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The players and managers will then visit the “nomad” families to take them a message of solidarity.
On Sunday December 28th, 2008 an unforgettable basketball game will take place.
The U.S. Victoria Libertas team, which is known throughout the world as the Scavolini Pesaro team, after taking its name from the long-time sponsor and president Valter Scavolini, will play Gmac Fortitudo Bologna at the Adriatic Arena. It is an important championship game for the Peasaro team, but Scavolini has already achieved its greatest triumph thanks to a courageous decision made by both the club and the players who have decided to promote an anti-racist message which our country and the European Union are in serious need of. Scavolini, in line with the project against racial discrimination it is promoting, and in support of the campaign for the rights of the Roma people promoted by EveryOne Group, has officially invited the Roma community of Pesaro (offering free tickets) to watch the game at the Adriatic Arena. The Roma living in Pesaro will cheer on the Scavolini champions and admire the skills of Curry, Hycks, Hurd, Myers Stanic and Zukauskas while displaying banners with the slogan “The Pesaro Roma support Scavolini against racism”.
Before the New Year, the Scavolini champions and some members of the board of directors will visit the abandoned factory in Pesaro where the Roma live, in a gesture of solidarity and fraternity. “The initiative taken by the Scavolini team is a fine example for Italy and the rest of Europe”, say Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro and Dario Picciau, leaders of EveryOne, “because it emphasises one of the most current and tragic aspects of racism in the present day (both in Pesaro and in other Italian cities) and that is the intolerance shown towards people of the Roma ethnic group, the most vulnerable minority exposed to racist propaganda. It is easy to commemorate the persecution and genocides of other historical periods or other countries, but it takes courage to protest against the racial hatred that is poisoning the society and age we live in.” EveryOne Group has informed the European Commission of Scavolini’s initiative, asking for its example to be presented to the Member States as an educational project against racism, in line with the new Europe which places human rights among its priorities.
A short film will be made and photographs taken during the game and the players’ visit to the Roma camp. This dossier will then be presented to the institutions of the European Union early in 2009. “From the president to the man in charge of contacts with the schools, Rodolfo Filippini; from the champions to the younger players, Scavolini is marking out a new path,” continue the activists, “ a path of solidarity and respect for minorities which makes sport a life model for human society itself. “When we met the Scavolini board, we noticed how genuine their desire was to contribute to the elimination of racial hatred, which is one of the most horrendous crimes of human society.
“During the ‘game against racism’ and the meeting between the men from the Scavolini team and the Roma families,” say Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau, “the younger players and students will have the opportunity to understand the value of solidarity as they shake the hands of people (even youngsters their own age) who live surrounded by racial hatred; people who fight every day the “game of survival” - where what matters is keeping families united and teaching the youngest generations to preserve the gift of hope, even in extreme hardship, exclusion and persecution”.
Source: Gruppo EveryOne www.everyonegroup.com
Now we have the truth in a letter to the Pope – the name has been changed
by Michael Smith
Since the IRU, founded as the International Romani Union, resultant from the International Gypsy Congress in London in the early 1970s, has now chosen to term itself the “International Roma Union” it can, in my opinion, no longer be seen as representing the Sinti groups, which includes the Romanichals, the Cale of Spain, and other such like and it may be the time that those groups did something about this.
It was becoming obvious to me already for a while that apparent changes in name were afoot as regards the IRU with the General-Secretary, one Bajram Haliti stating, which I do not doubt, that he is the General-Secretary of the International Roma Union and not the International Romani Union, and I have made mention of that on occasions before.
Now, with a Christmas message sent from Stanislav Stachiro Stankiewitz to the Pope signing it International Roma Union, with the header now statting the very same, this has become more than obvious that this has become an official policy.
As a Sinto I am not a Roma and hence I cannot see this to be any organization that I could even ask to represent me and nor can anyone claiming to speak for the Sinti rightfully claim that we are part of them, for the Sinti are Sinti and the Romanichals, and some others, such as the Cale, are of the same groups, and we are NOT Roma and hence cannot be accommodated in a Roma organization. Period! Dosta!
Therefore, I believe, it has come the time that the Sinti – including its brother groups such as the Romanichals, etc – get their own representative body which may, or may not, work together with the Roma Union, but which is it own entity. I think that a Sinti Federation is called for and it needs to be done NOW.
I do know that this suggestion of mine will, more than likely, receive a lot of negative comments and publicity, I am sure that there are many Sinti and those from Sinti-related groups, such as the Romanichals, the latter who often also are much more happy to call themselves Gypsy rather than Roma – and Roma they are not anyway – may actually agree with this notion of a Sinti Federation. An organization that will then be able to meet the Roma Union on an equal level. The enemies of such a notion will claim that this is a divisive move and that it will play into the hands of the Gadje and their “divide and rule” tactic but it has nothing to do with that whatsoever. The truth is that the enemies of such a notion have a vested interest as regards to keeping the Roma Union issue and trying to claim that the Sinti are but a tribe, or even a sub-tribe, of the Roma, which is not the case. What part of the word “not” do those people not understand?
Presently, as all of us who are of the Sinti groups, are, mainly, referred to by the Roma as Gadje and even slow explanation still results in the comments from the Roma that we, those that are NOT of the Vlax Roma groups and related ones, are not Romani and hence not even proper Gypsy and hence the regard us and will call us Gadje.
I am as much a Romani as any Roma but I am not Roma. I am a Sinto. I am of the Sinti that refer to themselves often as Rom Polska (not Polska Roma, who are a different kettle of fish) and from another side of the Gitanos of Spain who also are part of the Sinti groups. The same is true for any Romanichal. He is she is also Romani, of a groups of the Sinti, whose probable original name as an entity was “Romane Chave”.
If the Roma have a problem with accepting us I want to ask the Sinti here why we should then b e prepared to be part of an organization that claims us to be a part of the Roma, which the Roma deny?
We can work with them, as, as far as I am concerned, they are fellow Romani, fellow Gypsy, but not by being forced to accept the status of a sub-tribe while the people, the Roma, deny that we are Romani and call us Gadje. Hence it is my firm belief and conviction that we must have something for the Sinti in order to be able to work with the others, even to the extent of being just a brother nation as the Austrians may be to the Germans.
The current situation, in my opinion, cannot be allowed to stand with the Sinti and others that, probably, form part of the original “Romane Chave”, including the Romanichals, being treated as second-class Gypsy, if not, as is more often than not the case, as Gadje, by the Roma in the international organizations. Therefore, the way I see it, the Sinti must do their own thing, apart from the Roma but together with them, as we are all, truly, the Romani People, while not all being the Roma.
The situation is, to a degree similar as to Romanichals in the UK and the Irish Travelers who are, again and again being referred to, the ITs that is, as Gypsies in the same breath as the Romanichals, though with Sinti groups and those of the Roma both, at least, are Romani.
There are significant cultural differences between the Sinti groups and the Roma, aside from the languages, and also significant differences in the DNA. This alone proves that we are NOT one homogeneous entity. But this is not so much the issue here as too the political things though it must be remembered.
The only way to do this in a proper way is for the Sinti groups to have their own confederation in which each group and even each clan and family down to the individual even would be represented. Such a confederation could that engage in dialog with the Roma organization(s), whether the IRU and/or others, to coordinate the work on behalf of all Romani People.
The work for the Sinti People, the Sinti Nation, however, should fall to such a Sinti Confederation.
What I am trying to present here is an idea and some food for thought to those of the Sinti especially that are disappointed and disillusioned by what has been done so far and by the fact that us Sinti are always referred to as Gadje by the Roma and that no amount of educating the Roma makes any difference in that field.
Let your voice be heard, finally, Sinteale and Romanichals, as Sinti and Romanichals, as what we are and not what some experts and those that promote the false agenda of all Romani being Roma claim that we are.
Dosta penauas! Now let's get down and do something proper.
© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008
by Michael Smith
BERLIN, Germany, December 2008 – Germany has finally begun the building a memorial to in honor of the approximately one to one-and-a-half million Gypsies persecuted by the Nazis.
Construction on the square well in Berlin's central Tiergarten Park follows 16 years of debate among leading groups representing Germany's Gypsies, or Sinti and Roma. It is due to be completed in 2009.
Romani Rose, leader of Germany's Central Council for Sinti and Roma, spoke at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony. Rose praised the government for "recognizing its historical responsibility for those Gypsies who were persecuted under the Nazis."
The German government, someone should tell Mr. Rose, had recognized the historical responsibility for those Gypsies who were persecuted under the Nazis already a number of years ago but it was Mr Rose's bickering as to the terms that caused the delay. While the majority of Romani in Germany had no qualms with the terminology of “als Zigeuner verfolgten” or the simple word “Zigeuner” (that is to say “Gypsy”) it was Rose and the Central Council for Sinti and Roma that fought tooth and nail against the term “Zigeuner”, insisting it had to be Sinti and Roma. In that same breath they also denied the fact that the Jenisch, another groups of Gypsies in Germany who may or may not be related to the Romani, the Sinti in this case, though at times are intermarried with the Sinti. Then again it is not surprising that the Central Council excluded the Sinti seeing that this very organization that is supposed to be representing the Gypsies of Germany is always trying to exclude the Jenisch from everything.
Depending on the estimates and calculations and the numbers game, and depending who one can and should believe, remembering the hidden agendas to diminish the suffering of the Gypsy People in the Holocaust, between 250,000 to 1.5 million – the high number comes from the Frankfurter Fachhochschule in Germany itself – Gypsies were killed during the Holocaust. Berlin already has memorials to Jews and gay victims killed by the Nazis, which shows, yet again, that Gypsies are only considered as “also ran” despite the very fact that it was Gypsies who were targeted for extermination well before Jews and others and that it was 250 Gypsy children on which Zyclon B gas was trialled.
© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008
by Michael Smith
Czech Republic: Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Džamila Stehlíková visited Litvínov, the north Bohemian town that recently witnessed two riots of right-wing radicals protesting against the local Romani community.
At the meeting with councilors and representatives of Janov inhabitants, Minister Stehlíková promised help in the near future. She said she would propose the cabinet to include Janov in the list of excluded localities that are entitled to get additional funding for crime prevention and social street workers.
"I apologized to the local people because two years ago I promised Janov would be the number one on the list of the excluded localities that are helped by the “Agency for social inclusion of Romany”. I see it has not happened and I admit it is a mistake," said Stehlíková to journalists. "I want to correct that," she added.
The atmosphere in Janov is currently extremely tense. The locals have been long complaining about the Roma community. Their voices of concern being unheard, they joined the ranks of the extremists on the ominous day of November 17.
But the Czechs in general all complain about the Romanies, whether recent arrivals or not. This has been borne out by studies where the majority of Czechs say that they would not want to have Gypsies as neighbors and that they'd rather have vermin (according to what has been said) than Roma living next to them and they would not want their children to go to the same school as Gypsy children.
The latter is not something that is only happening in the Czech Republic, obviously. It also is the same in Britain even where locals often have a problem, in their minds, with their children and children of the Romani community, being in the same school. Parents have known to have taken their children out of schools here when Gypsy children arrived in those schools.
The recent wave of Romany moving in Janov come allegedly from eastern Slovakia.
"The people that have come to Janov in the past few years are extremely socially deprived. They have entirely different values than the Romani that came to Janov four years ago," Miroslav Brož of the People in Need foundation said.
They are often in big debts, added Brož, they are unemployable owing to a low qualification, frustrated, deprived and aggressive.
So what went wrong? A few years ago, the Litvínov town hall sold flats to real estates that used them for moving in people from lucrative areas. These were mostly Romany who were often unemployed and incapable to pay rent.
"We used to live here quite peacefully with the first Roma people who came here a long time ago. But with the new ones, there are constantly some problems," says a former inhabitant of Janov.
Well, here we have it again. It is obviously the Gypsies that are at fault, as always. At least as far as the locals and the majority non-Gypsies, including the governments, are concerned.
Who, one can but wonder is going to get the funds the minister promised and what are those funds are going to be used for.
The way I perceive it is that the Czech Republic is doing its utmost to get the Romani to leave the country and many of those from Janov have already indicated that they may move to the West, to other EU countries.
Call me a cynic but I have a very strange feeling about all of this. Is this all a concerted effort to cause problems for the Rom community all over the EU in order for the authorities then to have a reason to act against the Rom in a manner similar to what has been done and proposed in Italy and elsewhere? One can but wonder, methinks.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
Travellers proved no match for a Bedford builder who forced them off his land by digging a moat around their camp.
Francis Shiner resorted to the measures when Travellers set up camp on the disused car park of a building site in Bedford and refused to leave.
The Travellers were asked to leave because they were hindering work on the site owned by SDC Construction, but they refused.
Workers, so it is said, then put 2.5m high metal fencing around the camp and left a 1.5m gap for the Gypsies to leave through.
When the Travellers still refused to leave, and actually hung their washing on the fence, Shiner sent in a digger to create a moat around the camp, telling them they could leave or be trapped.
They left that evening.
Shiner told the media: “We spoke to them and requested them to move on, but they said they could not do that.
“That is when we advised them that a digger would be around later in the day and if they were still there they would be trapped in – they could please themselves.”
A Bedfordshire police spokesman said if the Travellers had been trapped in the moat, the landowners would not have broken the law.
While one cannot and should not condone the actions of those Travellers the actions of the building company also was despicable. First of a 1.5m wide gap would not allow a trailer to get through, in my calculations, not even a standard car and in all honesty the company should have involved the law.
All things considered, and the police is at fault here, the builder Mr. Shiner has himself broken the law, of that I am sure. His actions would fall foul of a number of legislations and the police should really consider charging him with a number of felonies. In addition to this it was the builder more than the Travellers, in this instance that, according to common law, would have caused a “breach of the peace”.
But, no doubt, Mr Francis Shiner is seen as an upstanding member of the community unlike the dirty Gyppos that had the “audacity” to set up camp on that car park.
© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008
by Michael Smith
The Czech government has come under pressure to ban extremist groups after more than 500 supporters of the far-right Workers’ Party fought running battles with police who blocked their attempt to march through an area populated predominately by Romanies.
At least 14 people were injured and 15 arrested when police confronted about 700 marchers in the northern Czech town of Litvinov on Monday, a public holiday marking both the 1939 Nazi clampdown on Czechoslovak universities and the 1989 student protest that sparked the Velvet Revolution, which ended decades of communist rule in the central European country.
About 1,000 police using tear gas and water cannon, and supported by armoured vehicles and a helicopter, clashed with Workers’ Party supporters wielding bricks, sticks and petrol bombs when they tried to enter a large Gypsy neighbourhood.
“The police tried to get the demonstrators back to the planned march route but they started throwing flaming bottles,” said police spokeswoman Jarmila Hrubesova.
Fighting spread through the back streets of Litvinov as police pursued small groups of far-right marchers and prevented them coming into contact with about 300 Roma men who had gathered to defend their part of town.
“We discovered weapons – sticks, guns, pitchforks, machetes and other things – in the cars of extremists and also Roma people,” said police spokesman Vladimir Danyluk, after what was the second confrontation in a month between right-wing demonstrators and police in the town.
Obviously, they had to mention that they found also weapons with the Romanies; maybe they can now claim that it is really the Gypsies that are at fault here and not the Fascists. It certainly would not surprise me.
A number of leading Czech newspapers called for a crackdown on far-right groups, criticised local authorities for authorising such rallies, and urged police to stop supporters of the Workers’ Party gathering in large groups. Under pressure from human rights groups, interior minister Ivan Langer has discussed banning the party.
