards a recognition, by the rest of humanity, of who they are."

GRUBB (Gypsy Roma Urban Balkan Beats) runs Monday through Saturday, July 2 at 8 p.m. at Salle Pierre Mercure of UQAM's Centre Pierre Péladeau, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee on July 2. Tickets cost $52.50 plus taxes and fees. The performers can also be seen for free in a couple of "walking shows" on the jazz fest site along de Maisonneuve Blvd., at 1 and 4 p.m. on Thursday. Profits support educational programs in Serbia run by the British charity RPoint. For tickets and more information, visit and There's also a new self-titled studio CD of GRUBB, available in record stores and on iTunes.

Friday, June 24, 2011


FROM  DEUTSCHE WELLE,,15185257,00.html


Report faults Romanian legal system for Roma housing discrimination


A report by Amnesty International finds that the Roma minority in Romania lacks legal protection from forced evictions, and that Roma families are often left in sub-standard housing conditions with no chance for redress.

Romania's legal system has failed to prevent a pattern of forced evictions for Roma, leaving them in sub-standard housing next to garbage dumps and sewage plants, according to a report published by Amnesty International on Thursday.

"The human right to adequate housing is not recognized or adequately protected in Romanian law," Amnesty researcher Barbora Cernusakova told a press conference in Bucharest. "This can affect every citizen, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized ones."

The report, entitled "Mind the Legal Gap: Roma and the Right to Housing in Romania," cites a number of cases in recent years in which Roma families were forced out of their homes and sent to "temporary" housing units on the margins of society, or left homeless.

In one such case, some 75 Roma were evicted from a building in the center of Miercurea Ciuc, about 260 kilometers (162 miles) north of Bucharest, in June 2004. According to the report, "local authorities resettled them in metal cabins next to the city's sewage plant on the outskirts of the city," where they are still living today.

The root of the problem of inadequate housing for Roma lies in Romanian law, the report says.

While legislation defines physical requirements for housing, it does not refer to location, such as "access to health care services, education, employment and other social services - or proximity to hazardous environments." Where the courts or anti-discrimination bodies should provide Roma with a means of redress, these systems lack the power to hold the government accountable.

Fotis Filippou, a Romania expert with Amnesty International, said another problem was that segregation was not prohibited by law.

"As a result, a lot of these resettlements took place in segregated areas, or with intention by local authorities to segregate Roma on the outskirts of cities," he told Deutsche Welle.

Filippou added that local and national authorities often take no responsibility for the housing problems that Roma face - which may be related to the widespread discrimination against the minority.

"Often housing is not seen as something that authorities have the responsibility to deal with," he said. "It is definitely not seen as a human right... We have often felt that authorities do not feel that there's an obligation to these people."

Bildunterschrift: Roma are three times more likely to live in poverty than the average RomanianEurope-wide problem

Roma in Romania constitute one of the largest Roma communities in Europe. Estimates of the population range from 535,000 to two million. Amnesty International cites government statistics as saying that up to 75 percent of Roma live in poverty, compared with 24 percent of the general population.

Data collected by human rights groups show that some 5,000 Roma have been evicted over the last few years, according to the Roma rights group Romani CRISS.

Filippou said the discrimination against Roma is not unique to Romania, but that it occurs across Europe and in various areas of life, not just access to housing.

"This is something that the Romanian government must address," he said. "At the same time, what is necessary is not just a change of mentality, but a change in policy and concrete measures for Roma people to be able to enjoy access to services, and to be able to get out of the cycle of poverty and marginalization."

Author: Andrew Bowen

Editor: Susan Houlton

Thursday, June 23, 2011



06/22/2011 03:12 PM




Art aficionados have never focused much on works by Roma. That has begun to change in recent years, with a slew of contemporary Roma artists having begun to attract attention across Europe and Berlin now has a gallery devoted exclusively to Gypsy artwork.

Exotic. Primitive. A people leading romantically wild and unrestrained lives. Such have been the portrayals of Europe's Roma population for centuries.

But such depictions -- in paintings, novels and operas -- have primarily been the work of the gadjikano, or non-Gypsies. Now, though, contemporary Roma and Sinti artists have a voice and a forum of their own. In Berlin, a new gallery has recently opened devoted exclusively to Roma and Sinti art. It is the first of its kind in Germany.

"The goal is to help facilitate Roma artists who find themselves in a niche that doesn't have access to the art market," Moritz Pankok, the curator of the new gallery, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Many live in the Balkans or move in spheres further away from the art market. This is a very fruitful area which is just now coming to light."

Pankok is the grand nephew of a Weimar-era Expressionist who achieved acclaim for his woodblock prints and charcoal drawings of German Sinti. And Pankok has been dealing with the work of his grand uncle since he was a teenager. The new gallery, located in the headquarters of the new Aufbau Verlag publishing house in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, opened its doors in April with a show of acrylic paintings by the Polish Roma artist Lita Cabellut.

The opening of the gallery comes at a time when Sinti and Roma intellectuals and artists are emerging across Europe with a renewed awareness of their heritage. They are successful, well-educated and proudly acknowledge their origin.

