Friday, November 30, 2012



Remembering the great James Baldwin (1924–1987), who died 25 years ago today.

“Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death--ought to decide, indeed, to earn one's death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.”

― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time



Thursday, November 29, 2012


Despite promises from Hollande, France is failing Roma people



French authorities must immediately stop all evictions until all the international human rights safeguards can be guaranteed to inhabitants of informal settlements – says Amnesty International

Swept in on a wave of optimism, François Hollande offered France a new vision for the future when he was elected as the nation's new president back in May. For Amnesty International, it also offered hope to a much ignored and persecuted European minority – the Roma people. In France, settlements of migrant Roma workers have repeatedly fallen victim to illegal forced evictions. Families have been moved on with little care or concern for their safety and where they would go.

In the election campaign, Hollande had pledged to address the issue. He said that his wish was "that when an unsanitary camp is dismantled and alternative solutions are proposed". He added: "We cannot continue to accept that families are chased from a place without a solution." But six months on, our report published today reveals how hollow those promises were. The 63-page document
Chased away: forced evictions of Roma in the Ile-de-France highlights the failure of the new government to incorporate international human rights standards on evictions into domestic law.

As a consequence, forced evictions continue to take place without prior, consultation or notice to residents. Most of the estimated 15,000 migrant Roma living in France come from Romania and some from Bulgaria. Almost all are fleeing chronic poverty and discrimination in their countries of origin. There is a chronic shortage of adequate housing and emergency shelter for all who need it in France but Roma – the victims of prejudice and discrimination in France as much as elsewhere in Europe – are particularly vulnerable to violations of their internationally guaranteed right to adequate housing.

One case concerns 27-year-old mother of two Carmen. She lived in a makeshift cabin in Villeneuve-le-Roi until she was forcibly evicted on September 11, 2012. She was offered two nights of emergency accommodation in a hotel. The police did not let her collect her belongings during the eviction and she had to walk for hours with her children, aged eight and four, and luggage to reach the hotel. When our researchers met her on September 22, she was living in a two-person tent with her husband and two children - in an informal settlement in Champs-sur-Marne. There was no access to water or toilets on the camp and none of the children were registered in school.

The camps and squats visited varied in size and in services provided. However, at all the inhabitants' health was at serious risk due to the absence of, or inadequate access to, running water, toilets and refuse collection. They were also often infested by rats. Under international law, France is obliged to guarantee the right to adequate housing without discrimination and to prevent forced evictions. This means that the French authorities must immediately stop all evictions until all the international human rights safeguards can be guaranteed to inhabitants of informal settlements. We urge Hollande to act now. Failure to do so will see tragic cases such as Carmen and her family being repeated time and time again.

Kate Allen is United Kingdom director at the campaign group Amnesty International

Read more:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


FROM Anne Rambergs blogg


går delades Stockholm Human Rights Award 2012 ut vid en ceremony i Bervaldhallen. Pristagare var Thomas Hammarberg och European Roma Rights Centre. Nedan fäljer mitt inledningsanförande.

It is a great joy and privilege to welcoming you all here to the Stockholm Human Rights Award Ceremony 2012. The Award was established in 2009 by an initiative of the International Bar Association (IBA), the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) and the Swedish Bar Association.

The initiative lies in line with one of the principal goals for the three organisations namely to support the rule of law and the advancement of human rights. The prize is bestowed upon an individual or an institution for outstanding contributions to the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Award has previously been given to Justice Richard Goldstone, to the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pillay and last year to Aryeh Neier and George Soros of the Open Society

They have all carried out unique and altruistic work advancing democratic values, the rule of law and human rights.

I am very proud and extremely honoured to having the privilege of presenting the Stockholm Human Rights Award 2012 to two very worthy recipients. They are Thomas Hammarberg and The European Roma Rights Centre. They are given the Award for their long lasting, hard and diligent work in promoting the situation for the Roma population in Europe.

This year the Award is given in the honour of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat born 100 years ago. As all of you know, Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of Jews in the second half of 1944. He prevented them from being sent to the Nazi concentration camps by issuing Swedish passports permitting them to leave Hungary. Raoul Wallenberg´s brave achievements are the proof that “One man can make a difference”. He showed us the importance of brave and decisive action when universal human rights are at risk.

As is well known, in spite of Raoul Wallenberg´s efforts more than six million Jews and some 500 000 Roma were exterminated. Whilst it is always difficult to make meaningful comparison of suffering; it is a sad fact that the post war attention to the fate of the Roma victims has not been as focused and wide spread it should have been. And not only have the Roma victims been shrouded by oblivion. In addition their sufferings and persecution has been permitted to continue to this very day. The Roma population in large measure remains the outcast of Europe.

The current situation in Europe characterized by widespread Xenophobia and “anti-Gypsyism”, is deplorably similar to the situation at the time before the Second World War. As was the case in the 1930ies, we are today facing a very strained economy, followed by cold anti-democratic winds. Anti democratic and Xenophobic politicians gain popular support in many countries as they so often do in times of economic distress and and large scale unemployment. Dark political forces thrive on this. In our country several common thugs and political oddballs have gained seats in political decision making bodies both at national and local level. These forces as lay judges may even be found in the Swedish courts. And the same trend applies to several European countries.

The development just described is very alarming indeed. It is deeply concerning to note the inflammatory and openly discriminatory rhetoric advocating discrimination of foreigners that has characterized the European political discourse lately. The recent demands from certain European countries, including Sweden, to reintroduce visa requirements within the EU in an obvious attempt to curtail the freedom of movement of certain groups of people is deeply worrying. In 1926 a legislation was introduced in Germany to discriminate against “gypsies, travellers and people considered shy of work”. An element of these laws was the restrictions on the right of free movement of groups of people considered to be undesirable. If they did not have any work they were sent to so called House of corrections, tukthus in Swedish. In real terms they were sent to prison.

Against this sordid background it is all too obvious that politicians and legislators carry a huge responsibility to protect and defend those universal human rights that are embodied in the constitutions of most democratic countries. This struggle must be vigorously pursued at all times. The ugly faces of racism and general xenophobia must be fought against wherever they show up. In these times decent politicians of all democratic political convictions have a tall order in uniting against the dark forces in various shades of brown.

