Criminalization of the Roma people in Italy: two attacks in Rome spark off another witch hunt

by EveryOne Group

Rome, January, 2009: Following two episodes of attacks and rapes in Rome and Guidonia, the police are combing the Roma camps of Rome around the clock.

EveryOne Group: “The fact that there are those who exploit the victims’[i] suffering in order to carry out a campaign of racist and xenophobic propaganda arouses our indignation. It should lead the Italians to reflect on the moral barbarization that intolerance can bring about in a modern country”.

The police operations are very spectacular and are carried out with the use of helicopters, police dog units and armed men in uniform. The interventions are carried out both during the day and in the dead of night, causing serious problems for the Roma families. The operations foment racial hatred in the local people, who are often present at the police operations shouting insults and threats at the Roma and yelling at them to leave the country[ii].

During the police manhunt, the details of 500 Roma were taken, while 20 were arrested on charges that had nothing to do with the rapes. The local people, however, witness these “spectacular” arrests and the intolerance increases. In the meantime the politicians and the authorities sound the “rape alarm”, pointing their fingers at the Roma without any evidence to back it up.

A few hours after the media had given the news of the attack gangs of racists destroyed some makeshift shelters in the Primavalle Roma camp. The police immediately completed the operation and bulldozed the camp leaving 50 people homeless (including many sick people and 20 children). As always, their only sin was being Roma and happening to live near the scene of the attack.

January 27th, 2009 – police have arrested six Romanian citizens (who are not from the Roma ethnic group).
However, newspapers and TV news are continuing to blame the crime on the Roma, even if they belong to a different ethnic group from the arrested men. A furious crowd tried to lynch the arrested men, while all over Rome a series of violent acts are being carried out against the Roma. In this climate, Ministers and member of the Lega “Nord” party are fomenting this xenophobic wave by proposing chemical castration to “protect society”[iii].

Those responsible for the rape are not Roma, and the culprits’ responsibility, according to both Italian and international law, is individual. Extending the guilt to the whole of the Romanian population is a terrible abuse. We must also point out that in 2008 EveryOne received dramatic testimonies of rape that young Roma women suffered after they found themselves helpless in the hands of racists (especially in Northern Italy). These crimes took place after the police had cleared the settlements and taken their husbands to police headquarters - yet nobody has ever taken action against this “invisible” drama.

On the wave of the intolerance aroused by these cases, the institutions have announced the employment of 30,000 more soldiers to work alongside the police on the streets of the major cities[iv]. It is to be noted that already back in 2008 the Ministers of the Interior and Defence initiated a project to increase the number of soldiers in the cities to 30,000, investing a total of two billion euros a year. The Prime Minister defined the Roma, immigrants and the homeless “the evil army” and “the enemy” to be combated using these troops[v].

On January 25th, in the city of Guidonia where the rape took place, a group of about twenty Italian neo-Nazis (members of Forza Nuova) carried out acts of violence against immigrants and Roma[vi]. Four of them attacked immigrants from Eastern Europe.

There is a concrete possibility that someone is trying to raise the level of xenophobia to repeat the effect generated by the brutal Giovanna Reggiani murder - maybe by accusing innocent people from the Roma ethnic group of rape. It is a line of conduct went along with by the Neapolitan magistrates who recently sentenced a young Roma girl called Angelica to 3 years, 8 months’ imprisonment without any proof and on the mere evidence of an Italian mother who had accused her of trying to kidnap her baby. EveryOne had already demonstrated that the charge was unfounded at the time. Angelica’s lawyer has made an official protest against this unjust verdict[vii]

For some years now EveryOne Group has been monitoring the Roma settlements in Italy very carefully. It pays particular attention to the situation of the Roma families of Romanian origin who are being subjected to true policing and judicial persecution[viii] However, deliberately put-up cases against the Roma are not only confined to Romanians.[ix]

It is now obvious that organized racist groups are now at work in Italy. They have never been investigated by the police, they act, unfortunately, without any hindrance from the authorities and with the tacit support of the majority of the press and media. There have been no arrests or sentences following assaults on the Roma people, or the arson attacks on their makeshift shelters. And no action has been taken when on several occasions the members of EveryOne have reported, not only brutal assaults, but also orchestrated attempts to attribute to the Roma particularly hateful crimes capable of inciting public opinion and the media.