Relegated to Ethnographic Museums

The Belgrade band Kal, for example -- led by Dragan Ristic -- is pioneering a new style of contemporary, politically-aware Roma music. His brother Dusan, a fine artist in the US, draws attention to issues of Roma stereotyping in his photography. Both brothers criticize what they feel is the endemic passivity of European Roma and seek to address complex Roma issues on a political and aesthetic level.

The trend in the visual arts began two years ago at the Venice Biennale, which saw a Roma pavilion, funded by Hungarian financier George Soros, for the first time in the history of the art event. Until then, Roma art had largely been relegated to ethnographic museums and community centers. It also marked the first transnational pavilion in the Venice Biennale's history.

For Roma and Sinti artists, excitement at the paradigm shift was palpable. Since then, shows by Gypsy artists have been staged across Europe, highlighting the works of an ethnic group that, while often the subject of artwork, has not often been valued as creators of art themselves. Recent shows in Austria, Italy and the United Kingdom have all featured contemporary works of Roma art.

"I am firmly convinced that this is not a flash in the pan, but that this art has a big potential and a certain freshness because it has something to say," says Pankok. "There are themes there that are being dealt with and have to be dealt with by artists. Until now, it hasn't really been recognized."

A Common Experience

The Berlin gallery will be showing a new generation of sophisticated contemporary Gypsy artists who are firmly centered in their Roma identity but who are also well versed in the language of contemporary art. Most work is figurative and has a marked affinity to natural forms. There is also a common experience of persecution and discrimination which is often present in the works of Roma and Sinti artists.

"I think that they have a great talent for improvisation, and that their handicraft techniques have a natural part in this," says Pankok. "And this talent for improvisation comes from difficult circumstances. They can take other paths, fit in differently and be more mobile."

The next exhibition at Kai Dikhas, set to open this month, will be of works by the English Traveler artist Delaine Le Bas, who has shown in Berlin before. She is known for her wall hangings and installations which juxtapose kitschy images, quilts, dolls, cartoon characters, family photographs, stitched landscapes, scrawled slogans. They recall Gypsy interiors with walls covered in Persian carpets, towels, bath mats, runners and rugs, depicting Biblical scenes, peacocks and voluptuous, reclining odalisques.

Her work is elaborately flowery and reminds the viewer of Gypsy dress. Different models and styles are combined in one great incoherent confusion.

Somehow Unsuitable

"I don't think most people who went into my show and looked at my work would necessarily say 'Oh, she's a Roma artist,'" explained Le Bas on a recent visit to Berlin.

Nevertheless, she concedes that a certain Gypsy aesthetic is inescapable. "There are certain give-away things that all the works have; this obsession with color and texture, and the way of putting certain things together," she says. "Sometimes you just can't get away from it."

Galerie Kai Dikhas is unique in that it is the only commercial gallery in Europe devoted to giving Roma and Sinti artists a forum for their artistic expression. But Pankok stresses that the art he intends to present in the gallery has a particular relevance for non-Roma and Sinti viewers in search of an art that is direct, unpretentious and grounded in every-day realities.

"It may be that we lead a kind of alienated life in these big cities, and also here in Berlin," says Pankok. "A life which is marked by iPhones and appointments and e-mails. And I think that this art offers a bit of air to breathe. The way art is sometimes discussed is too elitist. The good thing about this art is that this elitist attitude is somehow unsuitable."



Photo Gallery: A Renaissance of Roma Art

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



The Roma in France


Published: June 22, 2011

KARACHI: This is in reference to the letter written by the French ambassador to Islamabad, Daniel Jouanneau, published on June 17, in this newspaper written in response to my article entitled “The rose is wilting under Sarkozy” (June 7).

The ambassador maintains that my article was biased and inaccurate and that I was being hypocritical. Biased? Perhaps! But then this writer was brought up on British values which teach fair play, fighting for the underdog, tolerance for eccentricity, and never hitting a man when he is down. Inaccurate? Hardly! Either Mr Sarkozy did expel 30,000 Roma people in two years, or he didn’t. The world press, including the British press, said he did, and we will have to take their word for it.

One got the distinct impression from the letter that the only people in France who were indulging in human trafficking, prostitution and criminal activities are the Roma. Is the ambassador therefore implying that there are no white French, East European or north African criminals in France? Does Mr Sarkozy also have plans to expel these anti-social groups?

The Roma people have a distinct culture, not a genetic disorder. If they are despised in parts of Europe it is because they have been kept as outcasts on the fringe of society, desperately eking out a living and treated like pariah. It is not the Roma who are not integrating. It is the right wing French who just won’t accept them.

Anwer Mooraj



June 7, 2011

France, the land of Racine and Rousseau, has always had the reputation of being a country of enlightenment. Which other nation state in Europe or the New World has produced such a rich harvest of art, music, film, cuisine, haute couture and fragrance? Speak of the canvas, and the paintings of Gericault, Renoir, Monet and Cezanne that light up the world. Touch on the subject of opera and the arias of Massenet, Berlioz, Offenbach and Saint Saens which give a magisterial rhythm to ideas. Open the old treasure chest of 35 mm films, and the classic reels of Carne, Renoir, Claire and Pagnol that beckon you to an age of grace and elegance. Speak of the lure of cheese and you will wonder if anything could possibly compare with Camembert, Chevre, Roquefort and Brie de Meaux.