This idea has, in the meantime, been forgotten again, however, and the ministers have claimed that in the interest of freedom of speech and freedom of expression a ban would be counterproductive.
Roma communities are a common target for far-right groups across eastern Europe and the Balkans, where they endure very poor levels of employment, housing, education and healthcare and are widely seen as a major source of crime. In Hungary in early November 2008, two Gypsies were shot dead and their home burned down in a what can only be described as a racist murder.
Now, in the last days of November 2008, a Romani couple was murdered by a hand grenade having been thrown into their modest home while they were sitting watching TV. The children, who were already in bed were unhurt.
But when Gypsies then flee to other countries asking for political asylum they are claimed to be economic migrants and not real refugees.
In Hungary, as well as in the former Czechoslovakia and even in Italy, police have been known to stand idly by while extremists have attacked Gypsy men, women and children. So, what are the Romanies to do?
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
A message to the European institutions concerning the need to urgently modify the policies on the Roma ethnic group
The European Union has demonstrated over the last few years that it possesses neither the experience nor adequate means for facing the "racism emergency". The situation in Italy, where every EU directive (starting from the 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000) and every international charter for the rights of minorities have been systematically violated by the institutions in their policies involving the Roma and immigrants, is symbolic of how resolutions and warnings are not sufficient for obtaining results on a civil level.
The EU Parliament, Commission and Council of Europe have expressed themselves several times, through every political means; warning first the Prodi Government and then the Berlusconi Government to abandon the repressive actions and "de facto" expulsion of thousands of EU citizens belonging to the Roma ethnic group.
The camp clearances without the offer of alternative humanitarian solutions; the violence used, and threats from the institutions; the practise of taking children from families living in hardship and the denial of any socio-medical assistance for Roma citizens, has led to a mass exodus of Roma (particularly Romanian Roma) from Italy to Spain, France or back to Romania. Over the last few years, in spite of the Decade of Roma Inclusion (which began in 2005) and all the European directives and resolutions against racism and in favour of a policy for the Roma, the situation of the so-called "nomads" has gradually deteriorated and no projects for social integration, no local ordinances and no emergency laws have been initiated to protect this ethnic group. If in 2005 there were between 180 - 210,000 Roma in Italy, today there are – as confirmed by the census – only about 70,000 remaining, living in disastrous social and sanitary conditions. The exodus, the infant mortality, illnesses and acts of violence have drastically reduced the number of Roma in Italy and a new humanitarian tragedy is expected with the onset of the cold weather. We have already had the first victims, but unfortunately it is only the beginning of a terrible period for these troubled people, whose average life span has fallen to around 40, with an appalling infant mortality rate.
What could the European institutions have done to prevent and counteract this tragedy in an effective way? First of all, they could have listened to the witnesses and all those who possess great experience in the field, experts who are in contact with the reality of the Roma, and who are studying the spread of anti-Roma sentiments in Italy: Marcel Courthiade; Juan de Dios Ramírez Heredia and Union Romani; Saimir Mile and La Voix des Rroms; Roberto Malini and EveryOne Group; Nico Grancea and "The Red Wheel"; Santino Spinelli and the Coordinamento Nazionale Antirazzista (National Anti-Discrimination Coordination) "Sa Phrala"; the MEPs Viktoria Mohacsi and Els de Groen, to mention just a few.
It is also necessary to realise that it is impossible to solve such an important problem by simply setting aside funds and waiting for the Member States to dip into these resources. First of all, it is necessary to lay down solid foundations for integration, starting with the countries where the Roma population is the most numerous and where the problems to be solved are particularly complex: Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Slovakia, Macedonia, the Czech Republic etc. In Romania, for example, there are about two million Roma: a generation that is the child of endless persecution, six centuries of slavery, the Holocaust and deep-rooted discrimination.
Centuries of precarious living conditions and hardship have undermined the health of this ethnic group, which reveals a high percentage of serious congenital diseases and illnesses connected to poverty. We have to urgently set up a social assistance programme for these people, who make up at least 20% of the Roma population in Romania. We cannot speak (for human beings suffering from serious illnesses) of an integration based solely on integration into the workforce. We will be able to do that for the next generation if the tragedy of this precarious lifestyle is overcome by contemporary Europe. Another crucial point is the education of Roma children. It is not possible to think of integrating them into the school system if we don't first remove from society the racism that marginalizes them and puts them at a disadvantage before their peers. Schools should make a special effort to offer Roma children (especially those born into families living in extreme poverty) an "oasis" where they can find the tranquillity necessary for private study. Support groups, made up of teachers, but also parents, should be present to guarantee educational and psychological support.
For this part of the programme, we would ask you to read the Frame Statute for Romani People in the European Union, a document which is the result of many years of experience and knowledge, a document that should be studied in depth by the European institutions and maybe adopted in their policies for the Roma people. And then, jobs. Silvio Berlusconi, who does not know the reality of the Roma in depth and who is the promoter of repressive policies towards them, recently stated during talks with the Romanian Prime Minister Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, that "the Roma entering Italy from Romania have no professional skills and are therefore forced to resort to criminal activities". This is not true, because Italian companies, after years of propaganda from politicians and the press filled with racial hatred refuse to offer Roma citizens jobs, even when they possess all the requirements, as they forejudge them as being unreliable.
EveryOne Group has begun a programme of integration for Roma workers with Italian companies, but with poor results due to this widespread prejudice. It is true, however, that not even in Romania do Roma citizens have equal opportunities compared to other citizens, and if finding a steady job is difficult for everyone there, it is even more difficult for the Roma, who are subjected to discrimination and hostility. It is therefore necessary that the European Union becomes the promoter and sponsor of professional integration programmes reserved for Roma citizens living in Romania (and other countries with large numbers of Roma and where integration programmes are few and far between) both in the usual factory jobs, in commerce, agriculture and handicrafts; and in the traditional Roma activities: cattle-farming, biological agriculture, metalwork, and the recycling of materials etc. At the same time it will be necessary to encourage access to all forms of study for Roma students.
In short, seeing the failure of the majority of projects - which remain only on paper – created for the integration of Roma citizens within the Member States (badly organized by some states and not even attempted by others, Italy among them) it is probably time to "reset" the programme where the EU's policies for the Roma are concerned and concentrate on improving their conditions and their ability to grow socially in Europe by carrying out projects at the source - in the countries they have lived in for centuries. It will probably be much easier for the Member States of the EU to overcome their racist, xenophobic qualms when their borders are crossed by people from the Roma ethnic group who are in possession of significant qualifications and skills, instead of families coming from situations of great hardship and in precarious health. In order to tackle all the points in this letter with a full knowledge of the facts, we repeat the invitation to read the Frame Statute of the Roma People in the European Union very carefully as it contains answers to many of the questions that cause anguish, when it comes to the subject of the Roma people, in the countries of modern Europe.
Source: Gruppo EveryOne
The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) strongly condemns the recent violent attacks against Roma in the Czech Republic and Hungary and urges the Czech authorities to put an end to such attacks and take all the necessary measures to ensure the protection of their Roma community.
At a march organised in the town of Litvinov in the Czech Republic on 17 November, about 500 demonstrators linked to the far-right Czech Workers’ Party chanted anti-Roma slogans and threw stones, firecrackers and petrol bombs with the intention of attacking the Roma community. In a related development, two Roma were shot in Nagycsecs, Hungary a few weeks ago as they fled a house set ablaze in an arson attack.
These events are extremely worrying, especially as ENAR’s 2007 Shadow Report on racism in Europe reports an increase in extremism and racist violence in a number of Member States of the EU and the emergence of extremist, semi-military organisations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
These events are a reminder of the urgent need to formalise the adoption of and implement the Framework Decision on combating certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia. This Framework Decision is a crucial European instrument to fight racist crime and was agreed by all 27 Member States at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 20 April 2007. More than one year on, the adoption has still not been formalised.