It is just as evident that a press and political campaign is underway aimed at criminalizing the Roma people by setting public opinion against them. This has allowed an appalling number of brutal camp clearances, intimidation, de jure and de facto expulsions of entire Roma families and judicial errors.[x]

For example, the case of the kidnapping of little Denise Pipitone, a crime constantly attributed to a hypothetical “gypsy” woman, in spite of all the evidence leading to Italian kidnappers; and the case of the “Roma racket” where, according to the Milanese authorities, children were forced through torture and threats to carry out thefts amounting to millions of euros every year. The truth of the matter was that they were children from families living in conditions of terrible hardship who were involved in petty theft[xi]

Then we have the “attempted kidnapping at Ponticelli”[xii] which led to young Angelica’s prison sentence: it was an authentic set-up, announced months before with the creation of an anti-Roma committee and the participation of members of the Camorra who had set their eyes on the land the Roma community were occupying.

Then again, the attempted child snatching in Catania[xiii], thanks to inquiries carried out by EveryOne, we were able to convince the authorities the charge was unfounded.

In the meantime in the large cities there have been cases of police officers beating up Roma citizens then making false and unfounded accusations against the victims. Typical cases were the assaults on Stelian Covaciu[xiv] and Anton Caldarar [xv] video. (whose story appears in a video on our website). EveryOne also demolished another absurd case, that of the so-called “gang of Roma women robbers”[xvi]

EveryOne Group has also pointed out how some of the particularly horrible crimes attributed to the Roma ethnic group seem to happen just before restrictive measures are taken (either by the government or local authorities) against the liberty of the Roma community. Measures carried out in order to facilitate the expulsion of Roma families from Italian soil. We remember the case of Giovanna Reggiani, which took place shortly before the approval of the Prodi government’s “security package”; the cases of Ponticelli and Catania, which took place before the Berlusconi government’s “security package”; the case of the Roma torturers and the child pickpockets at Milan’s Central Station during the “Sociality Pact” debate in Milan (resulting in an authentic racial law)[xvii]; and the case of the assault on two Dutch tourists by the Romanian shepherds Andrei Vasile and Paul Petre just before the visit from the European delegation to inspect the Roma settlements in Rome. And now, just after the European Commission has published its report condemning the institutional persecution of the Roma in Italy[xviii], here we have two gang assaults with violence and rape, which have already been attributed to the Roma community in the capital by the media. “Inhuman Violence. Police comb the Roma settlements,” writes ‘Il Corriere della Sera’. Italy has to answer for its xenophobic and racist actions to the European institutions, but now its operations appear justified by the “criminal and ferocious nature” of the Roma people.
Over the past few months the EveryOne activists have collected together the testimonies of Roma people who have been approached by Italians asking them to commit illegal or morally ambiguous actions. The coincidence of crimes ascribed to Roma citizens, the racist measures and the need to justify them, would lead us to suspect there is a real danger of deliberately set-up cases finalized at criminalizing the Roma ethnic group. The Giovanna Reggiani murder presents several disconcerting breaches and procedural flaws in the investigation, beginning with the fact that the authorities declared they had found blood on Mailat’s face and under Mrs Reggiani’s fingernails (after she had inflicted deep scratches on her assailant’s shoulders). No DNA results, however, were included in the legal proceedings in court and it appears that they have instead gone missing. The key witness, Emilia Neamtu (on whose testimony Mailat was sentenced to 29 years’ imprisonment) is an unreliable witness, suffering as she is from a serious psychotic illness. What is more, there are testimonies of strange contacts between some Italians and Romanian Roma in Rome shortly before the crime took place.

We are convinced that the investigation should be repeated in a more objective fashion. The same goes for the attempted kidnapping at Ponticelli, which led to a young Romanian girl, Angelica, being sentenced without proof. We now have reason to fear that the new series of attacks carried out in Rome - which have triggered off this new “witch hunt” – are part of the same plan.