Having said this, how could a country that has produced such an embarrassment of cultural riches and is the birthplace of human rights, produce a president like Nicholas Sarkozy? Even the great de Gaulle would have been appalled at the turn of events that unfolded in France last year. What Sarkozy has done smacks of the worst kind of racism in modern times. In order to boost flagging political ratings and to prepare for the 2012 elections, Sarkozy and his odious government have deported thousands of Roma people to Romania and Bulgaria from where they had initially immigrated to France.

The Roma people are the gypsies of Europe, unloved, unwanted, despised and persecuted. Though they are immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria, they trace their ancestry to India, more specifically to Sindh where, in certain quarters, they are still known as ‘Sintis.’ They have always lived on the fringe of society, inhabiting caravans or derelict buildings without running water or electricity, and in France they eke out a living with scrap metal and garbage and by peeling and selling copper cable. Of all the countries that have absorbed them, however reluctantly, the English have been the kindest to these exotic gypsies who have added a bit of colour to staid old Britain. Their skill with the violin, in reading palms and foretelling the future, their innate knowledge of horse flesh and their exceptional dexterity in being able to spear a target 20-feet away with a stiletto often gets them employment with a touring circus.

The Roma people are citizens of the European Union and presumably have rights. But that has not stopped Sarkozy from doing what he has. In 2008, he expelled 8,500 Roma people. In 2009, the number increased to 10,000. And between the beginning of 2010 and Sarkozy’s infamous July speech at Grenoble, when he announced his intention to deprive criminals who are “French citizens of foreign origin” of their French citizenship, 24 charter flights loaded with Roma people had already been flown to Romania and Bulgaria. The pointed reference was made to a group of gypsies who, driven by harassment and desperation, had attacked a police station.

Most countries ignored the action, but not Britain, which still has people who fight for the underdog. In a biting article by Louise Doughty in the Guardian on September 16, 2010, appropriately titled “France deserves to be kicked out of the EU for deporting Roma people”, she made a strong case for doing just that. “At last the EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding has come out with a direct attack on the French government,” she wrote in her highly readable piece. “At last she was ‘appalled,’ and threatened the Sarkozy regime with legal action”. The writer did wonder just what Vivienne Reding had been doing for the previous 18 months as hundreds of men, women and children were rounded up by French police with no time to gather their possessions, publicly branded as criminals and sent back to Eastern Europe. “Imagine the outcry if Sarkozy started deporting people who happened to be Jewish or black. Would it have taken 18 months for the EU to react?”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2011.



June 16, 2011


This is with reference to an article of June 7 by Anwer Mooraj titled “The rose is wilting under Sarkozy” on the Roma’s situation in France.

Human rights constitute the core values on which the European Union (EU) was founded. France has always been a very open country, open to foreign influences, to different cultures, to all religions. This being said, let’s not be hypocritical when dealing with the Roma’s situation. Mr Mooraj is blaming France for an issue that remained ignored by all for the past 10 years. What French President Sarkozy did was to decide to tackle the issue and to get all the EU member states involved in finding a solution.

The freedom of circulation, one of the fundamental rights of the European Union, should not be used as a legal cover for human trafficking, prostitution, begging and criminal activities in general. Those indulging in such activities must be dealt with without any complacency.

The French government provided the European Commission with all the information it needed. The commission was satisfied with it and acknowledged the legality of the French measures regarding the Roma. The assertions made in the article are therefore biased and inaccurate.

By deciding to act, President Sarkozy highlighted the true issue, that of the Roma’s integration within their respective countries in the EU. All the 27 member states must find a practical answer. Thanks to the French initiative, the European Council has decided to make this issue one of its priorities.

Daniel Jouanneau

Ambassador of France to Pakistan

Tuesday, June 21, 2011



Repatriation of Roma EU citizens is now common in several European countries. France's crackdown on crime has specifically targeted Roma from Romania and Bulgaria. And France is not alone. Italy, for instance, has arrested and deported a considerable number of Romanian Roma in the last few years. Recently, Roma have also been sent back to their home countries by Denmark and Sweden.

Pushing Roma families between EU member states offers no solutions to any problems. It has to be recognised that there are reasons why members of the Roma minority seek a future in other countries and that these concrete problems must be addressed. The majority of the Roma in Europe live in abject poverty; they are deeply disadvantaged in employment, housing standards and access to health care.

Roma school children are in some countries routinely assumed to lack learning capacity and put in special classes. Many children have also suffered bullying in the school environment and the drop out rate among them is high. Tens of thousands of Roma in Europe are stateless which creates further obstacles for them in terms of access to social services.

Discrimination against Roma communities in Europe has a long and bitter history. The repression came to a climax in the 1930-40s when they were targeted by fascist regimes in both Romania and Italy. In areas controlled by the German Nazis several hundred thousand Roma were rounded up and brought to concentration camps or executed directly. This genocide was not even an issue at the Nuremberg trial and the little compensation to the survivors or to the victims'family members came late, if at all.

Anti-Gypsyism has continued until this day and is now exploited by extremist groups in several European countries.