ENAR President Mohammed Aziz said: “This is yet another sign of the worrying trend towards increasing racist violence and crime that can be noticed across the EU. The EU Member States must live up to their commitment on the Framework Decision on combating racism and xenophobia.”
ENAR Director Pascale Charhon said: “It is also urgent that all relevant EU institutions take action to curb anti-Gypsysm across Europe. The European Union must adopt a comprehensive and ambitious approach to the Roma that will secure real change in the lives of the ten million Roma in Europe.”
The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) is a network of European NGOs working to combat racism in all EU member states and represents more than 600 NGOs spread around the European Union. ENAR aims to fight racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, to promote equality of treatment between EU citizens and third country nationals, and to link local/regional/national initiatives with European initiatives.
by Michael Smith
The Council of Europe Secretary General said with regards to recent happenings: “70 years almost to the day after the Kristallnacht marked the beginning of the Holocaust, a stone throwing mob tried to attack a Roma suburb in the Czech city of Litvinov. The analogy only goes so far. In 1938 the attacks by the storm troopers were orchestrated by the Nazi regime, and it would be totally wrong to draw any parallels with the Czech Republic where the authorities are doing everything they can to prevent these attacks against the Roma.
“I congratulate the Czech authorities on their determination in stopping the violence and also express my solidarity with the policemen who were wounded by the mob. At the same time we must recognise that this incident took place against the background of increasing intolerance and violence against Roma people in Europe. All Governments across Europe also need to look urgently at the situation of the Roma communities in their countries and act decisively to protect them against discrimination, intolerance and violence.”
While the Council of Europe Secretary General may decide to congratulate the Czech authorities on their determination of stopping the violence we also know how often the authorities, in the Czech Republic, as well as in other EU member states, are complicit with the perpetrators of racially motivated crimes against the Romani-Gypsy. Italy is but one example when not only the authorities stood by and let burning happen. Nay, they criminalized the entire Gypsy population and forced them to give DNA samples and fingerprints, even small children.
The Council of Europe, who after all is the real EU command and control, is doing very little in practical term as to protect the Romani minority in the member countries of the European Union. There is lots of talk, like this address by the Council of Europe Secretary General but very little else and the authorities in member countries get away with murder, literally, on Gypsy citizens.
But, as someone from the Gypsy community in Germany said: “It has happened before, it is happening and will happen again – we must fight against it and defend ourselves”. He is right, you know. Ourselves Alone! We must do it. We cannot depend on others to do it for us. The problem is, though, that if we do it the authorities will claim that we are in the wrong.
Where does that leave us, yet again?
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
On 10 December at 18:00 there will be a march in Prague to commemorate International Human Rights Day and draw attention to the rise in violence, racism and xenophobia in this society. It is being organized by Tolerance.
The route: Náměstí Jana Palacha - Mánesův most - Klárov - Úřad Vlády - Pod Bruskou - Gogolova - Letenská pláň - Nad Štolou, ending at the Interior Ministry building.
The organizers are looking for volunteers to assist them, please contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org to volunteer.
10.12.2008 - 18.00 hod
Náměstí Jana Palacha - Mánesův most - Klárov - Úřad Vlády - Pod Bruskou - Gogolova - Letenská pláň - Nad Štolou (Ministerstvo vnitra).
Připomenutí vzniku Mezinárodního dne lidských práv - Upozornění na nárůst násilí, rasismu a xenofobie ve společnosti.
Momentálně sháníme dobrovolníky různých profesí - mohou se hlásit na naše maily email@example.com.
Review by Michael Smith
GYPSIES STOP tHERE by Miriam Wakerly
Price: £7.99 (+ P&P)
Published in 2008
The book is available in the United Kingdom from Waterstone’s or from www.strongmanpublishing.com
This novel, set in Surrey/Hampshire 2007, is written from the viewpoint of a non-Gypsy woman who has her own intriguing tale to tell. It also brings us up to date with where Travellers are in the 21st century. This makes it topical, showing a balanced understanding of the problems they still face. Romany Gypsies, who have been with us for over 500 years, are an ethnic group that even today suffer open racist abuse and discrimination.
Will uprooting herself from London to live in the country help Kay escape guilt-ridden memories of her husband's death? Far from finding a quiet life, she is caught up in the age-old village conflict where passionate opinions on Romany Gypsy Travellers divide the local people.
A young Gypsy woman, Lena, and her two small sons, enter her life, unwittingly putting Kay's plans on hold. Kay struggles not only to come to terms with her emotional past but also to resolve Lena's problems, those of the village and the Gypsies. And another relationship blossoms that she would never have dreamed of ...
To find out whether or not and what and the rest you will have to read the book yourself. I am not going to give away anymore of the plot. Sorry folks, but you have to get the book and read it yourself.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is a brilliant story that brings to life the issues that Gypsies face on a daily basis in this country, at each and every place that they stop or try to stop; all the prejudices and all the rest of discrimination without most of the non-Gypsies having ever known any Gypsy personally.
While I cannot, and neither does the author via this book, so no fear there, condone the recent acts of buying land by Gypsies and other Travellers, then moving onto that land and presenting the local councils with a fait acompli, with the attitude “we are here and here to stay”, in each and every case nearly, and then seeking retrospective planning consent, I do also make the call for Gypsies to be given adequate sites and also and especially the possibility to set up their own on their own land. In other words; a little bit more leeway in planning law to make it possible for Gypsies to set up and run their own sites. But, oh dear, I again digressed.
This book I think, will be a good vehicle to further some understanding amongst the non-Gypsy population, if they will but read it, as to the need of Gypsies for sites, whether local authority ones or their own, and aid, I hope, in lessening the NIMBY-ism concerned with Gypsies coming into an area to live. Only a small minority, as in other communities, do live by scamming and by fraud and theft, and I am always prepared and willing to admit that we have our rogues and our villains. But there are many more good Gypsies than there are the bad ones; as with all people.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is definitely a great read that provides an entertaining way for people to understand more about Gypsies (and Travellers) in Britain and their life and their life's problems.
The story is one of a very few that I have read from this perspective that puts Gypsies in a real light. It neither vilifies nor romanticizes them.
I could not put this book down and only did so with great reluctance. The story is fast moving and you want to keep turning the pages to find out how is goes on. This is a real page-turner for sure. When I finally finished it was left feeling bereft. I hope a sequel of this story is in work and coming out soon. I cannot wait to find out how it continues.
GYPSIES STOP tHERE is a book that definitely should be read by all, adults and young people alike. Especially, however, those that are prejudiced towards the Gypsy People should take some time to read this book.
The author has created a story and characters that are believable and has presented the Romany-Gypsy community in a positive light without making them appear too perfect or too romantic.
Some of the words of the Romani used by the characters, especially by Lena, are Traveller slang and not Romani Chib. “Scan” for food, for instance is NOT Romani; it is Traveller slang. The Romani word used by the Romanichals in Britain (and elsewhere) is “hoben”. This is directly related to the Romanes word for food, that is to say “chabe” with the “ch” being pronounced like the “ch” in “loch”. I do know, however, that “scran” is also used by the Romanichal communities. The Romanichals are the Romany-Gypsy in Britain, by way of explanation to those that do not know this. And while they are Romany (Romani) they are not Roma. Oh, but I digressed again.
The sprinkling of Romany words within the book, even the Traveller slang, for those words also find themselves being used by the Romany at times, makes this story so good, aside from the brilliant story line and the writing style.
I think this is one of the fist novels of this kind that addresses this subject in the way that it does. Let's hope for lots of people reading it and taking the message to heart.
Miriam Wakerly has a BA Degree in Combined Studies – English, French, Sociology and Politics, from Leicester University. She has combined bringing up a family of a son and two daughters with writing and working. She lives with her husband in Surrey and is a member of the Society of Authors.