The 29th January 2009 the four romanian confessed the rape[xix] and finally the auhtorities officially stated that they were not Roma people. However the initial accusations of a hypothetical “gang of Roma wearing balaclavas” spreaded racial hatred and provideed racism with an alibi. In fact such accusations have created abuses on Roma an Romanian People[xx]
We are therefore asking the European authorities to keep a close eye on the situation in Italy in order to prevent further abuse from the police and magistrates being carried out against the Roma people. We also ask for the present political and press campaign to be stopped as its aim is to criminalize the Roma ethnic group in Italy. EveryOne Group is also asking for new in-depth inquiries to be carried out into the Giovanna Reggiani murder (the key witness, Emilia Neamtu, has now returned to Romania where it is possible to talk to her without any pressure from the Italian authorities) and the Ponticelli case (Soccorso Legale Napoli is in possession of all the evidence that proves the innocence of the young Roma girl, and the judicial errors carried out in the legal procedure).

Let us remember that intolerant movements have often, throughout the course of history, attributed brutal and ferocious crimes to unwelcome minorities in order to justify their repression. It is no coincidence that in the years when the Nazi-Fascists were power Jews and gypsies were described as negative stereotypes whose rehabilitation was considered impossible.

[i] January 23rd, 2009. Young couple assaulted at night in their car just outside Rome. The young man was beaten up and locked in the car boot while his girlfriend was being raped.
EveryOne Groups wishes to express its solidarity to the victims of this attack, a couple who will never forget the tragedy of this crime. However, violence against women is an emergency that needs to be tackled on all levels, starting from schools. In spite of official figures showing that 99% of rapes take place within the home, that is it a brutal crime that often subjects the victims (often children and youngsters) to repeated violence, propaganda is still exploiting the events that involve (in theory) foreigners in order to spread racial hatred. Last year Amnesty International initiated a “violence at home” campaign in an attempt to prevent cases of rape and supply the public with correct information. However, this has proved ineffective against the propaganda from the politicians and media.




















EveryOne Group
Tel: (+ 39) 334 3449180 - (+39) 334-8429527 - (+ 39) 331-3585406 ::

Italy is a xenophobic and racist country

The data from the report made up by Ismu (an organization promoting studies, research and projects on multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society) reveals that Italy is a xenophobic and racist country.

Ismu has published its data from the national report on the presence of foreigners in Italy. There are 4,328,000 foreign citizens living in Italy, about 8% of the total population of our country. Some of the figures in the report are disconcerting and reflect the institutional persecution against immigrants.

Of particular note is that on 30th June, 2008 out of 55,057 inmates in Italian prisons, 20,167 of them were foreigners. According to a xenophobic vision, this data would show that foreigners have a much greater tendency to commit crime than the Italians. However, the record profits of last year made by Italian organized crime, amounting to 130 billion euro, would prove otherwise. What is more, according to all the research carried out by modern sociology, there is no such thing as a population that possesses a greater tendency to commit criminal acts than other populations. And yet the magistrates have sentenced foreign citizens in Italy, not in the ratio of 8 per cent, which would be in line with sociological studies and common sense, but in the totally amazing ratio of 37 per cent.

This revelation shows beyond any shadow of doubt that both police and legal persecution is underway. If we then analyse the percentages of inmates of Roma origin the figures become grotesque: there are some prisons in which the inmates from the Roma ethnic group amount to over 30%, while the Roma – now less than 60,000 in Italy – barely amount to 0,1 % of the total population.

Source: EveryOne Group

UN refuses to include Romani victims in Holocaust memorial event

by Michael Smith

The organizers of the United Nations Holocaust Memorial event to be held on January 27 have vehemently refused to include the Romani victims of the Nazi atrocities as victims of the Holocaust.

The Romani have, in fact, as it would appear, been actively excluded with the usual claims by the self-came people that have also ensured that the only Romani person ever to be on the US Holocaust Memorial Council was removed by no less personage than former President G W Bush.