Mob violence against Roma individuals has been reported in, for instance, the Czech Republic and Hungary. It might be sobering to learn that the Canadian authorities have in fact granted asylum to Roma refugees from these countries.

The persistent refrain in the speech against Roma is that they are committing crimes this has also been one theme of the French campaign. Of course, there are some Roma who are guilty of thefts and some have also been badly exploited by traffickers. It is a well known fact that socially marginalised and destitute people tend to be somewhat over-represented in criminal statistics for obvious reasons.

These problems should be taken seriously and preventive steps should be taken. However, they offer no excuse for stigmatising all Roma; the overwhelming majority of them are not in conflict with the law. It is a crucial, ethical principle that you do not blame a whole group for what some of its members might have done.

European states and their leaders must come to terms with their responsibility for the current situation of Roma.

The stigmatising rhetoric has to stop. Serious steps must be taken to counter discrimination of Roma, not least in their home countries. Indeed, proactive measures are necessary to undo injustices which have turned Roma into a European underclass. A first step is to give children a chance to be educated and adults to find a job.

Meaningful reforms to protect their human rights will only be possible through dialogue with Roma representatives. Some of the changes will have to be initiated by Roma themselves within their own communities. However, there will be little space for such efforts as long as they are targeted by hate speech from politicians and others.

Thomas Hammarberg



June 21, 2011

To the Editor:

There are many legitimate reasons not to trust Mitt Romney on health care or any other political issue. His flip-flops are many and well-documented.

However, in his letter to the editor on June 17, Joel Look says we should not trust Romney because he may be of Romani heritage. This most definitely is not a reason to make any judgment about Mitt Romney or anybody else.

Sadly, Mr. Look is simply showing that he shares the widespread prejudice against the Romani people, who constitute the bulk of the people commonly referred to as Gypsies. Without delving into a lot of history, suffice it to say that Gypsies are one of the most oppressed minorities in the Western world. During World War II, for example, Hitler and the Nazis attempted genocide against them, killing hundreds of thousands.

As a country, we can move forward only as we shed our prejudices. Let's focus on the policy positions of the candidates, not their ethnic background.

Larry Drake

Yeah Larry Drake.  I missed this story entirely.



Festival to combat discrimination toward Roma bottle collectors

Monday, 20 June 2011

Roma Amor campaign will encourage respectful behaviour though crime fears linger

Among the initiatives is a measure to ensure that children are not overworked (Photo: Roma Amor)

Reports of abuse and discrimination against Roma gypsies who attend Roskilde Festival to collect bottles for their deposits has led festival organisers to begin a campaign to help foster better relations.

The campaign, Roma Amor, started earlier this month and has stimulated lively debate on Facebook where many people have voiced their worries about the link between the Roma and crime at the annual music festival.

“I have had some bad experience with Roma,” worte Andreas Thanh Long Jensen. “I busted one of them going through my tent and my bag. He said that he was just checking for cans, but why would I hide them in my sleeping bag.”

Frederik Petersson commented that the bottle deposits ought to go to charity. “I find it kind of selfish to collect bottles for personal gain, when other people do the exact same thing to help people who are actually in need.”

Aware of these sorts of concerns, the festival has launched a refund mediation team as part of the ‘good refund initiative’. The team will maintain a dialogue with the Roma collectors and encourage them and festival-goers to be respectful of each other.

The campaign also hopes to highlight conditions for a group of people that faces high rates of poverty. Many of those in Denmark have travelled here to pick up bottles in order to scrape together a living.

Roma Amor is part of a larger effort by Roskilde Festival organisers this year to bring about awareness of poverty and the plight of people such as the Roma.

Campaign Manager, Anna Sophie Rønde, drew attention to the discrimination by festival guests, who have been known to hang signs outside their camps warning off Roma, often in profane or offensive language.

“When Roma people go to Roskilde Festival to collect deposits, it’s not necessarily because they are Roma, but because they are poor,” she said.

Rønde also pointed out that in Romania, where Roma make up 2.5 percent of the population, only 27 percent of Roma are employed. Those that are employed earn around €10 a day.

A team of social workers has also been established to ensure that children are not made to work through the night and in front of main stages, where their size allows them to slip through the crowds to pick up discarded cans and bottles.


The Roma

The Roma are an ethnic group who trace their origins to the Indian subcontinent but are now distributed widely across Europe.

Romania and southeastern Europe houses their most concentrated population of Roma, which is estimated at approximately 10 million across Europe.

The Roma people have a history of persecution, reaching back from their enslavement by the Byzantine Empire to their attempted genocide by the Nazis in the Second World War.

The accession of eastern European states to the EU led to Roma travelling to Denmark for work. At the Roskilde Festival they can be found collecting bottles, earning them several hundred kroner a day.

In July last year the Immigration Service ordered the arrest and deportation of 23 Roma, some of whom were guilty of property theft, who were living in squatted accommodation on Amager.

But in April this year, 14 of the deportations were found to be unlawful and were overturned, on the grounds that simply living in illegal shelters was not sufficient grounds for deportation. Several of them have now returned to Denmark.