The European Roma population is the most exposed and discriminated ethnic minority in Europe of today. They are estimated to be some 10 – 12 million people. In some member states they make up some 10 per cent of the total population. They constitute the largest minority in Europe and reside in virtually all Council of Europe member states. Around 70 per cent of the European Roma population lives in Central and Eastern Europe; in Romania, Bulgaria, Spain and Hungary where the Roma population forms the largest ethnic minority, with between 400 000 and 600 000 people.

It is significant that the Roma population is the largest minority without a compact territory and unlike other national minorities, they do not receive any support from a kin-state. In some countries they are not even recognized as minority, in spite of the fact that they have lived there for several centuries.

As is well known the Roma minority has been suffering profound discrimination for centuries and, even today, is still frequently rejected by the rest of the population in countries where they live. Roma people are often attacked almost everywhere where they live, even in countries that like to call themselves ”champions of democracy” with high profile rule of law agendas. As a result, the Roma people are segregated, discriminated against, uneducated, often living on the margins of society. The efforts undertaken to improve their situation have so far produced very meager results. The situation faced by Roma in terms of access to education, employment, health services and housing or in terms of social integration is still very often deplorable, not to say disgraceful. In large measure they continue to live in social misery. This is a vicious circle that has to be broken. In doing so we need brave people with integrity. In that context I would like to quote the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan who, in referring to Raoul Wallenberg said this;

“His intervention gave hope to victims, encouraged them to fight and resist, to hang on and bear witness. It aroused our collective consciousness. Remembering his life should be an inspiration to others to act; for our future generations to act; for all of us to act”.

Against this background, this year’s laureates, Mr. Thomas Hammarberg and European Roma Rights Centre, are particularly deserving. Let me briefly introduce them.

Thomas Hammarberg

Thomas Hammarberg has devoted almost his whole professional life to the promotion of human rights in Europe and in the world at large. From 2006 to 2012, he was the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights tirelessly promoting awareness of, and respect for, human rights in the 47 member States.

Before that he held other very prominent positions. He was Secretary General of the Olof Palme International Center, Swedish ambassador for human rights, Secretary General of the Swedish NGO Save the Children and Secretary General of Amnesty International He received on behalf of Amnesty International the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977.

His work in the area of Human Rights has included several important tasks. Thomas Hammarberg has acted as Regional Adviser for Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. For several years, he was also the Swedish Prime Minister’s Personal Representative in the UN Special Session on Children, as well as the Convener of the Aspen Institute Roundtables on ”Human Rights in Peace Missions”. Between 1996 and 2000, he was appointed special representative of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for human rights in Cambodia. He also participated in the work of the Refugee Working Group of the multilateral Middle East Peace Process. For the moment he is counselor to the UN on various issues.

Thomas Hammarberg has during his time as the Council of Europe’s Commissioner of Human Rights worked very diligently to improve the situation of the Roma population which he believes is “shamefully flawed”. In a number of speeches and statements, Hammarberg actively seeks to improve living conditions for the largest minority in Europe and criticizes the alarming levels of racism directed at these people. In his latest report on Italy Thomas Hammarberg heavily criticizes the Italian authorities for their treatment of Sinti and Roma people. He also strongly criticized France’s mass deportation of Roma in 2010. In a published letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel dating back to 2009, Hammarberg calls for a halt on deportations to Kosovo in particular.
He has warned that “today’s rhetoric against the Roma is alarmingly similar to that used by the Nazis before the mass killings started”.

For his resilience and passion in support of Roma Rights Thomas Hammarberg has received several distinctions.

Can I please ask Thomas Hammarberg to come and receive the award.

The European Roma Rights Centre

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is based in Budapest. It is an international public interest law organization working to combat anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma by means of strategic litigation, research and policy development, advocacy and human rights education.

The organization has been given consultative status at the Council of Europe, as well as with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

Since its establishment in 1996, the ERRC has endeavored to provide Roma with the tools necessary to combat discrimination and achieve equal access to justice, education, housing, health care and public services.

The ERRC runs an extensive research programme providing reliable data about the human rights situation of Roma. It has successfully focused public attention and political priorities on the human rights situation of Roma in Europe.

It has contributed to the development of public interest law in the region, through litigation and legal training in the field of Roma rights. It has secured access to justice and redress for human rights violations for Roma across Europe.

The ERRC has also developed significant jurisprudence on discrimination in access to education and the state response to racially – motivated violence through a series of landmark cases. It has set in motion more than 500 court cases in 15 countries to bring to justice, state and non-state actors, who have discriminated against Roma individuals or have committed violence against them. The organization has successfully promoted the cause of the Roma in several prominent cases in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

It has secured over 2 million EUR in compensation for Roma individuals for the abuse they have suffered and the subsequent failure of their respective governments to ensure justice.It has influenced the human rights aspects of EU enlargement, through monitoring of compliance with the “Copenhagen criteria” by EU candidate countries and ensuring that both EU Member States and candidate countries address the situation of Roma as a priority issue.

The ERRC has produced several significant policy documents on behalf of the European Commission and the Fundamental Rights Agency and last but not least it has become one of the leading advocates in implementing anti-discrimination and human rights law in Europe. The organization has been the recipient of numerous awards for its efforts and achievements to advance human rights respect of Roma.

May I ask the executive director of the European Roma Rights Center, Mr Dezideriu Gergely to come forward and receive the Stockholm Human Rights Award on behalf of the EERC.




PHOTO  Jaromíra Dvořák (far right), Mayor of Nový Bor, at a meeting with young Romani people in 2011. Crime prevention assistant Štefan Gorol (center) was speaking. (Source:

The town hall in Nový Bor has rejected a group of Romani residents who have offered to clean up a local cemetery before winter. The mayor is afraid they would take they would steal something.

"Given the fact that the trial of the assailants in the so-called machete attack is happening right now in Liberec, we wanted to show that Romani people don't just commit crimes, but that we know how to help out our town. We made an offer to the town leadership that we would organize a volunteer work team to clean up the cemetery," Pavel Danys, secretary of the Czech-Romani Civic Association (Česko-romské občanské sdružení) in Nový Bor, told news server

"After a preliminary discussion with Vice-Mayor Stanislava Silná, who was visited by a member of our committee, Dušan Gorol, our proposal was accepted. Then Mayor Dvořák got involved and told Mr Gorol he did not want our assistance," said Danys.

Vice-Mayor Silná says she did meet in person with anyone Romani because she has been on vacation in Belgium. She did speak with someone by telephone. "I liked their initiative, but I didn't promise them anything. I said they would have to contact the mayor," she said.