Many Romani organizations and individuals have complained to the organizers but to no avail with the exception that the people responsible have blocked all further email contacts and have turned off their public email.

Why do such actions not really surprise me?

The answer to that is simple and two-fold. One is that the UN, despite lip service, has no intention of really and truly recognizing the Romani People as a People and a Nation amongst nations, and two is the fact that, as far as the Holocaust and its remembering is concerned there is just a way too influential lobby groups there that claims this occurrence as being uniquely theirs.

Well, I have some bad news for them. Gypsies, Romani People, have suffered in the Holocaust, yes, fold, the Holocaust, for the same reasons as those that thing that this is just for them and Gypsies do not defile the memory of said Holocaust as we don't just wish to be associated with it, we are part of it. Period! Dosta!

On the other hand: why do we not organize our own events and make them public far and wide regardless of some other screaming that we “defile the memory of the Holocaust by wishing to be associated with it”. The Romani People were, in fact, the first that were targeted for extermination in Germany and that already under the regimes before Hitler. Hitler only continued ideas and policies as far as the Gypsy People were concerned to have all Gypsies in Germany exterminated for reasons of a foreign race that had been formulated at an earlier date.

It was 250 Gypsy children in what was then Czechoslovakia that were the first victims of the Zyklon B poison gas; they were in fact the Guinea pigs to see whether it worked and how much was needed. It was the same as to the “Einsatzgruppen” and their gassing trucks. The first to be allowed to try them out were Gypsies that has been rounded up in areas such as Bessarabia.

The United Nations should be ashamed of itself for allowing this active exclusion of the Romani in the Holocaust Memorial Day. This cannot and must not be allowed. But who will listen.

Then again. Our voice, the voice of the Romani People, is simply not powerful enough.. We do not shout loud enough. Time this be changed, methinks.

Just before anyone comes along again and being concerned that I might be falling into the “hate trap”, as someone called it, let me ensure you all that I am falling into no trap. I just state what no one else seems to be willing to state in words because they think it not politically correct. I know that some would call that a “hate crime” even, I am sure, but so be it. If speaking the truth is becoming thus then, I guess, I am guilty as charged.

I must admit that, as far as I am concerned in this I am Romani, I am Gypsy first, and that is all that counts to me. Everything else comes after that. But, it would appear that while other people can make bold statements as to them being first and foremost what they are and such when a Gyppo does that then he or she is in the wrong. Must be because we are Gyppos.

Well, that must change. We must put our Romani People first! Others can do it and we can do too.

Ava! Ame Shai!

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Gypsies the new “untouchables” of Europe

by Michael Smith

The Romani-Gypsy, the Sinti, Cale and Roma, are not only becoming the new “untouchables” of the European Union. Nay. In fact it would appear that they – we – are becoming the new “Untermenschen”, yet again.

For the Romani People, the Gypsy, of Europe, to be honest, the Holocaust has never really ended. While the Jews were rehabilitated, so to speak, and even ended up with their own country, though whether or not it is legitimate is shall not be discussed here, the Gypsy was still treated in the same way after the Holocaust as before and the Gypsy People were persecuted and chased from pillar to post long after.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain things did not improve in this matter as far as the Gypsy are concerned. Rather the opposite is the case.

While it may be true that the behavior of some of the Eastern European Roma that arrived int eh West did not endear them to the Gadje and not even to the Sinti, and even Roma, in the Western European countries, it should not be used as an excuse to persecute the Gypsy People, but in many place it is. But then, it is just an excuse to justify their fascist and racist actions against our People.

But even the Sinti that have been in Western Europe, in Germany, Austria, Holland, France, and such, including the united Kingdom, also face the same kind of discrimination on a daily basis – to varying degrees, dependent on the area and circumstances. Whatever the degrees, the discrimination is still there, in one way or the other, also for the Sinti and Roma that have been, such as in Germany, for well over 600 years.

Now, in the last couple of years Gypsies are, once again, be made Europe-wide into scapegoats and the source of all ills. This is going to get worse even now in the economic meltdown that all countries seem to be undergoing.