June 20, 2011
Andi’s grandfather knew his grandson deserved better. Andi was severely hearing impaired, but he couldn’t attend school or receive state assistance because his paperwork was not in order.

We don’t know why Andi’s birth was never registered with the local authorities in Tirana, Albania. Maybe his parents could not afford the cost of a birth certificate. Or perhaps they did not have their own identity documents, further complicating their son’s registration. What we do know is that because of his status, Andi, like far too many undocumented Roma children, did not have access to adequate health care or education.

Ten-year-old Goran was struggling with his Serbian. His family had recently moved back to their native country after spending several years in Germany. Local school officials told Goran’s parents that they needed to pay to have their son enrolled in a special language program, but they could only afford a single month’s attendance.

What happened next is all too common throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans—the school administrators tried to have Goran placed in a “special” school for the mentally disabled given his poor language skills.

Cases like those of Andi and Goran are why the Roma Education Fund was created in 2005 with support from the Open Society Foundations. Based in Budapest, the fund promotes equal access to education for Roma in Europe. Organizations such as Tirana Legal Aid Services, which helped Andi register so that finally he could begin attending school, and the Minority Rights Centre in Belgrade, which successfully fought against Goran’s unjust categorization as mentally disabled, are among the local organizations that we support.

Once students are enrolled in schools, the Roma Education Fund supports programs and scholarships to make sure they can succeed.

For example, student mentors in the Hungarian city of Szeged help Roma children adjust to a new school setting under a pilot desegregation program that enables them to reach their full potential: important not only for the students but also for local teachers who may doubt the capabilities of their new Roma pupils. Elsewhere, a Roma pride camp in Timisul de Sus, Romania encouraged a young girl named Elena not to drop out of school because she would have been one of the few Roma students in her local high school.

Romaversitas in Hungary, another Roma Education Fund grantee, takes it to the university level. Each year it offers a stipend, language training, and intensive coursework to prepare talented young Roma to attend university. Graduates have gone on to the Commissioner’s Office for Civil Rights in the Hungarian Parliament, the Ministry of Education and Culture, as well as a number of NGOs promoting inclusive education for Roma. A similar program at the university in Novi Sad, Serbia, provides Roma students with additional instruction in particular subjects.

Believing that the promise of education should not be limited to the young, we also support adult education initiatives. In the northern Serbian town of Mol, 40-year-old Marko never finished primary school and was worried about providing for his family. Each day after work, he would bicycle 15 kilometers with his daughter Iva to a pilot program supported by the foundation. Marko was nervous about being the oldest student, but he wanted to set a good example for his daughter and so he kept up his studies and never missed a class. The father and daughter worked as a team: when she struggled with her Serbian, Marko would translate the curriculum into Hungarian, and when he got frustrated with his math and science lessons, Iva would patiently help him out.

Roma inclusion, however, is not just about helping Roma succeed, it also about changing negative attitudes and stereotypes.

When local authorities in Jibou, Romania, attempted to integrate its classrooms, they were met with fierce resistance from the teachers. A particularly vocal math teacher insisted that Roma students only came to school to receive the free breakfast and that they could not keep up with the curriculum. The Roma Education Fund supported an intercultural training for teachers and school administrators which helped to change minds and bring many of the faculty—including the math teacher—on board with the plan to desegregate. Similar intercultural trainings are held for students as well. A program in Bucharest has been so successful that it can now count non-Roma students as some of its biggest advocates and best trainers.

All of this work narrows the gap in educational outcomes for students: whether helping to engage Roma parents in their children’s education in Bosnia Herzegovina or developing a national network of Roma advocates in Moldova. The programs and organizations supported by the Roma Education Fund are truly making a lasting and positive impact in the lives of so many. We aim to scale up the programs that work best and spread these approaches across Europe.

All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.

Special thanks to the partner organizations who shared their beneficiaries' stories: UNICEF Tirana, Albania; Minority Rights Centre Belgrade, Serbia; Dartke Association Szeged, Hungary; Roma Center for Social Intervention and Studies - Romani CRISS Bucharest, Romania; Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade – Institute of Pedagogy and Andragogy Belgrade, Serbia.

Article printed from Open Society Foundations:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] Roma Education Fund:

[2] Romaversitas:

Monday, June 20, 2011



Citizen Special June 16, 2011


It has been a bad spring for human rights. If the wave of assault, torture and rape in Libya and Syria is not cause for despair, there are new acts of repression in Iran, Indonesia, Burma, China and many reliable places in between.

One of those is Hungary, where there has been a campaign against the Roma, known as Gypsies, for more than the last three years. According to the European Roma Rights Centre, there were 49 attacks on the Roma and their property between January 2008 and April 2011.

Nine people were killed, including two children. Dozens were injured. Molotov cocktails were used at least a dozen times and property was vandalized at least 10 times.

In other words, these aren't the garden-variety verbal threats and scrawled epithets that we call discrimination in Canada. Prejudice is deeper and darker here, and much more dangerous, largely because it has institutional support.

On April 16, for example, members of a paramilitary group marched through the Roma village of Gyongyospata in northwest Hungary. They attacked a house and broke a window. No one was injured, which was fortunate; for weeks vigilantes had been a provocative presence among the 450 Roma of the village.