The mayor has rejected the offer. "We are grateful for all aid, but in the case of the Forest Cemetery, there are two reasons to say no. The cemetery is unique in the entire country because there are rhododendrons growing there and they need expert, specialist care. The second reason is that if 20 - 50 Romani people suddenly turned up at the cemetery and even one copper plate went missing from a gravestone, people would stone me to death for letting them in there," Mayor Dvořák told
The mayor even went so far as to tell the Romani volunteers they should first clean up in front of their own homes. He also suggested other parts of town they could clean up, such as Havlíčkova street, Podskalska street, or the children's playground in Arnultovice street.

The Romani residents do not understand the mayor's posturing. "We wanted to make a good will gesture. We wanted to meet up on the town square on Saturday, bring brooms, rakes and shovels, and march up to the Forest Cemetery. We wanted to show that there are just bad people and good people, that it doesn't depend on whether people are Romani or white," said Štefan Gorol, another member of the Czech-Romani Civic Association. "I guess Mr Mayor doesn't want to see the difference. Just like [Czech Senator] Mr Čunek when he was talking about people taking up pitchforks against us. We are really afraid something will happen here like what happened before the war in Germany - instead of the Night of the Long Knives it will be the Night of the Long Pitchforks."

When asked whether it wasn't a pity to refuse the Romani volunteers' offer of aid, Mayor Dvořák said: "What would help the town most of all would be if Romani people behaved decently and obeyed the law."

"Romani residents offered to help the town so they could show that it's not good to tar everyone with the same brush. The mayor has rejected their assistance and done exactly that. These kinds of generalizations are typical of the racist way of thinking. It's unbelievable that a public official can say something like this out loud and no one responds to it. A great deal of this is explained by the fact that Dvořák is in the TOP 09 - SLK party. That party, like the others now in government, is evidently completely indifferent to the fate of Romani people and the fate of poor people in general," František Kostlán, a board member of the Czech Helsinki Committee and a member of the ROMEA association, told news server
brf,, translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Sunday, November 25, 2012



This is a good  video.

The comments are interesting,  but sad and predictable .

Ian Hancock is on it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012





Romani student had to leave Czech schools for success News server has published the following interview with Magdaléna Karvayová, a Romani woman who has made it to higher education despite enduring discrimination because of her skin color in the Czech Republic.

From an early age she faced hatred, never had many friends at school, and was slighted by her teachers even though her grades showed she was a gifted pupil. She enrolled in an international academic high school in order to escape that unpleasant environment and enjoyed success there.

For a long time no one believed she could do it, but in the end she has blazed a viable trail for her younger brothers to follow. News server publishes the interview in translation below (the original, in Czech only, is available at

Q: What did your father do for a living?

A: My father made his living through fortune-telling. He had a college degree, but after the revolution they wouldn't recognize it. My mother is a cleaner.

Q: Did you grow up in a large Romani community?

A: There were only about three Romani families in Jince u Příbrami back then, but our relatives were constantly visiting us, so I was in a Romani community from time to time.

Q: Did you all encounter intolerance and prejudice?

A: In the beginning, yes. I had conflicts with children who were a few years older than me, and not just in school. For example, once when I went to the store a guy was lying in wait and grabbed me around the throat. It's relaxed there now, though, everyone knows us.

Q: How much did your parents motivate you to study?

A: My parents supported me, but the motivation mainly came from me. I had two younger siblings I had to take care of and I got away from them by saying I had to study.

Q: What was it like in school?

A: It was a catastrophe. There were only two of us Romani girls in the entire school. I had no friends there, maybe one girl, and my schoolmates bullied me. All I had to do was walk down the hallway and some guy would push me and say "Get out of here you fat gypsy girl". They would shove my head in the toilet bowl. When I complained to my home room teacher, she patted my face and said "You're just making things up again". So my father had to come to school every day to complain, but the director would just nod and the next day would be the same.

Q: What kind of grades did you get?

A: I never got anything less than top marks. I did my best to fight, to show them - I can study even better than you, so why are you treating me like this? Then it escalated to the point where I started to become an aggressive person myself, which neither I nor my family liked. We decided I would study at the International High School (Mezinárodní gymnázium) in Hluboká, where only foreigners study. The multicultural environment attracted me. I went there at the age of 12 for academic high school.

Q: How did everyone around you respond when you were accepted there?

A: My primary school teachers had told me I shouldn't even try, so none of them wanted to believe it when I got in. When I got an award there for being the best student of the month, my father took it back to my primary school to show them. My siblings went to that same primary school later. They encountered problems there, but not as many problems as me.

Q: What was it like at the high school?

A: It was the other extreme. The staff gave me hugs and kisses the whole six years I went to school there. My English wasn't anywhere near as good as I needed to study there, but the teachers helped me. I integrated into the school in just a few months. There was no reason for any of the foreigners to discriminate against me, on the contrary, I was something special for them. They had foreigners from all over there, but I was the first Romani girl.

Q: Why did you decide to study at the Anglo-American College?

A: When I applied to Charles University, the first question I heard when I handed them my id card was: "You're not a Czech, right?" That approach turned me off, I was afraid I would encounter that stuff all over again. Since individualized instruction also works better for me, I decided to attend Anglo-American.

Q: How are you affording the rather high tuition?

A: There is a scholarship for Romani students there - if you maintain a certain grade average, they cover your tuition 100 %. I've not had to pay tuition so far.

Q: Why are you studying comparative law?

A: Because of my own past experiences, I have decided to help others, because I certainly am not the only one who has faced this. I was choosing between law and psychology, and law seemed more effective to me in the end. I want to dedicate myself to education, human rights, and mainly to the Romani minority
., translated by Gwendolyn Albert

Friday, November 23, 2012


I ask those who read this post to please light a candle for all the innocents who have died recently, and their grieving loved ones. 

Our young ones are so very vulnerable.  Some die by accident, some by war; others by disease, abuse, starvation.... Each untimely death diminishes us as a people.

Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


November 20, 2012

The following speech was given at the Thanksgiving Day celebration in honor of Native Americans held on November 24, 2010 at New Freeway Hall in Seattle, WA. The speech was given by Guerry Hoddersen, International Secretary for the Freedom Socialist Party.