Discrimination against Gypsies is widespread – yet again – in most countries of Europe and also in the Americas, and while this also holds true with regards to Britain there is, thanks be to the G-d, not much on direct violence against Gypsies in evidence as yet, as it is in other European countries, including and especially those of the European Union.

In Britain, so far, there is also no direct discrimination as yet towards Gypsies in the field of employment, even if one mentions one's Romani background. Then again legislations are in place to make any such direct discrimination an offense and hence things are still OK.

On the other hand the general public still perceives, in the main, the Gypsy as a parasite to society.

I personally have had an encounter a couple of years back when attending a computer trade show for the Gypsy Union and while talking with one of the attendees mentioned that I was Gypsy and was using Linux – the free Open Source computer operating system – this person turned on me calling all Gypsies parasites, referring to the fact that I was using a free operating system rather than paying for a Microsoft one. Guess he must have stakes in MS. But this is how easy things can turn and we can be assured – not that that is a nice kind of assurance – that in the financial crisis we seem to have entered and which could last a while things will get worse, elsewhere and also in Britain, as far as discrimination and other acts against the Romani are concerned, and not only as to the foreign Roma who have come to this country in the recent years.

While it is true that the behavior of some of them and even the behavior of some of our own homegrown Romani-Gypsy – and I do not even refer here to the Irish Travelers, who are not part of the People – does not help to endear ourselves to the settled population, the Gadje, this is not so much of an issue here.

The way it would appear is that we are back to the “good ol' days” of being held responsible for all manner of ills in this world. Not long, I guess, and they will blame the Gypsy for the financial crisis. Am I sarcastic? Only to an extent.

When our People first arrived in Europe, or to be more precise, when our People were first noticed to be in Europe, for we were here well before the time that the first official records mention us (see the Hildesheim one) we were claimed to be carriers of the Plague though ourselves, due to witchcraft, not affected by it (more like due to our cleanliness taboos), as well as agents of the Turks, etc.

No doubt soon we will be held responsible, yet again, for the ills befalling the economy of the various countries.

The fact that the UK government is earmarking money for the improvement of official Gypsy Caravan Sites and the building of new ones – in order to fulfill its own legal set target under the Housing Act – is already causing consternation, whipped up by the red top gutter press, like the Sun, the Mail and the Express.

Those papers use all manner of lies and half-truth to whip up the Gadje against any Gypsy Sites anywhere, and the Gypsy population as a whole, even claiming that government could compulsory purchase people's gardens to build such sites with the owners of such properties having no rights. This is, obviously, far from the truth but, alas, the uneducated masses believe such horror stories.

In other European countries things are worse, to a degree, with some putting the Rom back into ghettos and guarded camps. Oh, they say, but those guards are there to protect the residents against attacks by neo-Nazi elements. Yes, sure, and on an airfield nearby a squadron of fighter pigs is preparing for takeoff. We know what has happened in Italy.

So keren? What can we do and what are we to do?

First and foremost we must have – once again – pride in what we are, and even to the extent of using the words the Gadje use for us, be this Gypsy or Zigeuner. If we are proud of it what can they do?

Then we must ensure that our People, and not only the young ones, get an education. This does not mean that they have to – necessarily – attend a Gadje school, or as some would call it, state brainwashing institution; there are other ways.

This has then to be followed by going into trades and professions, including the likes of police, fire service, military, and others often claimed to be occupations that should not be done by Rom. Only if we can say that we are represented in such fields, as many of our People are in other countries – not that that has made the discrimination any less – as in the Czech Republic and Finland where there are police officers that are of the Romani People and who are proud to be both, Rom and cops.

As said, it may not reduce the discrimination but it is one of those positive aspects that could help our People in more than one way. Pride of being Romani, of being Gypsy, however, is the most important thing, but that does not mean that the bad ways and practices must be upheld.