In March the Szebb Jovoert, a paramilitary group, made a habit of marching there. It's is all about intimidation. The marchers are supported by Jobbik, the right-wing party that won 17 per cent of the vote in national elections last year, feeding on frustration over a weak economy of crippling debt and high unemployment.

Jobbik considers the Roma "criminal" and happily harasses them.

Over Easter, half the Roma fled Gyongyospata, fearing for their safety. This is the norm in this country: Roma assaulted in their homes. Bombs thrown through their windows. Marches in the streets to provoke and terrify.

If it sounds like the Nazis and the Jews, it is. On March 15, Hungary's National Day, hundreds of blackclad militants marched down the boulevards and filled the square around St. Stephen's Basilica, in central Budapest. They wore jackboots and leather jackets, listened to folk music, and peddled anti-Semitic and anti-Roma literature.

The government says it is trying to curb these attacks, but Prime Minister Vicktor Orbán is busy cracking down on the media and amending the constitution to consolidate his party's authority. It is an audacious power grab that has happened while Hungary serves a six-month term in the rotating presidency of the European Union.

Member states protest the attack on democracy in Hungary, but Orbán, Europe's new strong man, is unmoved. He isn't anti-Roma and doesn't condone the attacks. Police do appear, sometimes late, but they have not always been able to stop or prevent the attacks.

The threat to the Roma goes beyond Hungary. There are 10 million to 12 million Roma within the European Union, and they suffer from xenophobia almost everywhere they live.

The EU has recently committed itself to improve education, jobs, housing and health care for the Roma, the most disadvantaged minority in Europe, and find ways to integrate them into society. But its highly publicized declaration in April did not propose measures to combat hate crimes faced by the Roma.

Championing the rights of the Roma has been the raison d'être of Járóka Livia since she was elected a member of the European Parliament from Hungary in 2004. For Livia, the plight of the Roma is intensely personal. That's because she is a Roma, the first Roma woman to serve in the European Parliament. Since arriving seven years ago, she has tried to erase an image of a people seen as dishonest, treacherous, lazy and nomadic. Today, for example, she notes that 95 per cent of Roma are sedentary. But they do face segregation and suffer from intergenerational poverty and a lack of education.

"They don't want to be nomads," she says. "They want dignity. They want opportunity."

At 36, Livia is a young veteran of European politics, hailed in 2006 among 150 others as a "young global leader." She is born in Hungary, a product of a mixed marriage. Her parents made sure she "had the good bits and pieces of my culture."

She learned English in Canada, in Sault Ste. Marie, where she lived with a family on a Rotary Club scholarship. Then she went to university and studied anthropology.

Her thesis was on rap music and Roma musicians. Today she is an emblem of "Roma-proud," a term for the growing self-consciousness among her people.

"I became an activist because my Roma friends didn't know who they were," she says. It isn't only about the Roma, she insists, because poverty, education and health care are not their issues alone; they are European issues. She's impatient for progress, and while some assume she will remain in politics as a rising star, she has doubts.

"I'm an anthropologist," she says. "I want to return to the field. If the EU gets this right (on the Roma), I'm done."

Andrew Cohen is a professor of journalism and international affairs at Carleton University.

Sunday, June 19, 2011







18/06/2011 -

Around 30 miles east of central London, one of the largest evictions in recent British history is looming. More than 90 families at Dale Farm, Europe's biggest Travellers' site, expect to be served with a 28-day enforcement notice any day now, after the Home Office earlier this month awarded a £4.65m special grant to Essex Police to assist with an eviction that could cost as much as £17.5m.

The history of Dale Farm is long and has been fraught with tension over the last decade. One section of the farm has been occupied legally by Gypsies since the 1960s, but in 2002 conflict arose when a number of Irish Traveller families moved on to a patch of land next the legal site.

Though they had purchased the land, they were refused planning permission by Basildon Council on the grounds that it was on the green belt. The council has since been embroiled in a battle to remove around 52 properties from the section of the farm without planning permission.

According to the Travellers, although the land is classed as green belt, it was a concreted scrapyard before they moved on to it. They say they each pay on average £950 in council tax per year, and allege that the refusal to grant them planning permission, far from being anything to do with the green belt, is driven by an undercurrent of prejudice from local politicians.

"What we've always objected to is that they're treating us as a block of people -- travellers -- to be evicted en masse as an ethnic group," says 72-year-old Grattan Puxon, secretary of the Dale Farm Residents Association. "That's why we call it ethnic cleansing."

Puxon, who helped found the Gypsy Council in 1966, says the residents association recently sent Basildon Council detailed reports on the welfare and medical status of each person who would be affected by the eviction. Their hope was that exceptions would be made for those who were elderly, unwell or with young children.

"We sent them the medical reports of 300 people, including a bedridden old man on the point of death; another 80-year-old man; a woman with triplets; a young mother who recently had a miscarriage; and numerous very small children," he says. "The committee was given 40 minutes to consider all these reports -- about eight seconds per report. Having done that they said they couldn't find any exceptions."

In 2008, a High Court judgment ruled that the eviction would be legal, though expressed concern that the site would be disproportionately "cleared" with little concern for children and those in ill-health.