In celebration of a Native American Thanksgiving Feast

By Guerry Hoddersen

Welcome to New Freeway Hall’s 2010 Thanksgiving celebration!

For many years the Seattle branch of the Freedom Socialist Party has held a Tribute to Native Americans on this day and someone has been asked to say a few words before we eat. Listening to me for a few minutes is the price you pay for all this wonderful food, prepared by the grassroots chefs sittings in this room.

I’ll be brief, but count yourselves lucky that you are sitting down. I once represented Radical Women at an International Indian Treat Council meeting on the Columbia River. At the closing dinner, we all stood—about 80 of us—until every dish had been served to every plate by the cooks. Believe me, waiting like that increases your appetite and your anticipation, and gives you time to think about the meaning of what is being set before you.

We all know that Columbus and the Pilgrims got everything wrong when they landed on these shores and that quite a bit of racist propaganda surrounds Thanksgiving. Columbus didn’t land in India and the people of this hemisphere were not godless folk in need of the “blessings” of conquest: Catholicism, slavery, the Inquisition, witch-burnings, genocide, rape, etc. to be set straight.

In fact, the indigenous people of this hemisphere were 30 million strong and born of a race of brilliant scientists and astronomers, architects and builders. They were orators, poets, farmers, fishers, weavers, jewelry-makers, creators of political institutions and social orders that lasted hundreds or thousands of years. They created the League of the Iroquois which Ben Franklin and others at the constitutional convention looked to as a model of democracy that could bring together the colonies into a federated whole. They invented countless herbal medicines, domesticated animals and cultivated thousands of varieties of plants.

At the time of the conquest, the indigenous people cultivated over 300 food crops which today are the basis of 3/5ths of what is eaten on our planet.

This is a most relevant fact to remember at Thanksgiving. When Columbus erroneously arrived here, the rest of the world was plagued by regular famines because the crops they depended on—grains in Europe, rice in Asia, and sorghum and millet in Africa—were vulnerable to bad weather, birds, and insects.

Lucky for the poor, underfed peasants of the rest of the world, the Incas had developed 3,000 varieties of potatoes over 4,000 years. They had a variety for every growing condition in Europe, Africa and Asia.

If you think about it, this is a very personal piece of information, since most of us are probably descended from peasants and wouldn’t be sitting here without the Incas humble, homely potato which brought an end to famines caused by crop failures. For instance, the French, who had suffered through 111 famines over four hundred years before the conquest, incorporated the potato into their diet and famine became a rare event.

Potatoes, corn and beans were miracle crops. They could be grown in any soil, required no milling, and on a regular basis provided more food, more nutrition and with less labor than any grain.

In short, Native Americans revolutionized the world. Crops and spices grown in our hemisphere were spread around the globe. Slave traders brought back foods and spices from our hemisphere to Africa. Spanish ships sailing from Acapulco to Manila, a Spanish colony, spread them to Asia. The Portuguese brought them from Brazil to their colonies in Africa, India and Southern China. Lucky for the Chinese, the humble sweet potato yields 3-4 times more food on the same amount of land as rice—and so famines were reduced.

I could go on and on until the food is cold and you are starving like the Pilgrims, but I better not.

I do have few more things to say.

Native Americans didn’t just create new varieties of food, they developed the technology for processing plants and animals by drying, grinding, adding lime or ashes, using acid to soften and preserve meat, tapping maple trees for syrup. Plains tribes even figured out how to extract oil from sunflower seeds. Mayans learned to produce chocolate from the cacao bean and Aztecs discovered vanilla in an orchid fruit that required months of heat and humidity to produce a wonderful aroma.

Imagine our world without all these wonderful discoveries and many more!

What would the Italians be without tomatoes and zucchini? The Thai, the Chinese and East Indians without hot peppers? The Hungarians and Czechs without paprika? Southern cooking without hominy and grits? Boston without baked beans? New England without the clam bake? Germans without chocolate cake? West Africans without peanuts? The Irish without potatoes? Seattle without smoked salmon? Or turkey without cranberries? And the national debt without zeros (a Mayan invention!).

We can thank the Native Americans for all this and much more! But words, once a year are not enough.

Today multinational corporations are searching the globe for new plants whose genes can be patented and sold and for natural resources to be exploited. In the process they are destroying the biological diversity upon which we all depend. Indigenous people are on the front lines of this war against the new conquistadors of free trade and we must be there with them.

While pushing indigenous farmers in Mexico off their land and onto the road in search of work in the U.S. as undocumented workers, these corporate conquistadors have the nerve to try and privatize the botanical legacy of indigenous people and criminalize them for not having documents. It is an outrage. We must always remember we are the recipients of so much from Native Americans—a land; the means to survive; proof that human society can exist on a cooperative basis—not on exploitation and profit; that society can be built around respect for women, children and elders; that it is possible to live sharing plenty instead of hoarding it, of giving instead of selling.

I read somewhere that the Quechua people of Bolivia do not have an equivalent of the English phrase “thank you” since their culture teaches that sharing is a requirement of life and that gratitude can only be shown in deeds not in words.

So while we share this wonderful food today let’s remember our duty to show our gratitude in deeds of solidarity, kindness, respect and giving to our working class sisters and brothers of all colors, but especially to the people on whose land we are standing.

To subscribe to the Freedom Socialist by postal mail, email, or audio CD, visit
here or send $10 for one year or $17 for two to Freedom Socialist, 5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118.

(Students $8 for one year, strikers and unemployed $5, overseas airmail $18.)
Thank you Guerry and Freedom Socialist Party




Spanish gypsies watch as their homes of 50 years are demolished

Reuters -- Fifty-four families have been living in the Spanish gypsy settlement of Puerta de Hierro, on the outskirts of Madrid, for over 50 years. Since the summer of 2010, the community on the banks of the Manzanares River has been subject to evictions on the grounds that the dwellings are illegal. Families, whose homes have been demolished, move in with relatives whose houses still remain while the debris keeps piling up around them as more demolitions take place.

Reuters' photographer Susana Vera has been documenting the demolition of homes in Puerta de Hierro. View before and after photos of the homes and read more about the people who live in the settlement.

I urge you to visit the website.  The photographs are amazing and horrible.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012




By Muhamet Brajshori for Southeast European Times in Pristina

PHOTO Many repatriated Roma children in Kosovo were born abroad, do not know Albanian or Serbian and do not know Kosovo as their homeland. [AFP]

Nearly 3,000 Roma have been repatriated from Western European countries and deported to Kosovo this year, but the children are particularly affected and are in need of immediate attention, according to experts.