While it once was acceptable, nay necessary, to not always tell the Gadje and especially the authorities the truth this is backfiring badly nowadays. Also the fact that some of ours, especially in Britain and the USA, are scamming when it comes to the work they do, be this knife-grinding or blacktopping, or property maintenance kind of work. This has been going on for a long while amongst the lazy ones and those that could not care but it has gotten also into the general stream. On top of that there are those that use the roofing jobs and such as a means of robbing people. No wonder we have a bad name in the general society.

While there once was no other way for our People to survive than to steal, mostly this was minor kind of theft and pickpocketing and not the kind of robberies conducted today, the distraction burglaries and the overcharging and then forcing people to pay well above what would be reasonable.

We, as a People, must improve, before we can demand that anyone gives us the due respect. We also must to have pride in what we are for if we do not respect ourselves and our background why then should anyone give us and the People respect.

The Romani are not and have never been, at least not the Sinti groups, untouchables as in the Indian sense, and the reason for the term of untouchables – Azigani – is from the fact that we did not want to be touched by outsiders because of ritual defilement resultant therefrom.

However, we are being made by the people of Europe, including some of the governments, into outcasts and untouchables, even sub-humans, once again, and some of those countries are even those of the European Union who have always a big mouth when it comes to human rights abuses elsewhere. It is easy for them to condemn Zimbabwe or China but rather not when it comes to our close neighbor state and even the actions of the powers in their individual states themselves.

The fact that the German police forces still use the racial profiling when it comes to us Gypsy, though no longer using the term “Zigeuner” and not even “Landfahrer” but “Angehoerige einer ethnichen mobilen Minderheit” (members of an ethnic mobile minority) or even, diectly, “Sinti and Roma”, often in such a wrong was as to refer to one single suspect as appearing to be a “Sinti and Roma”, does not surprise me as a Gypsy but according to all EU legislation such profiling is illegal. Nevertheless, it is common practice to this very day with the only exception that the words have been changed. The meaning is still the same and remains so whatever term they are going to use, from “mobile minority” to “Sinti & Roma”. Nothing has changed ever since the times of Hitler and before. The only difference is that things are more subtle nowadays.

So, in conclusion again, what can we do against this?

It is my belief that the only way to combat this is through Gypsy Pride and through positive actions and through solidarity.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Security Stepped up After Attack

by Michael Smith

Jewish groups said that the invasion of Gaza had provoked a surge in anti-Semitic intimidation and violence in London and Manchester.

And can anyone really be surprised as to this?

While one cannot condone violence against anyone for reasons of race and/or religion and neither against people who are not directly involved in what is going on in Palestine it is, nevertheless, not surprising.

One Jewish charity, the Community Security Trust (CST), said that the threat had increased after comments by Hamas leaders calling for attacks on Jewish people.

The most serious incident in Britain occurred recently when three youths tried to set fire to Brondesbury Park Synagogue in northwest London. Police said that the incident was believed to be a direct result of events in the Middle East.

A police spokesman said that officers were liaising closely with Jewish groups and that “reassurance patrols” had been increased in areas with substantial Jewish populations. In North Manchester, barriers have been placed outside King David High School and entry is being restricted to passholders.

The CST, which was set up to ensure the safety of Jewish people, has reported 20 anti-Semitic incidents in the past week and is understood to be in regular contact with the police.

Jewish leaders and security services across Europe are worried that emotion over the Gaza conflict could cause anti-Semitic acts or attacks. In France, where the anti-terror alert was already at its second-highest level, the police intelligence service stepped up its monitoring of prayer groups frequented by the extremists.

British police said that they were working with Muslims to reassure them that non-violent demonstrations would be facilitated. One Muslim group has written to the Prime Minister warning that the Israeli attacks could drive young Muslims into the hands of extremists.

While it seems totally acceptable for Jews to have such self-defense organizations when the Romany Community even thinks of something like that we are told that that is totally out of the question.

When suggestions were made by Gypsy groups to have their own security teams the reply from those in power was a roaring NO. Another time when it seems that Jews have more rights than other minorities. It's the lobby, I guess.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Westway Gypsy and Traveller sites could double

by Michael Smith

The Westway Gypsy and Traveller site is probably one of the worst official government-owned Gypsy sites in Britain· It lies directly under the motorway flyover and the incidents of lead poisoning of children and infants is the highest of anywhere in the UK. And still this site is allowed to continue there and is even, so it would appear, going to be enlarged.