Copies of GYPSIES STOP tHERE should be in every public library, in every school and if you know someone who is anti-Gypsy for this or that reason maybe give him or her a copy for Christmas or just as a gift generally. The price of this book could make a lifetime of a difference as far as attitudes are concerned and from one reader the effects could snowball. I am certain this book has that potential.
I can definitely give this book full marks.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
On Monday, November 17, 2008 the British tabloid newspaper – though newspaper may be a far fetched term for this rag – published a piece entitled “FAMILIES MUST SELL LAND FOR GYPSY CAMPSITES” claiming that and I quote “THOUSANDS of homeowners across Britain could be forced to sell their land to make way for gypsy sites. Private gardens and fields could be taken by the Government in a “land grab” to create permanent campsites for 25,000 travellers”.
This may make for great headlines and for great incitement of racial hatred against an ethnic group, namely the Romani-Gypsy, but it is utterly false and based on lies. But, then again, it is such lies and half-truths that seem to sell newspapers of this ilk.
The Daily Express continues in its Editorial with the following: From DAILY EXPRESS Editorial: “GRABBING LAND TO SETTLE GYPSIES IS OUTRAGEOUS - The Left has a deluded view that gypsies live a romantic life, travelling the byways in gaily painted horse-drawn caravans. The reality is that many are Irish and East European tinkers, pulling monstrous mobile-homes behind gleaming 4X4s and making a good tax-free living from State handouts and the proceeds of crime.”
Firstly, while the Irish might be referred to as “Tinkers”, if the paper would like to do so, as they are Travellers and not Romani, the Eastern European are, in fact, Romanies of the Roma groups in the main and hence are not “tinkers”, as claimed by the Daily Express, but of the Romani Race, of the tribes belonging, as said, to the Roma. To use the term “tinker” in this instance is derogatory and could be regarded as a racial attack.
While it is true that the editorial and the article itself could be seen to constitute incitement to racial hatred and that newspaper should, theoretically, be prosecuted under the Race Relations Act we all know that that is never going to happen. We, the Romani, are simply the wrong color and the wrong religion. We are neither black, nor are we Muslims or Jews. Hence nothing is going to happen. There is but one way: we have to fight it in different ways. How? Well, I leave those thoughts to other forums.
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sadiq Khan said: Let me deal with the hon. Lady's first point. Local authorities spend £18 million a year on enforcement action on unauthorised sites. If we can reduce the number of unauthorised sites by encouraging local authorities to provide authorised sites, that will reduce that bill.
Secondly, I know from a letter that I have been passed by the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright), that the hon. Lady has been involved in a campaign that some would characterise as scaremongering about compulsory purchase orders in her community. There is no truth in the headlines. There is no requirement for local authorities to compulsorily purchase land for Gypsy or Traveller sites. I would ask, caution and counsel hon. Members to use their words carefully and to temper them when it comes to spreading stories that are factually incorrect.
So here we can see from the statement of a member of the current Labor administration in this country that this member of parliament, the Hon. Lady that Sadiq Khan refers to in his statement would appear to be Epping Forest MP Eleanor Laing (Con), and it would further appear from the statement by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government that this MP has a record of bending the truth, especially when it comes to the issue, so it seems, of Gypsies and Travellers.
With all what is happening in mainland Europe, primarily in European Union countries, in atrocities committed against the Gypsy population there how long will it be before we have, in this country; similar demonstrations like recently in the Czech Republic and Hungary, if Members of Parliament and local politicians carry on rabble rousing and are inciting the people against the Gypsies in this country?
All across Europe the specter of anti-Gypsy pogroms – and no, pogroms are not predominately against the Jews and never have been – is rearing its ugly head again and in some countries they are, once again, ugly almost daily reality for Gypsies living there. No wonder many of them take the opportunity to come to the slightly better countries such as Britain, for instance.
While, maybe, we should not call for a newspaper, even though to call that rag thus is nauseous, to be banned and censored, the Daily Express should be held to account and it Editor should be fired from a cannon into the farthest away black hole.
However, in recent years this very same smut rag also told us that we were going to be faced by an invasion of Gypsies from Eastern Europe as soon as countries such as Romanian and such were going to be part of the European Union.
It is such a shame that the people still are still prepared to actually pay money for that rag full of lies.
This country has a bad enough record as far as the Romani-Gypsy goes and also, as regards the Irish Travellers – though my concern is with the Romani – throughout history and even in modern times, and not just the case of Gypsies fleeing Nazi persecution on the European Mainland during the Nazi rule in France and such having been sent back to whence they came while other refugees were welcomed with open arms. One set of rules for others and another set for those that are Gypsy. Not much has changed there, really, despite all the talk.
People, especially, still have the same attitudes and those are not helped by the likes of the Daily Express. If calling for a boycott of that rag and a boycott of their offices would have any effect I would do so but...
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
PRAGUE, Czech Republic, November 2008: A hospital does not have to compensate a young Gypsy woman it sterilized without her consent, an appeals court ruled recently.
In overturning the Czech Republic's first monetary award for forced sterilization, the court said the statute of limitations had expired.
This is not surprising seeing the people are concerned are people without a real voice. They are not Jews or Muslims but they are simply poor downtrodden Romani-Gypsy.
While Anti-Semitism is immediately jumped upon and nowadays also anything that is said against Muslims, so it would appear, Anti-Gypsy-ism is alive and well and no one cares, especially no one in the various bodies of the EU and the UN.
While there would be, I am sure, no one mentioning “statutes of limitation” had this heinous crime of forcible sterilization been committed against a Jewess or a member of any other ethnic group and the outcry would be great, as it is only Gypsies no one cares.
Human rights groups believe hundreds of women from the Czech Republic's Gypsy minority of about 250,000 people were sterilized against their will.
Under communism, which ended in the Czech Republic in 1989, sterilization was a semiofficial tool to limit the population of Gypsies, whose large families were seen as a burden on the state. The practice, however, ended only recently.
In other words, Gypsy women were still forced or or otherwise sterilized without their consent even into the time of EU membership of the Czech Republic. So, at least, it appears.
How, pray, was the Czech Republic, in the same way as other newer EU member states, ever allowed to join the EU with such appalling records on human rights, as far as one of the largest ethnic minorities on its territory?
Iveta Cervenakova, now 32, was illegally sterilized without her consent in 1997 after she gave birth to her second daughter by Caesarean section.
She filed a lawsuit in 2005. A lower court ruled two years later that the hospital in the northeastern city of Ostrava had to pay compensation and apologize for violating her rights.
Court spokesman Petr Angyalossy said the 500,000 Krona ($26,330) judgment was overturned because the award came after the 3-year statute of limitations in the case had expired. He said the hospital needs only apologize.
Neither an apology nor financial compensation, in all honesty, can compensate any Gypsy woman for the loss of being able to bear any (more) children. Nor can anyone ever compensate the woman nor the People as a whole for such crimes. Neither money nor apology will cut any ice. Not until such a time that the Romani People will be given the same respect and consideration as other minorities.
The Czech League for Human Rights sharply criticized the ruling and said it would appeal it to the Supreme Court. A lawyer of the League for Human Rights, who consulted with Cervenakova's attorney, said she will argue that there should be no statute of limitation applied in sterilization cases.
Several other Czech Gypsy women are also seeking damages from hospitals for illegal sterilizations. Not that they will get anywhere with this, I am sure, seeing the recent outcome. The European Union also is not in the least interested as to what happens to the Romani People, and this is blatantly obvious as to the happenings in Italy – that are all being but kept very quiet now.
Any Rom who still believes that the EU and/or the UN have the interests of the Romani People also at heart need to wake up, finally.
No one will every have our People's interests at heart if we, the Romani People, do not do it for ourselves. Ourselves Alone.