Two years later, in 2010, a letter was sent directly to the UK government from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It urged the government and its institutions to "consider suspending any planned eviction until an adequate solution is achieved".

Concern has also been raised about the bailiffs hired by Basildon Council to carry out the eviction. Constant & Co, who describe themselves as a "one-stop shop" for the clearance of Traveller sites, were criticised by a High Court judge for "unacceptable" conduct after one previous Gypsy eviction in 2004, and were present during a separate incident the same year when a caravan was set on fire. Calls to Constant & Co for a comment went unheeded. However a spokesperson for Basildon Council said the council had used the company in the past and that there had been "no issues".

There will be "no burning of any items on site during the operation," according to the council, who will pay Constant & Co an estimated figure of over £2m for their services, with a further £6m set aside for other costs. At the same time, last year the council announced they were looking to make £505,000 cuts to services and were also braced for up to 100 job losses. On top of the council's £8m, an additional £9.5m has been made available for policing costs, almost half of which has been raised by central government.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said ministers agreed to fund policing the eviction only after advice from Essex Police was "carefully considered" by government ministers. While addressing human rights concerns, Basildon Council said they had already given an undertaking to the High Court providing for the health, education and care needs of the families affected, and staunchly refuted any claims of racial prejudice.

"The proposed site clearance at Dale Farm is driven by the need to uphold planning law and nothing more, a decision upheld by the courts," said the council's Conservative leader, Councillor Tony Ball. "To suggest otherwise is simply wrong, irresponsible and shows a lack of understanding for the situation."

For the 90 or so families at Dale Farm, the weeks ahead will be crucial.

They are currently seeking a judicial review of the eviction, and the moment they are served with their 28-day enforcement notice will form what they call Camp Constant -- a "non-violent defence" that will include a human shield around the area to be evicted. If the judicial review fails, not only will a serious confrontation with bailiffs and police be inevitable, but the future for many families at Dale Farm will be rendered uncertain.

"Even although alternative land has been identified, until planning permission is granted they will have nowhere lawful to move to," said Keith Lomax, the solicitor acting on behalf of Dale Farm.

"There are residents who have such significant personal circumstances -- including serious medical problems -- that it is manifestly unreasonable and disproportionate in human rights terms to put them out onto the road."

Ryan Gallagher is a freelance journalist based in London


Saturday, June 18, 2011



Beaverton, Ore. –
Computer giant IBM turns 100 on June 16, 2011, and with that anniversary also comes a dark remembrance of the Holocaust some 70 years ago when IBM's technologic assistance is said to have helped Adolf Hitler achieve the staggering numbers of Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Author Edwin Black describes the thesis of his book “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation” in the following way: "[The book] tells the story of IBM's conscious involvement — directly and through its subsidiaries — in the Holocaust, as well as its involvement in the Nazi war machine that murdered millions of others throughout Europe. “Only with IBM's technologic assistance was Hitler able to achieve the staggering numbers of the Holocaust,” writes Black in his 2001 New York Times bestseller that’s now been released in paperback. In turn, Black’s book was honored by the American Society of Journalists and Authors as the winner of the “Best Nonfiction book in 2002.”

How did Hitler get the names of the Jews in Europe, asks author

According to Black, “one of the last great mysteries of Germany's war against the Jews is how did Hitler get the names?”

"Mankind barely noticed when the concept of massively organized information quietly emerged to become a means of social control, a weapon of war, and a roadmap for group destruction. Hitler and his hatred of the Jews was the ironic driving force behind this intellectual turning point. But his quest was greatly enhanced and energized by the ingenuity and craving for profit of a single American company and its legendary, autocratic chairman. That company was International Business machines, and its chairman was Thomas J. Watson,” writes Black in his book about the strategic alliance between Nazi Germany and IBM.

At the same time, CBS “Sunday Morning” recently featured the connection between the Nazis and IBM during a June 12 report for IBM’s 100th anniversary. CBS News noted that IBM’s work for the Nazi’s “stopped after it learned about the Holocaust.”

How will history judge the IBM and Nazi alliance, questions Jewish groups

Still, Black’s book and website – that continues to offer more details about the author’s investigations into the IBM and Nazi alliance -- is more than just disturbing, say various national Jewish groups.

For instance, Black’s book details the business dealings of “the American-based multinational corporation International Business Machines (IBM), and its German and other European subsidiaries with the government of Adolf Hitler during the 1930s and during World War II.” The book offers an overview of the alliance, with Black pointing to IBM’s “tabulation and punch cards” – that were based upon national census data gathering – as the way Hitler was able to identify the Jews he wanted to destroy in Europe during World War II.

Without IBM’s help, states Black, the Nazi “Holocaust” would not have been as efficient as it was in killing about six million Jewish people during World War II.

Oregon is a friend of IBM thanks to providing jobs

When IBM hired an additional 600 new employees last year for its Beaverton, Oregon, campus – at the IBM Linux Technology Center – the locals were overjoyed because this community outside the capital of Salem has been hit hard by the recession.

According to IBM, the company has had a presence in Oregon that dates back to the early 1990s. IBM’s Beaverton campus is currently home to about 650 employees while its Wilshire operation has about 710 employees, stated IBM officials in a local TV news report.

