The Crime of Being Roma

Only six decades ago hate mongers and political leaders sent more than half a million Roma to their deaths for the ‘collective crime’ of simply being Roma. It seems today Europeans have not yet learned these lessons.

Collective guilt, vigilante justice, and the scapegoating of entire ethnic groups have no place in an open society.

These points are painfully obvious. But they are worth recalling now, as hate speech, violence and scapegoating of Europe’s most repressed people, its 12 million Roma, gain popular currency again. As someone who is proud to be of Romani decent and has worked for social justice for 15 years, I fear that reactions to the news from Greece of an alleged child abduction by a Roma couple could, when inflamed by irresponsible politicians and media, easily provoke widespread violence in the days ahead. Innocent people will pay the price for this careless spreading of myths and prejudice.

Some of the visible and reported consequences have already emerged. Prompted by events in Greece, the police in Ireland this week seized a young Roma girl from her family because she had blue eyes and blonde hair; a two-year old Roma boy was also seized from his parents in another part of Ireland. Both have been handed back to the Roma parents after DNA tests proved they were in fact their children as the parents had claimed. This unfair targeting of us Roma—something hard to imagine happening to another ethnic minority in Europe—though shocking for being carried out by officials of the Irish state, is only one example of a growing tide of anti-Roma sentiment.

The Roma have been and are still being scapegoated in countries all across Europe, including Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Perhaps the worst of all is Hungary, where attacks on Roma villages, firebombings of Roma houses, and serial killings of Roma picked at random by right-wing extremists have occurred. Roma living for decades in neat houses in quiet neighborhoods have awakened in the morning to find leaflets in their mailboxes warning them that they will be burned out and sent to gas chambers. In Bulgaria, a fatal traffic accident was enough to produce nights of street disturbances by young Bulgarians venting their rage against “criminal gypsies.” In the summer of 2012, an off-duty police officer in Slovakia killed three people from a Roma community. Partisan media outlets continue to whip up hatred. Some elected officials and government employees have compared Roma with “animals.” Others have declared that Roma are incapable of coexisting with other Europeans. One of them was France’s minister of interior, a Socialist. This is not to be tolerated or allowed to pass without comment. Where appropriate, prosecution for violations of laws against hate speech should be undertaken.

It is a foregone conclusion that hatemongers and political leaders determined on scoring cheap points are going to seize upon incidents like those in Greece to continue to campaign against the Roma. With elections happening across Europe over the coming months and the European Parliamentary elections due to take place in May 2014, the political stakes are high. From France to Hungary, anti Roma rhetoric is already reaping political rewards for some parties. Inevitably, with the blessing of political legitimacy, anti Roma violence follows.

Only six decades ago hate mongers and political leaders sent more than half a million Roma to their deaths for the ‘collective crime’ of simply being Roma. It seems today Europeans have not yet learned these lessons.

Today in Europe, millions of Roma must navigate their way through life suffering illiteracy, unemployment, segregation in education, forced evictions and on average ten years lower life expectancy than the mainstream population due to hunger and malnutrition, squalid housing, and substandard medical health care. This is not the life of their choice. This is the life they are kept in.

For us Roma this case and others like it represent lessons, confirmations and reminders that we face fundamentally the same problems across Europe and that we must act together to demand justice, dignity, respect and fairness for every person. European elections are an opportunity to demonstrate that.

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The story about Roma in Hungary is a horrible and this situation with this girl from Greece . Here in Serbia we have everyday on front page news about that . I think that is too much because this kind of information can cause so much damage for Roma people here .The rasisam against Roma in Serbia is also in increase maybe not so much like in the rest of Europe but it goes in that way.I am very sad because off that and i don,t see our people here that they fight for rights yes we have many NGO Roma organization but they don,t do enough.I hope one day that we will have someone who is strong and educated to unite the Roma here and awake them too fight for their rights.
Regards from Belgrade

Many thanks for your informative commentaries regarding the Roma people.

Here in Canada, where many Roma live & work. A place where I thought many of these myths were distilled long ago. I was both shocked & appalled by the racist comments & stereotyping stemming fr media posts. Equally troubling was the media spin which helped to perpetuate those stereotypes & incite hate speech. The CBC news feed on facebook was the one I focused primarily on, although I viewed others as well. I used to regard the CBC as a trusted, non partisan news group. That is no longer the case & they did absolutely nothing to regulate or cull the hate speech being spewed in their feeds. What was more surprising was the amount of hate that exists toward the Roma people here in Canada. On the flip side, I was far from alone in trying to battle those haters. This gave some comfort, although still severely outnumbered by the haters. I've observed it even worse for the aboriginal people of Canada. There should be a regulation on these news feeds regarding hate speech, but that will never occur as long as the media itself is perpetuating this activity. Fact is, Roma children & even adults, are being abducted regularly & nobody cares. One accusation of a Roma family abducting a white, blinde hair, blue eyed child, & all gypsies are labeled child abductors & human traffickers. Even when proven innocent, the fact that Roma children & adults are the one's being abducted & trafficked, particularly in Spain & Italy, is still going without care or notice. I suspect that only a fraction of the actual abductions are even being reported in the first place, due to extremely poor relations between Roma & authorities. The act appears to be fully condoned as long as it's the Roma being victimized. I am 1rst generation Canadian Roma & becoming an advocate for the cause of dispelling the myths & hatred toward our people & the aboriginal people of North America. We aren't that different at all.

Great things start from the truth
The tragedy of the Roma in Serbia is known worldwide. Roma live in Serbia bednije of the poorest nations on Earth , they are known as the last slaves in Europe. They tell us that we are equal and we're not , we can get an education , but we can not find a job , you are free as long as someone out there thinks it should be free . We believed fifty years of brotherhood and unity , and nothing ! Twenty years ago we believe in democracy, and again nothing ! Freedom and democracy without the joy of life. Politicians without integrity and political parties without any accountability and vision. Roma in Serbia have never been able to decide their fate , yet they did another and always at the expense of Roma.
A lot of us are lying. Time is of the truth. All great things start from the truth. Who and why we burnt and destroyed houses , who we dissociate wire. who's intended to dump on them live , who is hiding from the Roma to only one experiencing the sixtieth year of his life . Who is hiding from you that Roma only two are employed by concealing that we are more hungry than full, why our children are dying four times more than the other . The fundamental right of every people to know the truth about their reality. We need to think about the future , one plan , the second grade , and third live in it . His children do not have much to leave . None of us rich , but we can leave our children a better and safer future. Future worthy of man , that we took the other , because we know what sort of country we live.

            HOPING THAT DID YOU UNDERSTAND CORRECTLY
                 WE like to heartily thank .

bogoljub Djordjevic
Kosovska street no. 3/30
34000 Kragujevac
phone . 381 34,381,242
President of the Association of the Roma
Association of Roma solidarity
Kragujevac

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