"The ongoing readmission of children to Kosovo has caused particular concern regarding their best interests in the repatriation process," Beate Dastel, head of monitoring and evaluation at the UNICEF Kosovo Office, told SETimes.

Dastel said that many of the repatriated Roma, but also Ashkali and Egyptian children -- known as the RAE community -- have been born abroad and do not speak Albanian or Serbian, or know Kosovo as their homeland.

These minority communities in Kosovo, which are estimated to number around 30,000 to 40,000, are considered one of the country's most vulnerable groups; 60 percent live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent in extreme poverty.

Dastel pointed out that poverty aside, inadequate access to health care and a high school drop-out rate are key concerns.

"Many of the children are repatriated without proper school documentation.. This puts a real challenge on the local school authorities in the process of assessing the children's educational status and leads to the children's limited education progress and high drop-out rate," Dastel said.

About a quarter of the children from the three vulnerable communities do not attend primary school, and secondary school attendance is lower.

The recently established Ministry of Internal Affairs Reintegration Office has been working on training local authorities to address the needs of children.

"Citizens at the Social Care Centre in Pristina require social assistance and other services," Sevdije Ibrahimi, head of social services at the centre, told SETimes. "The children are faced with numerous difficulties, starting with the most elementary things for life."

"For minority children, the language challenge is often the biggest," Dastel said.

UNICEF has joined with Kosovo's reintegration ministry in a year-long co-operation project.

The project helps RAE children reintegrate in Kosovo by helping them find housing, obtain education and get social assistance and personal documents. Each municipality in Kosovo has a branch office to offer services.

"The key UNICEF recommendation regarding a sustainable support of repatriated families and their children in Kosovo is to include reintegration supporting mechanisms in the existing social welfare schemes and to consider the challenges of returnees in the long term," Dastel said.

Kosovo's education ministry officials said they have taken steps to raise awareness, help provide school items and organise courses for better school integration. But they acknowledge the problems are amplified given that Kosovo is experiencing high-levels of poverty, poor economic prospects and EU-integration shortcomings.

"Our office engages children to identify initial concerns they may have concerning language or, if they are adults, professional training," Lulzim Vrapca, co-ordinator at the Municipal Office of Communities, Returns and Integration in Pristina.

"However, from the field experience it is evident ... the problem concerns awareness raising for education of the Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities," Vrapca said.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Roma people in Europe in the 21st century: violence, exclusion, insecurity

Summary of the full report

European Association for the Defense of Human Rights

PHOTO www.

The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AEDH) wants to firmly condemn the violence suffered by Roma in Europe.

The Roma form the biggest transnational European minority, representing 10 to 12 million people. According to the European Commission, "the Roma living in Europe are confronted to biases, intolerance, discriminations and social exclusion in their daily lives. They are marginalised and live in extremely poor socioeconomic conditions.
The term « Roma » is used here, as well as in other documents of the European Institutions as a generic term covering various populations which present more or less the same characteristics, like the Sintis (Gypsies), Travellers, Kales, and so on, would they be sedentary or not. According to the estimations, about 80% of the Roma are sedentary.
In its will to resolve this situation, the European Commission launched the European Union framework project for national Roma integration strategies. The goal of this strategy is to define national plans concerning Roma, in order to improve their access to education, housing, health services and employment.

Although this initiative can be welcomed, these national plans are not obligatory in their implementation and no sanction is envisaged if the objectives are blatantly violated. What is moreover very unfortunate is that this initiative only tackles the question of economic and social rights of these populations without taking account of their Human Rights, even though they are referred to in the preamble of the document. This incoherence was denounced by the European Roma Policy Coalition (ERPC) in July 2011 and by Thomas Hammarberg3 when he was the European Commissioner for Human Rights.

The AEDH report is eloquent. The situation of Roma people is dramatic, violent, multifaceted and permanent. It exist in all European countries, no state can say it treat and protect this population better than another. The way in which Europe and its Member States treat their greatest transnational minority is scandalous. The means put in place to fight these injustices are weak and clearly insufficient, when the situation is so urgent that it should trigger reactions similar to the ones that occur when facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

The facts included in this report are mere examples, and this report is not to be considered as an exhaustive compendium on the matter. It aims to give an overview of the seriousness of the situation. It is divided into three chapters: the first one describes the crimes committed by states themselves, authorities or political organisations; the second chapter tackles the crimes committed by individuals or groups of individuals, and the last chapter deals with violence suffered in the economic and social fields.

State violence includes the actions of political authorities against Roma people. Everywhere in Europe, Roma are facing governments or state bodies of which the speeches, the acts, the policies, can be qualified as state violence towards Roma. By originating this violence, or by tolerating it when it comes from public, national or local institutions, or from far-right parties, those States violate their own laws as well as Community law. Violent expulsions, destruction of goods, deprivation of liberty, and incitation to racism, forced sterilisation and segregation in public spaces are actions and policies which clearly breach the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Treaty on the European Union (particularly articles 1 and 24). Tolerating these acts is inadmissible, and creates a climate of impunity and racism contributing to the trivialisation of this racial violence and opens the door to more physical violence against Roma by non-Roma people. 

Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union: "The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail."

The physical violence against Roma from their fellow citizens are motivated by racism and the rise of anti-gypsyism noticed everywhere in Europe, and are also exacerbated by the rise of populist extremisms in Europe. The exacerbation of racism by political parties and the media leads to great tensions between Roma and non-Roma throughout the European Union, and increases anti-gypsyism and day-to-day racism. In the worst cases, these tensions take the form of anti-Roma demonstrations, of racist attacks against Roma, and of murders. Roma, like many marginalised populations, are easy victims of traffic, particularly human trafficking. This "day-to-day" racism is an obstacle to the acknowledgement of the situation and to the creation of an efficient protection.

Perpetrators of this violence are usually not pursued, and when they are, the racial motive is not seen as an aggravating circumstance. Often, Roma people are afraid of reprisals from those guilty of violence or from the police, and therefore do not denounce these violence. We can safely assume that violence against Roms from their fellow citizens is under-estimated. That is why important measures must be taken at all levels in the states and throughout Europe in order to end this violence, by condemning it and fighting anti-gypsyism. Fighting this violence and this racism is even more important knowing that they are often the origin of the discrimination suffered by Roma.