Ava Ame Shai! Yes, We Can!
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
Let us take, for example, the Romagna-Marche coastline, which has a reputation for being an area of hospitality and tolerance. From Pesaro to Forlì, from Cesena to Rimini the situation of the homeless and the Roma communities is totally unacceptable, due to increasingly violent and widespread intolerance, aided by the enthusiastic support of politicians (both right-wing and left-wing) and the authorities. This persecution is looking more and more like the period of the racial laws, and it appears the ethnic and social cleansing underway suits everyone.
The events on the Adriatic coast, however, are just a small part of what it taking place all over Italy where the effects of racism are now out of control. The members of EveryOne, instead of receiving support for their commitment, have received all kinds of intimidation and threats, both from the institutions and from racist groups. Roma members of the group have been beaten up, they have received death threats, insults and other forms of police and judicial persecution.
EveryOne Group, however, will continue to report this frightful sequence of crimes against humanity and to call on the intervention of all those who consider themselves anti-racists (if there are any left).
We are combining the news of the latest attack on a homeless person and the video-testimony, complete with medical report - of a young Roma man who was subjected to the usual "treatment" from members of the police force. But that's not all: today (November 11th) a young girl was beaten up in Florence.
EveryOne is collecting witness accounts and medical reports in order to take further action.
We will be supplying other material concerning this new episode very soon.
In the hope that our reports and the continuous episodes of racial hatred bring about positive actions and not just empty messages of solidarity, we send you our best regards
Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro, Dario Picciau
Anton Caldarar interview (with english subtitles)
TO VIEW THE COMPLETE VIDEO TESTIMONY VISIT:
On October 22, 2008, the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) held an international roundtable to discuss challenges and prospects of sustainable integration of Kosovo Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians in host countries and in Kosovo itself. The event was held at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna and was organized by PER with the support of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The meeting gathered representatives of European governments, international organizations, Kosovo government representatives and Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians.
The topics debated during the roundtable included: prospects for integration of these communities in host countries, the return process to Kosovo, living conditions for Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities in Kosovo, and conditions for integration of returnees in Kosovo.
Following major conclusions have emerged from the discussions:
A more detailed report will be available soon on PER’s website.
- The policies of forced returns by the host countries are ineffective and insustainable as many of those returned by force leave the country shortly after their return;
- Voluntary and informed return, as argued by some participants, can be sustainable, provided that it is well coordinated with the Kosovo authorities;
- Romani participants were against forced return, pointing to the evident fact that presently there are no conditions in place in Kosovo to ensure sustainable livelihood;
- Kosovo authorities generally acknowledged that they have limited resources to provide for successful reintegration of returnees, especially in large numbers;
- Participants acknowledged some improvements in Kosovo with regard to these communities, but not to the extent necessary for UNHCR to change its position regarding the protection of these groups; there are still safety-related concerns maintaining the recommendation against forced returns.
PER is an international non-governmental organization with offices and representations in Central and Southeastern Europe and the former Soviet Union that works towards improving ethnic relations in the region. PER has a long history of engagement in facilitating interethnic dialogue in the Balkans. PER has been working on issues important for the Romani communities in Europe for almost two decades.
by Michael Smith
The Magyar Garda, the militia arm of the radical right-wing political party Jobbik, inducted 400 new recruits – children, so it has been reported, among them – in a ceremony on October 25, 2008 in down-town Budapest.
Members of the Hungarian Guard, wearing black uniforms and insignias redolent of Nazi symbols, held their fourth national ceremony in Heroes' Square.
Among the members addressing the crowds were Lorant Hegedus Jr, a controversial Calvinist pastor, and Lajos Fur, former defence minister in Hungary's conservative government following the change of political system. Also present was Maria Wittner, an MP of the main opposition party Fidesz.
The Magyar Garda have in the past staged marches against the Romani-Gypsy community in Hungary in recent months, in actions that call to mind those marches of the Hitler's SA in the 1930s against Jews and Gypsies.
I must say that the more I look at Europe of the present era the more I am wondering whether I have entered a time warp, as far as the actions against Gypsies are concerned. Any visitor from outer space could be forgiven if he'd check his calendar just to make sure he is not in Europe of the 1930s and 1940s.
The party Jobbik registered "Magyar Garda" in June 2007 as a "cultural organisation" to "prepare youth spiritually and physically for extraordinary situations when it might be necessary to mobilise the people."
Now why does that sound so familiar? Because we have all heard and seen this before or at least if we were not present in those days then we hear about it.
Since then, however, the Guard has staged several demonstrative marches to intimidate the Gypsy community in several areas and has scared the life out of many of them. Its activity has drawn condemnation both in Hungary and abroad, evoking harsh protest from the parliamentary parties, NGOs and minority organisations alike. But that all means nothing unless we actually are going to see action. Then again, action will but drive such people under ground.
A civil suit in the courts aimed at dissolving Magyar Garda has been under way since March this year. The next court hearing is scheduled to take place in mid-December.
Does anyone really believe that those legal actions are going to get anywhere against such organisations, especially in the current anti-Gypsy climate in the European Union and elsewhere in Europe? I don't and I am sure nor do many of our People who have the slightest notions of how the cookie really crumbles. Personally, I doubt that we will ever get anywhere with legal means against such people as they have the support, in many instances, of people in authority, as we can see by supporters of Magyar Garda that were present at this rally.
© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008
Ostravice, North Moravia - A Romany ghetto might emerge in the Czech mountain village Ostravice as a company plans to build housing for Romanies from Ostrava there but the residents strongly disagree with the plan, Mayor Jaromir Dobrozemsky told journalists Monday.
The Ostrava-based REALIS-INVEST company that owns the area of the former local social care institution intends to build housing for about 40 to 50 Romany families from Ostrava on the premises.
The municipal authorities met representatives of the company and the local Romany community on Monday, but the talks produced no concrete results, Dobrozemsky said.
The company spokeswoman declined to comment on the matter asking journalists to send their questions in writing.
According to Dobrozemsky, the company has proposed two variants of the use of the abandoned premises. According to the first one, the abandoned buildings will be reconstructed to be used as tenant houses. According to the second one, housing for Romanies will be built there.
"No decision has been made and the talks will continue. The decision will take a long time to be made," Dobrozemsky said.
He said the Romany representatives asked about the ways of solving their social situation on Monday. The questions concerned the payment of security benefits and the capacity of kindergartens and schools.
They were told to send their questions in writing.
Dobrozemsky said that according to the second variant, the company would reconstruct the buildings into housing for Romanies for European Union money that it expects to obtain.
The residents of the village that is located in the Beskydy protected landscape area are unhappy at the prospect of neighbouring a Romany ghetto.
A 72-year-old local resident told journalists Monday he was afraid that many more Romanies than planned could finally move to the premises because Romanies from Slovakia would start joining their relatives.
He admitted that he was mainly afraid of thefts.
He said Romanies would never adapt themselves to the lifestyle of the majority society.
According to him, the appearance of the ghetto would mean the end to the village.
Vratislav Gloziga, who guards the abandoned premises, told journalists Monday that the current situation was a mere escalation of the problems in mutual communication between the area's new owner and the municipality.
Editorial Comment: I do not think that we should worry, per se, about a settlement that is just for Romani People for that, by it self, does not make a ghetto, whatever some people may claim. They did the same when the Sinti in Germany wanted to build the Maro Them settlement in Kiel and that is why it took so long before they were allowed to go on with it.
What we must watch though is the fenced and walls that are being built, that have been cerated and that are being proposed, which are intended to separate Romanies from the general public, in a couple of instances with walls and gates and guards to “protect them from attacks”. Whoever believes the latter has never read history and how things were for the Rom just before the Romani Holocaust began. <>Ed.<>
Vsetin, Czech Republic, Oct 2008 - Most of the Vsetin Romany families whom the Town Hall resettled to the Jeseniky and Prostejov areas and to whom it provided interest-free loans for the purchase of houses have failed to meet their commitments, Town Hall spokeswoman Eva Stejskalova said.
