BY FRANTISEK KOSTLAN
PHOTO: ROMANI ACTIVIST DAVID TISER
FROM ROMEA ARCHIVE.
A group of Romani intellectuals and students have established a Crisis Committee to improve society's view of Romani people and approach toward them. The group will engage in cooperation with state institutions and town halls. David Tišer, a member of the group, has provided the Czech Press Agency with the group's declaration. Tišer says the association is comprised of 160 Romani college students and intellectuals so far.
Tišer said the young Roma were spurred to action by a recent case in Slovakia in which an off-duty patrol officer shot dead three and wounded two members of a Romani family in Hurbanovo. Police do not yet know what caused the incident and have not confirmed that it was racially motivated.
Tišer also mentioned violent crimes against Romani people in the Czech Republic and pointed out the number of fabricated cases falsely accusing Romani people of having committed various crimes. A 15-year-old boy in Břeclav recently claimed to have been assaulted by Romani people; he lost a kidney as a result of the injuries sustained. However, it was later revealed that he had injured himself in a fall and invented the story of the assault to cover up the truth. Before police solved the case, tensions in Břeclav increased between Czechs and Romani people. Tišer said the Břeclav scandal had "done significant damage to the many years of work by everyone striving for Romani inclusion" within a matter of days".
Around 250 000 Romani people are estimated to live in the Czech Republic. Roughly one-third of them live in so-called ghettos, which the committee says are becoming targets for hatred.
The committee describes "pressure by right-wing extremists and 'adaptable' citizens". They also criticize the approach taken by the media. "Until now we have passively borne everything going on around us, both Romani people living in the ghettos and the rest of us - let's call them the 'invisible' Romani people," the committee's declaration reads. They also believe Czech politicians are keeping quiet about racially motivated crimes and are not condemning racist behavior.
The declaration says the committee wants to contribute toward addressing the "disturbing situation" in the Czech Republic and to partner with town halls and other institutions. "We want to actively contribute to change in society and we are willing to devote our free time to helping prevent an escalation of the situation," the declaration reads.
The Crisis Committee of Romani intellectuals and students is yet another group prompted to action by recent events that says it wants to contribute toward improving the lives of Romani people and the perception of them. Ten days ago the Czech Prime Minister received the leadership of the Statewide Association of Romani People in the Czech Republic (Celostátní asociace Romů ČR) and negotiated possible measures with them.
Declaration of the Crisis Committee in full translation:
On 19 June 2012, a "Crisis Committee" was initiated by young Romani people. The group is comprised of intellectuals and students who want to contribute toward positive society-wide change and to transform perceptions of the Romani minority in the Czech Republic.
We are disturbed by the civic and political situation in the Czech Republic as it relates to the Romani national minority. The current economic crisis is being reflected in a societal crisis. According to qualified estimates there are a total of around 200 000 Romani people living in the Czech Republic, of whom 80 000 live in excluded localities. These localities are becoming targets for hatred.
Until now we have passively borne everything going on around us, both Romani people living in the ghettos and the rest of us - let's call them the 'invisible' Romani people. The constant pressure from right-wing extremists and "adaptable" citizens, the behavior of the media, and the positions expressed by the public have drained the Romani people's reserves of patience.
We intend to present ourselves as an association offering partnership for dialogue during our common efforts to address this disturbing situation. We offer our capacity and we are willing to transmit our life and work experience. We want to actively contribute to change in society and we are willing to devote our free time to helping prevent an escalation of the situation.
We will also monitor the work of the media and express our view of the way in which news related to the Romani national minority is reported. We disagree with the way in which media outlets currently behave in this respect.
The Crisis Committee also agrees that there is a lack of any kind of statements by Czech politicians regarding these racially motivated crimes, as well as lack of condemnation of racist behavior. As the saying goes, "Silence is consent." We hope this saying cannot be accurately applied to rank-and-file politicians. There is a need, now more than ever before, for politicians to speak out about these scandals and publicly condemn them. Expressions of racism are not normal and in countries with developed political cultures such expressions are harshly punished.
The Crisis Committee has agreed on its basic rules of operation and plans for the future. The membership base will continue to expand, as will the possible topics on which we will be able to offer expertise to state institutions, municipalities, and others interested. We call on all people who are not indifferent to this situation and want to offer their capabilities to collaborate with us.