States' lax positions must be pointed out, when they are not voluntary, just like the so-called powerlessness of the European Commission when it comes to enforcing European treaties. Defending Roma rights is defending the rights of all European citizens. The violation of Roma fundamental rights throughout Europe shows the fragility of our democracies and the weakness of political leaders at local, national and European levels.

Reaction is important, as the impending economic crisis will exacerbate populist rhetoric and awaken nationalism, with the risk of even more serious racist violence. European history shows that this scenario is possible. By defending Roma rights, we strengthen the fundamental rights of all European citizens.

The European Association for the Defence of Human Rights
(Association Européenne pour la défense des Droits de l’Homme - AEDH) consists of associations and leagues defending human rights in the countries of the European Union. AEDH is an associate member of the International Federation of Human Rights (Fédération internationale pour la défense des droits de l’Homme - FIDH).

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Balkan Roma Dream of Life in Germany
Since the European Union began allowing visa-free travel for Serbs and Macedonians, there has been a sharp increase in Roma from the Balkans applying for asylum. Despite the difficulties, Germany remains the promised land for those in the slums of Skopje and Belgrade.


For Orhan, the road to Germany begins in an Internet café on a side street in Shutka, the Roma neighborhood in the northern part of the Macedonian capital, Skopje. Electric cables hang from the ceiling, a white fluorescent tube illuminates dusty computer screens and a plastic tarp serves as a divider. Orhan, 27, is standing nervously behind the tarp as he lights a cigarette. His sister Fatima is sitting in front of one of the monitors, about to have her first date with Germany.
While Fatima waits on a wooden chair in Shutka, her future husband is sitting on a leather couch in Düsseldorf, looking at his webcam. They are seeing each other for the first time today. Fatima's ticket to Germany is 19, he's wearing a hoodie and he's rather fat. Fatima's mother and some women from the neighborhood are chaperoning the meeting. They all want to know whether Fatima will like the young man from Germany. They hope that if she does, her family could get out of Shutka, the unofficial capital of the Roma community in Europe.

When you walk through the streets of Shutka, you hear people cursing, saying things like "Shitty Shutka," "everyone makes fun of us here" and "we don't have any money." They say these things in German.

Some of Shutka's Roma worked as day laborers in German cities in the 1990s. Many were war refugees who had sought asylum in Germany during the war in Yugoslavia, only to be deported after the conflict ended. They still have friends and relatives in Germany, and the country is always on their minds, as a promise of prosperity and a better life.

Orhan says that if the arranged marriage goes well, the stranger will come to Shutka and take Fatima with him to Düsseldorf. The new son-in-law, he explains, will then pay for bus tickets for the rest of the family. And once all seven family members are in Germany, he will file the asylum applications for them. Orhan says that one always needs a helper, someone who is familiar with German law, an asylum guide, so to speak, so that everything works out well for a new beginning in Germany. People who try to do it on their own, he adds, make too many mistakes.

Serbia Closer, and Farther Away

The Roma neighborhoods of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, are 450 kilometers (280 miles) closer to Germany, but for the people there, Germany seems much farther away. In Antena, an illegal settlement at the end of the No. 75 bus line, there is no Internet and no Skype, and none of the residents have relatives in Germany. For that reason, there is no one to show people the best way to get there. There are only people like Asim, 25, who is standing behind a burning pile of garbage, warming his hands. He has no identification documents and no birth certificate, which means no work, no welfare and no child benefits. Car tires support the cardboard roof of his corrugated metal hut. Inside, Asim's wife is nursing their six-month-old daughter, who is wearing diapers made of napkins Asim has collected from the garbage of Belgrade residents. The adults use holes in the ground as their toilets. The air is filled with the smell of moldy food and the acrid stench of burning plastic.

Asim says it's a good day in Antena when the gravediggers at the adjacent cemetery don't turn off the water, so that residents of the shantytown can fill up their plastic bottles. They count themselves lucky when the power is on in the nearby residential neighborhood so they can illegally siphon off electricity. They're happy when they manage to protect their daughter's face from rat bites at night. Asim asks: "When, if not now, should I get out of this miserable place?"

Since the end of 2009, citizens of Macedonia and Serbia no longer need visas to enter Germany. The European Union wants to show its goodwill to the two countries, which are candidates for accession to the bloc. But for the poorest of the poor in Macedonia and Serbia, visa-free travel represents the freedom to get away.

Less than 1 percent of asylum applications from Serbia and Macedonia are accepted. People suspect that they too will be unsuccessful, but they don't understand why. They still go to Germany, and they want to stay. Everyone has their own approach to obtaining the better life he or she expects to find in Germany. Orhan from Macedonia wants to send his sister in advance. Asim from Serbia simply plans to set out into the unknown. Some are poor and without prospects, and they go to Germany because they know what a rich country it is. Others go there because they can no longer stand their current lives.

By October of this year, about 4,000 people from Macedonia had filed an application for asylum in Germany -- about five times as many as last year. Only Serbia has produced more asylum applicants since this summer, a total of about 7,000. Most are Roma.

Dreams of Welfare

The current offers are displayed in the window of a travel agency on the market square in Shutka. A bus ticket from Macedonia to France costs €27 ($34), while the trip to Düsseldorf goes for €120, even though it's a shorter distance. Orhan explains that demand determines the prices here, and that Germany happens to have the better reputation among the 40,000 people in Shutka.

Their mayor is the only mayor in Macedonia who is also Roma. Nevertheless, Shutka doesn't feel like home to many of its residents. The people on the market square dream of a life in Western Europe, with most hoping to go to Germany. Unlike residents of the Belgrade neighborhood, the people in Shutka are well informed about Germany's social welfare system. They talk about "job centers," and some even use German slang terms. They know how generous the child benefits are, and they have heard about the hospitals and schools. They also know that asylum applicants have been receiving more money since August.
Young men like Orhan are mainly responsible for Germany's good reputation in Shutka. They tell nostalgic stories of the paradise between Fürth in Bavaria and Osnabrück in the north, of the country they remember from their childhood. Orhan's parents fled from Albania to Paderborn in northwestern Germany in 1986. The Roma family applied for asylum there, Orhan went to elementary school and learned the language. The family's German dream lasted six years.