She said if the Romanies failed to repay their loans properly they could lose the roof over their head.
The Town Hall as the owner of the new houses could order their distraint and sell them, Stejskalova said.
The Romany families were moved out from a dilapidating house in the centre of Vsetin, mostly populated by rent-defaulters two years ago when Jiri Cunek, current Czech Deputy Prime Minister and chairman of the junior government Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), was Vsetin mayor.
He was sharply criticised for his step.
According to the contracts the Romanies signed with the Town Hall they are to repay the loans in monthly installments of 1500 to 2330 crowns.
"The interest-free loans worth between 350,000 and 557,000 crowns were provided to eight Romany families although they were not entitled to alternative housing and the Vsetin court confirmed this," Stehlikova said.
However, only one family is repaying the debt properly while the others have failed to pay the installments by the due dates set out in the contracts, she said.
There is a several months delay in the payment, Stejskalova said.
She said the town authorities had appealed on the Romanies to repay the loan arrears within a fortnight.
If they fail to do so, the matter will be taken to court, the Romany families will be faced with execution and the town will sell the houses, Stejskalova said.
"The Town took an accommodating step when it provided the loans to the families because that had no legal right to alternative housing," Vsetin Deputy Mayor Lubomir Gajdusek said.
Of the 64 families resettled two years ago, 22 have found new housing in the town and several families were moved to the Jesenik and Prostejov areas.
The remaining families were moved to container-like flats on the town's outskirts.
Stejskalova said a mere 42 resettled families were paying the rent on time.
The resettlement of Romanies from the centre of Vsetin was criticised by Romany associations and human rights activists.
Czech ombudsman Otakar Motejl also criticised the Town Hall saying that it made a mistake.
However, Vsetin officials have dismissed the criticism from the very beginning and defended their decision as correct.
Florence, Italy, Friday, October 10th, 2008: Florence, at three o'clock in the morning the municipal police snatch blankets from the Roma sleeping near the station and send them to be destroyed: "sleep on cardboard instead!"
Indignation from everyone group and aurora association who are requesting an urgent meeting with the mayor, Leonardo Domenici, and appealing to the people of Florence to help the Roma fight off the cold.
Over the last few days the voluntary association Aurora ONLUS in Florence handed out fifty blankets received from various donations to the Romanian Roma. Over recent months the Roma have been sleeping in the cold (with only cardboard to protect them) in Piazza Adua in front of the Santa Maria Novella railway station. The Roma families have never received any socio-medical assistance from the Florentine authorities or been offered any alternative lodgings. Most of all they need a warm place to stay seeing people below the age of 48 are barred from entering the centres set up by the authorities to shelter from the night cold.
At about 3 a.m. on Tuesday October 7th some municipal police patrols arrived in Piazza Adua where the Roma have set up their makeshift beds with some trucks owned by Quadrifoglio - the company that deals with the disposal of waste material from the city of Florence. After waking them with a start, the Municipal police ordered them to hand over all their blankets, and to those who objected saying it was too cold, they replied: "You can sleep on the cardboard instead!" All fifty blankets were confiscated and the Roma looked on as the blankets were thrown into the Quadrifoglio truck and taken away to be destroyed.
"This action is unacceptable" say Stefania Micol, president of Aurora, and Matteo Pegoraro, co-president with Roberto Malini and Dario Picciau of EveryOne Group. "It shows how the authorities of the City of Florence are following the racist, xenophobic current that is spreading throughout Italy, abandoning the path of tolerance and respect for human rights and resorting to hunting down the foreigner and criminalizing poverty.
"It is a civil disgrace" continue the activists "that in a city like Florence no programmes have been set up to help these people, leaving them to wander around the city centre without any kind of sustenance or social integration. Instead they have had the few means they possessed for bracing themselves against the cold brutally taken from them.
"We have already reported the episode to Viktoria Mohacsì, the Hungarian Euro MP of Roma origin" - explain the leaders of EveryOne, Malini, Pegoraro and Picciau. "She has already brought it to the attention of the European Parliament and the EU Commission. With this episode Florence becomes the sad symbol of racial hatred, along with another city, Pesaro (in the Marche region) which has recently announced the imminent clearance of a derelict building where a small community of Romanian Roma families have taken shelter. They were naturally not offered any alternative lodgings. There are many small children in the group and people suffering from serious health problems: malignant tumours, heart problems, physical handicaps, all living in conditions of extreme hardship. Pesaro and Florence are therefore under observation by the European institutions: they are modern cities that have fallen prey to the evils of racism, which is at the root of this persecution, mingled with the indifference shown by the local authorities and institutions. If they fail to take a step backwards and rediscover the values of solidarity and welcome, it will result in the cruel eradication of innocent human beings who have been offered no hope of integration, and, at the same time, it will result in the triumph of intolerance".
The Aurora Association and EveryOne Group are requesting an urgent meeting with the Mayor of Florence, Leonardo Domenici, in an attempt to find a speedy solution for these people, who, as the days go by, risk catching serious illnesses and infections due to the conditions of hardship they live in - as well as the low temperatures against which they have no way of defending themselves. The two associations are also appealing to the people of Florence to show their solidarity towards these unfortunate and persecuted families by coming to the Aurora offices in Via Macci, 11 and simply bringing a blanket - which will become the symbol of brotherhood, and also represent a civil response to the indifference of the local authorities and the inhumane treatment shown by the Municipal Police and the police force.
Source: EveryOne Group
by Michael Smith
Despite many claims made to the contrary by what one could called “standard mainstream medicine” and their representatives, especially and including the pharmaceutical industry, as regards to herbal medicines, a recent study by German scientists has found that St John's Wort (Hypericum) may be as good as an anti-depressant as Prozac.
According to this study the herbal extract is as effective as the drug and has fewer side effects. As far as my own experiences go with herbal medicines there are very few, if any, what could be called side effects, whatever claims to the contrary are being made by the ordinary practitioners mainstream medicine and especially the pharmaceutical industry.
German researchers found that St John's Wort is also a match for other old and new anti-depressant pills.
While, I am sure, we can all understand the reasons for the pharmaceutical industry poohpoohing herbal and other alternative medicine why this is being done by the general practitioners in countries such as the UK and the USA is something that should give food for thought. In other countries, such as in the Netherlands, it is common for a GP to prescribe homeopathic and herbal alongside the conventional treatments.
There is but one problem, however, and that is the fact that products containing Hypericum perforatum vary greatly. This means that some may be more effective than others. Is that a good reason, though, to take the standard drugs and to be faced with the side effects, such as those of Prozac that seem to be rather dangerous? Personally, I think not.
Many of the readers, I am sure, will not surprised as to the fact that Hypericum has been “cleared”, so to speak, and has even, to some degree, elevated above the drugs, like Prozac.
So, let's her it for plant extracts and herbal medicines...
© M Smith (Veshengro), October 2008
by Michael Smith
The German Sinti Alliance (Sinti Allianz Deutschland), under Mrs. Natascha Winter, has called for an end to use the term “Sinti und Roma” (Sinti and Roma) as the single term for all Gypsies.
Mrs. Winter expressly asks that the term “Sinti”, which is, so she says, the exclusive name for the German Gypsies, not to be used together with the term “Roma”, the latter who are basically immigrants from the East.
The Sinti Alliance made this request in a press statement in which they condemned the attempt of censorship by the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma, under Romani Rose, of a German TV program that made mention of criminal activities and criminals amongst the Gypsies. We have to admit, and Mrs. Winter and the SAD does just that, that there are criminals amongst our People, the Gypsies, in the same way as there are criminals amongst Jews and other peoples and while we may wish to condemn the idea of using the ethnic term in the same breath when mentioning the criminality amongst Gypsies – something that would not be done when it comes to Jews, for instance – this is neither here not there.