Beaverton locals Paul and wife Cindy said they’re pleased that “IBM is still going strong after 100 years.” As for the Nazi controversy, the couple said “if that’s the case, it’s in the past and now forgotten.”

At the same time, IBM’s web site offered the following tribute to its founder: “In ten years, from 1914 to 1924, Thomas Watson Sr. grew the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R) from a $4 million dysfunctional conglomerate into a $11 million company with an operating statement showing occasional flights of double-digit returns. Watson, sitting in his president’s office on Broad Street in Lower Manhattan, started casting about for a new name. He wanted an enduring brand that would clearly signal the company’s ambitions and optimism.”

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it granted 219,614 patents in 2010, with IBM topping the list with 5,896 patents, a 20 percent increase over 2009. Among those, Big Blue pointed to patents for monitoring and reporting earthquakes based on data from computer hard-drive accelerometers, for using short-range wireless communication among vehicles to provide traffic information, and for optoelectronic devices with light detectors for silicon photonics chips that communicate using light rather than electrical signals.

IMAGE-- source of “IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation” book cover



Hungary: Neo-Nazi leader gets suspended sentence for assaulting police

Gyöngyös, Hungary, 16.6.2011 16:04, (ROMEA)
Slovak news server SME reports that yesterday in the eastern Hungarian town of Gyöngyös, the leader of the right-wing extremist group Véderő, Tamás Eszes, received a suspended sentence of 1.5 years for assaulting police officers. The Véderő movement is an infamous Hungarian organization that reveres the Nazi legacy.

Véderő received global attention in April for attacks committed by its adherents against the residents of the Romani community of Gyöngyöspata in the north of the country. The movement established a training camp not far from the Romani village.

Those attending the camp repeatedly attacked the nearby Romani residents. On Friday 22 April, local Romani people evacuated as many as 300 children and women with the assistance of the Red Cross. Three people were hospitalized as a result of attacks committed by Véderő members. At the time Hungarian State Police classified the actions of the three neo-Nazi brawlers responsible as "causing a public disturbance".

Tamás Eszes will be on probation for four years. News server SME reports that this "leader of the nation", as his megalomaniac promoters call him, was detained for causing a public disturbance in an intoxicated state.

ROMEA,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Slovakia: Assailant gets suspended sentence for violent racist attack on Romani boy

Košice, 16.6.2011 15:39, (ROMEA)
Both the court and the state prosecutor in Košice believe a suspended sentence is sufficient for a racially motivated attack on a child that included the adult assailant giving the Nazi salute. An agreement on the sentencing has been reached between the state authorities and the perpetrator, Pavel H. (31) of Košice, who can be satisfied with the outcome. News server Korzá reports that the criminal prosecution for the attack five years ago on a 14-year-old Romani boy in Ždiarská street has basically ended in the perpetrator's favor.

"He grabbed the minor, threw him to the ground, punched him in the face and head, kicked him in the head, and swore at him," the police charges read. After confessing to his crime, Pavel H. agreed on the sentencing with the district prosecutor, a half-year prison sentence suspended for one year. The sentence has been approved by the Košice II District Court.

The native of Košiče received this sentence even though he gave the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Hitler" several times after attacking the boy. When the victim's mother tried to help him, Pavel H. threw a trash can at her. The state prosecutor has not said why specifically she agreed to a suspended sentence.

"Given the perpetrator's character, particularly taking his life to date into consideration and the environment in which he lives and works, and given the circumstances of the case, we believe it is not essential that the perpetrator do prison time in order to ensure the protection of society and his own rehabilitation," said Milan Filičko, spokesperson for the Košice Regional State Prosecutor's office. Without giving further details he confirmed that Pavel H. has previously been prosecuted for other crimes.

The defendant convinced the judge that the entire incident was a youthful deviation which he regrets. "I was hanging out with people who had extremist tendencies, but that ended long ago," he claimed.

Pavel H. evidently belonged to the radical wing of the 1. FC Košice football fan club. In 2000 he was in a group of fans who were subjected to harsh police intervention prior to a match in Prešov. He was the only person to be hospitalized with a concussion. Police intervened after the fans demolished a bar and gave the Nazi salute.

Punishments should be stricter

Last year a total of 114 extremist and racially motivated crimes were officially registered in Slovakia. Of those, 81 were solved. In 2009 there were 96 such cases and in 2008 there were as many as 213. Right-wing extremism based on racism dominates in Slovakia. The Concept for the Fight against Extremism for 2011-2014, adopted by the Slovak government, includes football hooligan activities in its purview (unlike the Czech Interior Ministry). The hooligan clubs include Ultras Košice, which has concluded an alliance with the football rowdies of Sparta Praha.

The Slovak government is planning to adopt several measures against racial crime. The Justice Ministry is preparing an amendment to the Penal Code "focusing on stricter recourse against perpetrators". A section of court experts specializing in extremist crime will also be established. Another tool will be educating judges, members of the security forces and prosecutors about current trends in extremism, it external manifestations and transformations, the characteristics of perpetrators, etc.

The full original article (in Slovak) can be read at

Korzá, translated by Gwendolyn Albert