It ended in the early 1990s, when the government in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia decided it wanted to get rid of the Roma. But instead of simply deporting them, the Social Democrats came up with a so-called reintegration program. The idea was to help the deportees once they had returned to their native countries. Orhan's father accepted the Germans' repatriation offer, for which he received 300 deutschmarks for travel expenses, as well as 400 deutschmarks a month for six months to help him settle in Shutka.

The family lived in a 60-square-meter (645-square-foot) house in Shutka, paid for by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, in a place with no sewer system, running water or garbage collection. No one there had a real chance at finding work. Most of those who were reintegrated had never been to Shutka before. The aid workers stayed for a few years, and then left. Orhan points to the now-abandoned Red Cross building and to the pile of rubble where the Caritas relief agency had its offices.

For Orhan, Shutka is Europe's biggest ghetto, a place where people live outside, steal and take drugs. A place where the water for an entire block comes from a single green hose. Where a man gets hit by a car and sits in front of his house, his leg shaking, waiting in vain for an ambulance. The district has no hospital or fire department of its own, and the police rarely make an appearance. Shutka owes its survival to the Western Union office on the market square, where residents go to pick up the money their relatives wire them from Germany, or sometimes from Italy or Switzerland.

Orhan also receives money from relatives once in a while, sometimes €50 and sometimes €70. Like most of his friends, Orhan is unemployed. "I work privately," he says, which is his way of describing the ordeal of polishing cars for 12 hours a day at a car wash to make €5, or collecting 300 plastic bottles to get €4 back in deposits.

Orhan has two children. He buys individual Pampers for his youngest child because he usually can't afford an entire package. The power has been shut off for years because Orhan didn't pay his bill.
His best friend Dino was also reintegrated from Germany. The two men get together in the evening at a café on the market square, a meeting place for unemployed young men, and speak German with each other. Germany donated the buses that are driving by outside, and there are still signs on the doors that read (in German): "Please show your ticket." The promised land is omnipresent in Shutka.

When Orhan visited Paderborn a few months ago, he polished cars for €50 per day, in cash. Dino went to Cologne, and since then he has been fantasizing about new clothes from H&M and Zara, and a kindergarten for his three daughters. He doesn't want to sleep with his wife on his grandfather's couch anymore. "Germany helps everyone -- Africans, Arabs -- why not us?"

When Orhan and Dino, the local Germany experts, talk about the country they used to call home, everyone who has never been there listens raptly. Dino has the gift of gab, which he even uses to make a little money. When a woman suffers from depression, he drives out evil spirits. When a child fidgets too much, it's the fault of the neighbors' envy, which Dino then chases away.

"Better Illegal in Germany than Invisible in Serbia"

Orhan and Dino rarely leave Shutka. They say that those who come from Shutka can't find work in downtown Skopje. But things are also getting worse in Shutka, where a third of the vendors at the large bazaar have closed their stands and moved to the West. A few weeks ago, a German friend of Dino's wrote to him on Facebook: "Brother, all your people are here. Why don't you come?"

More than anything else, it is the stories about Germany told by the returnees that convince others to try their own luck. Asim, in the Serbian shantytown, was also encouraged by one of these stories. A few weeks ago, he met someone for the first time who raved about Germany. They sat next to the burning pile of plastic as the man told his stories. He talked about the health insurance card that entitled you to medical treatment, the clean streets in Bonn and his favorite football club, Bayern Munich. The stories gave him hope, says Asim.

A few days ago, he was given the business card of a Serbian member of the Roma community who smuggles people across the border, even those without papers, in a minivan. The trip to Germany would cost Asim €680: €200 for him and his wife, €80 for their six-month-old daughter and €400 to bribe the guards at the Serbian border. Anything is better than crawling around in everyone else's filth here, says Asim. "It's better to be illegal in Germany than invisible in Serbia."

Since 2009, Belgrade has removed seven of more than 100 illegal Roma settlements like Antena from the city center.

Controls have been tightened at Serbia's borders in recent weeks, now that governments in the Balkan countries are worried they could lose their visa exemptions again. The move to eliminate the exemptions is being spearheaded by six EU interior ministers who have complained about the rise in asylum applications from Macedonian and Serbian nationals. One of them is German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), who said last month: "The massive influx of Serbian and Macedonian citizens must be stopped immediately."

Dreams of Deutschland Not Dashed

Friedrich's fears have had no effect in Antena, where the smugglers are still taking orders. Asim wants to leave in December. He says he will be able to pay the smugglers in installments once he has arrived in Germany and starts receiving money from the government.

Although people in Shutka are very familiar with the political debate, it hasn't prompted them to change their travel plans.

Orhan also has reason to believe that he could be leaving soon. The foreigner from Düsseldorf has sent a message saying that he liked Fatima, and that he will come to Macedonia in the next 14 days to propose to her. Fatima is sitting in one of the back rooms. She had deliberately left her hair unkempt and didn't paint her chewed fingernails. "He's so fat," she says over and over again.

But even Fatima says that perhaps it's the best thing for her and her family. Orhan says that they'll charge a €5,000 dowry for Fatima, because she is, after all, still a virgin. And if the new son-in-law decides not to help the family enter Germany, they'll handle everything on their own. Orhan says that it's time to get out of Shutka, the ghetto, and return to their old home.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
While i appreciate all the work Germany has done, I still think it speaks volumes about the situation in Eastern Europe when Romani see Germany as the 'promised land'.


Ofcom to investigate potential racial stereotyping in Big Fat Gypsy Weddings

Watchdog to assess whether Channel 4 programme unfairly racially stereotyped UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities


Gypsy Weddings unfairly racially stereotyped the UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities.

Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether Channel 4's Big Fat Gypsy Weddings unfairly racially stereotyped the UK's Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The media regulator has decided to investigate a complaint lodged by lawyers representing the Irish Traveller Movement of Britain and a number of individuals that the communities were "unjustly and unfairly" portrayed and treated by Channel 4.

Ofcom has launched the investigation into the second series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and spinoff show Thelma's Gypsy Girls.

The regulator will formally investigate the complaint lodged by ITMB's law firm, Howe & Co, which said that people from the Traveller and Gypsy communities were "unfairly portrayed in an untrue and damaging racially stereotypical manner".

Howe & Co cited examples of "unfair negative images" include showing the sexual assault of females as a cultural norm in these communities, depicting highly sexualised behaviour, and showing children as ""wildly behaved, uncontrollable, foul-mouthed, illiterate, uneducated, violent and dangerous".