We had similar attempts of keeping things out of the public eye when the media, some years ago, made mention, and also films were made on this subject, as to the selling of children by the Roma, predominately the Kalderash and others from the former Yugoslavia to Italy for the sole purpose of being uses as beggars and thieves (and worse even). In this case misguided “leading” figures of the Romani organizations and academics tried to claim that this was not the truth and just something invented to discredit the Romani. The unfortunate truth is, however, that that was and still is the truth.
There are operations that are going on the United Kingdom presently where children are being brought in by criminal elements amongst the Roma communities and if the children are used just for begging and pickpocketing then that is the most benign activities they are being used in. In fact in Glasgow what is happening is worse and as a Rom I loath to even to mention it.
For this very reason one can also understand the call of the Sinti Alliance as to the separation of the two terms, namely “Sinti” and “Roma”, and one can but support it.
While we are all of the Romani People, also known as the Gypsy People (and I have not problem with that term and neither have many Rom that I know), we are not all Roma, for instance. The Roma are a part of the Romani in the same way as the Sinti are but the Sinti are not part of the Roma.
© M Smith (Veshengro) - (World) Gypsy Union - October 2008
by Michael Smith
Pope Benedict XVI has defended the actions of his predecessor Pius XII during World War II, saying the pontiff spared no effort to try to save Jews.
However, Pope Pius XII has long been accused by Jewish groups and scholars of turning a blind eye to the fate of the Jews. While that may be true there seems to be definitely more than just a neutral position when it comes to the Romani victims of the Holocaust who, like the Jews, were singled out for destruction because of their Race.
The Romani, or Gypsy, People were already being earmarked for genocide – in Germany – as far back as the time just after WWI. Where was the Church, Catholic and Lutheran then and during WWII? Silent if not complicit.
Pope Benedict said that Pius had intervened directly and indirectly but often had to be "secret and silent" given the circumstances.
Pope Benedict said he wanted prejudice against Pius to be overcome. Well, this is rather great from a German Pope with a questionable record during the Nazi time.
Pope Pius was rather very active, and so was the entire Vatican, and this is a fact, in helping German industrialists and worse still SS, Gestapo, and others of the hierarchy, escape with false or Church passports to South America and such locations.
Pope Benedict even seem to go as far as suggesting beatification – and may the gods help us all – of Pope Pius, claiming that Pius showed "courageous and paternal dedication" in trying to save Jews.
Pope Benedict said: "Wherever possible he spared no effort in intervening in their favour either directly or through instructions given to other individuals or to institutions of the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict said the interventions were "made secretly and silently, precisely because, given the concrete situation of that difficult historical moment, only in this way was it possible to avoid the worst and save the greatest number of Jews".
Pius was the pontiff from 1939 to 1958 and the Vatican has begun his beatification process.
This stinks of an attempt, a very blatant one, of rewriting history by the Vatican – something they appear to be very good at. The only member of the Catholic Church who ever really stood up for the Jews in the concentration camps – note please that no one ever stood up for the Gypsy – was Father Matthias Kolbe. The rest were rather conspicuous with their silence and their “non-interference”.
Many Jewish groups criticised him for not speaking out against the Nazis, who killed six million Jews.
Pius should be even more criticised for being part of allowing the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against Jews and Gypsies to escape justice by issuing them passports to escape, often in disguise as Catholic clergy, to South America where, as we all know, they not just simply hid. Nay, they continued the work for the Nazi organizations, whatever name they chose to operate under.
When it came to the Gypsy no one of the Churches and no one of the populous, whether in Germany or Poland or elsewhere, helped the Gypsy. In some parts of the occupied territories there were groups of Gypsy partisans or Gypsy groups in the partisans and they seemed to have been the only ones that had some cover. In Poland the good Catholic farmers and burghers pointed out Gypsies to the Nazis, whether those Gypsies were settled and integrated or not, instead of helping them.
To make Pius a saint, or even to beatify him, would be the greatest injustice the Church could do to itself and its standing and the world. But, then again, I doubt they care as long as they can create another saint.
The Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church – I cannot say about the Orthodox, whether Greek or Russian, in this matter – have a lot to answer for to the gods as far as their inaction is concerned with regards to the persecution of the Romani, the Gypsy, in the Nazi era, as well as before and after. All we have seen from the church was in action of it was not actual cooperation and the cooperation still goes on to this very day in certain instances, such as the deportation of the Roma refugees from Macedonia in Germany back to Skopie and other parts of Macedonia some years back.
It remains only one way for the Rom and it is time the Gypsy People understood that and that is “Ourselves Alone”.
© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008
by Michael Smith
Yoy! Yoy! Yoy! What can one say to that?
The Romanies, from the Roma communities and other Gypsy groups, who seek asylum in Canada should not conceal their real, particularly financial reasons of their departure from the Czech republic, by alleged persecution, Human Rights and Minorities Minister Dzamila Stehlikova has said.
While the fact that a number of the Gypsies fleeing from the Czech Republic wish to also improve themselves economically and one or two may be simply economic migrants the majority, in the same way as those that fled from Macedonia some years ago into Germany or those from Kosovo. However, the same is used there with regards to sending them back to the countries whence they are being persecuted.
The Minister should be ashamed of herself but then again, I assume she would not know what being ashamed even means, in the same way as Minister Cunek and others in the former Czechoslovakia, as well as in many other EU member states. Italy here comes to mind especially too.
Minister Dzamila Stehlikova said after a meeting of the Government Council for Romany Community Affairs that the Romanies who feel threatened in the Czech Republic should first look for help of state bodies, the council and NGOs.
Seeing the way the Czech police and other authorities in that country persecute the Romanies themselves and certainly from the way that attacks are never properly prosecuted and followed up and the perpetrators never have to fear any real retribution – at least not from the side of the state – I certainly doubt that going to the state for help would do the Rom of the Czech Republic no good at all. Their only option is to leave the country as refugees.
Czech Roma's interest in acquiring asylum in Canada has markedly increased over the past months.
Obviously this reflects very badly on the image of the Czech Republic as far as human rights are concerned in the eyes of the world and hence the Minister has to come up with stupid comments such as the ones that she has made.
Stehlikova said 466 of them applied for asylum in Canada from last November until mid-July.
Canada might reintroduce visas for Czech citizens if the border of 500 applications were crossed, Stehlikova said, adding she is not afraid of this for the time being, however.
Canada re-introduced visas for Czech citizens in 1997 after it lifted them for a short period, in reaction to a high number of asylum seekers from the Czech Republic, primarily Roma.
In the 1996-2000 period, 1677 people with Czech citizenship applied for asylum in Canada and 962 of them were granted it.
The government council wants to prevent further outflow of Roma by supplying them with information on their rights and defence opportunities in case they feel threatened by the majority population or by clerks and the police.
Stehlikova will visit Canada in October where she wants to meet Romani asylum applicants as well as Canadian officials.
One can only assume that she has a hidden agenda for meeting the refugees themselves. I assume we all remember well the times when British police and border agents were based at Czech airports, working hand-in-glove with the Czech authorities, to prevent Romanies from the Czech Republic travel abroad, especially to the United Kingdom.
Oh, but the European Union is good for the Rom, so we are being told. Good? In what respect?
She said she also wants to invite the officials to the Czech Republic to see for themselves that Czech Romanies do not need to fear for their lives.
Macedonia and others did the same with regards to the Roma from those countries with the German government and even the German Protestant Church, the Evangelische Kirche, worked hand-in-glove then with the German authorities, primarily in the Rhineland, to “repatriate” the refugees back to Skopie and such places. One can but assume that the Minister here has the same ideas in mind as far as the Rom currently in Canada are concerned.
© M Smith (Veshengro), September 2008