Boys and men were "almost exclusively shown as being feckless, violent, and/or criminal," according to the complaint.

Ofcom has also decided that the complaint warrants a separate investigation into harm and offence, which is being handled by the media regulator's standards team.

Last month the Channel 4 chief executive, David Abraham, was forced to offer a public apology for its "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" ad campaign for the second series of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, after it was condemned as offensive and irresponsible by MPs on the Commons culture, media and sport select committee.

The Advertising Standards Authority also recently criticised the ad campaign, ruling that it depicted a child in a sexualised way and reinforced negative stereotypes.

The ASA ruled that the campaign was irresponsible, offensive and reaffirmed negative stereotypes and prejudice against the Traveller and Gypsy communities.

"The matters that Ofcom are investigating are of the most serious nature," said David Enright, a partner at Howe & Co. "If Ofcom concurs with its fellow regulator, the ASA ... the consequences could not be more serious."

In March Ofcom dismissed complaints that Channel 4's "Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier" TV ad campaign breached any aspects of the broadcasting code.

A Channel 4 spokesperson said: "We will be robustly defending this complaint."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


There is a revolution, and a young brilliant leader emerges in the struggle. She writes a book that makes a compelling, ardent, and persuasive case for the revolution. As a result, tens of thousands of women rise up, our lives changed forever.

Something happens to the leader. She is attacked, she is maligned. She shows some signs of fatigue, some signs of weakness. She falls into enemy hands, but they are careful not to make a martyr of her.

Revolutionary Leader as incendiary author
What do they do? They administer massive amounts of heavily addictive, psychotropic drugs. The side of effects of these drugs enable multiple diagnoses that justify a perpetuation and proliferation of the drugging. The prisoner becomes numb, docile, apathetic, amnesiac… distanced from her former identity and alienated from her former causes. She identifies herself as a patient. The enemy’s mission has been accomplished… almost.

Underneath the prisoner’s drug-benumbed, listlessly synapsing brain, the spirit of the rebel lives on. There is something she needs to tell someone, but what is it? And to whom should she tell it? She can’t… quite… make the connections. It has something to do with what she is living, what she is experiencing. Must… make… observations… Must… tell... someone…

Slowly, across a period of years, the prisoner begins, agonizingly, to write brief one- or two-page essays documenting her observations of her life and the lives of her fellow inmate/prisoners. Some of them are no more than a paragraph. There is no political analysis. There is no context, no induction, no conclusion. Tiny bursts of lucid observation, like matches struck in the dark. There is no candle to light. There is no fuse to ignite. Just these pinpoints of momentary illumination. Someone else will have to piece it together. Someone else will have to map out the cartography of the dungeon from these distress flares.

Two things stand out in the prisoner’s missives: the agents and the subsequent affect. Ativan, Haldol, Valium, Tegritol, Depacote, Trilifon, electro-convulsive shock… And then she describes the damage:

“… due to the medication, her biggest trouble was she couldn’t care about anything, and love was forgotten. That left getting through the blank days as comfortably as possible, trying not to sink under the boredom and total loss of hope. She was lucid, yes, at what price. She sometimes recognized on the faces of others joy and ambition and other emotions she could recall having had once, long ago. But her life was ruined, and she had no salvage plan.”

“Every time she went in [to the mental hospital]… she felt submerged, as if someone was holding her under water for months. When she came out she was... helpless, unable to make the smallest decision, speechless, and thoroughly programmed by a rigid hospital routine, so that even her stomach grumbled on time… “

“Her indecision was awful, for no sooner did an impulse arise to do something, than it would be crossed by a contrary impulse; she was conflicted. (She watched herself undergo this in slow motion as it were, but was powerless to avoid it.) Or she was confronted by so many choices of things to do, that must be done, that she could choose none of them.”

“She could not read. She could not write… the words bounced off her forehead like it was steel; she simply could not care about the content of any written material, be it heavy or lightweight. Why? Why read it? Why absorb?”

“Once in a while she prodded herself to write, but the old excitement of creation did not return, or if it did, it fizzled by morning after her nightly medication.”

Her former revolutionary comrades are confused. What has happened to their leader? Why is there no naming of an enemy anymore? What happened to the call to arms? Did she desert the cause? HAS SHE LOST HER MIND…?

Can’t they see that this little book is in code, that it has been smuggled out from behind enemy lines at great risk? Can’t they see that she is writing about the fact she can’t write? Can’t they see that she is naming the inability to name? Can’t they see that this is the most dangerous and difficult revolutionary tract she ever wrote? Don’t they understand that she is no longer pointing out the horror, the endgame that awaits us in patriarchy, but that she has become the living manifestation of it?

The book is titled Airless Spaces. It was published, after many rejections, by Semiotext(e) in 1998. The author is Shulamith Firestone, who, at the age of twenty-five, wrote The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for a Feminist Revolution, the book that changed my life forever.

In Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, he depicts the endpoint of breaking the spirit to be the moment when the hero is threatened with rats eating off his face and he shouts out, “Do it to Julia!”—signaling his betrayal of his beloved, as well as his loss of humanity. But this is not the endpoint. Orwell’s anti-hero still loves his own life. The true endpoint is described by Firestone: “... hearing of a death, she often wished she could trade places with that person.”

The author of this fierce, unbearable book died on August 28, 2012. Her body was not discovered until almost a week later. According to the media, Shulamith Firestone died of natural causes.

Frontispiece of Airless Spaces:

"I dreamed I was on a sinking ship. It was a luxury liner like the Titanic. The water was slowly seeping up from below, and the people aboard the ship knew that they were doomed. On the two top decks it was gaiety and mirth, with people dressed to the nines, eat drink and be merry for soon we shall all die. But a note of hysteria hovered in the merrymaking and here and there I saw strange goings on, like in a Grosz cartoon.

I fled down some metal stairs to where people were starting to get their pantslegs wet. Wasn't I looking in the wrong direction? But I desperately searched the equipment in the basement for something that would supply an air pocket, and I succeeded in finding a refrigerator into which I stowed myself, hoping to live on even after the boat was fully submerged until it should be found.

I woke from this dream in a panic that the disaster was real, and that I was picking all this up by e.s.p. I even called UPI to ask if there was any recent news of a sinking liner, and they said yes, but it was in the Bermuda Triangle, so no attempt would be made to find the ship."