Overcrowding of Gypsies and travellers living under the Westway has led City Hall to demand west London councils find space for new pitches.

The site, on the border of Shepherd's Bush and North Kensington, is looked after by the boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea.

It has 20 pitches, each designed for one extended family with two caravans - but there are 35 extended families living on the site.

A report called the Gypsy and Traveller Accommodation Needs Assessment (GTANA), produced by the Greater London Authority, recommends that 18 new pitches are needed - 12 for Kensington and Chelsea and six in Hammersmith and Fulham.

A council report to the Westway Travellers Site Advisory Group stated that 'the area of wasteland next to the site could offer potential for additional pitches', but added that they 'may wish to consider if there are any other suitable sites for Gypsies and travellers in the borough'.

A spokesman for the Westway Development Trust said: "The wasteland is the size of a couple of desks. Even if you rearranged the whole site, you could maybe get one extra pitch on it, max."

The report added that the boroughs are likely to have weak grounds for objecting to the GTANA's recommendations, as the Westway site already accommodates more families than it was designed for.

The GTANA, published in March this year, states that accommodation needed for Gypsies and travellers in London will need to double to meet their needs.

How this site is, as I indicated already, is even permitted to continue to exist where it is let alone the consideration being given to enlarging it, defies all logic.

The lead poison incidents may have declined – though I do not know as to whether or not – since we no longer use lead in gasoline but the site, in my opinion, is totally unsuitable for human habitational use and has been since its inception.

Lead from gasoline – though no longer, theoretically, present in gas today – is just one thing. The fact that motorcars whiz around just above the people's heads on one of the busiest motorway bridge systems in the UK and the resultant air and noise pollution, is a much larger factor that should have cause this site condemned long ago.

And, if this would be somewhere where Gadje (non-Romany) and other non-Travellers would live, or have to live, the area would have been should down by environmental health long ago. However, as it is but dirty Gyppos and Travellers why should they care?

Hence they will go an enlarge that ghetto rather than actually find some more suitable land for the Gypsies and Travellers to go to or to make it easier for the Gypsies and Travellers to buy their own land where to live.

The Westway site is a definite “out of sight out of mind” place and that's, as we can see, those two London boroughs also would like it to remain. This is more than obvious, methinks.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

The Roma people, the new “untouchables” in Italy and in the European Union: urgent and effective measures are needed

In a message addressed to the European Parliament Council of the EU, European Commission, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights), United Nations Human Rights Council EveryOne Gropup in Italy stated:

EveryOne Group with its eminent scholars, many of them Roma citizens, and its experts and activists in the battle against racial discrimination are appealing to you once again not to underestimate the phenomenon of racism that Roma citizens are being subjected to in all Member States, and in Italy in particular, where the situation is very critical.

Wednesday, January 7, 2008. At the present time, in spite of all the EU directives, resolutions, warnings, conferences and the inspection carried out by a delegation from the European Commission, no measures, no projects, no real social integration programmes have been undertaken to help the Roma people. Unfortunately the right-wing and far-right wing Italian Government is finding no opposition in this critical field from their political opponents – opponents who in their turn are conducting (these days on a local level, but during the Prodi Government on a national level) racial policies aimed at driving EU citizens of Roma origin off Italian territory. These measures are also making life very difficult for the Roma with Italian citizenship or those who took refuge in Italy in the 1970s and 1990s. Measures include camp clearances (without the offer of alternative solutions); constant persecution from members of the police force and magistrates; violence from racist groups, along with press propaganda that has helped to spread racial hatred towards the Roma people. These factors have brought about a dramatic exodus of Roma citizens towards other countries, or a return to their countries of origin. It has caused a drastic fall in their average life expectancy and many tragic deaths (due to illness, malnutrition, cold, hardship, cases of arson and other acts of violence). It has led to the removal of hundreds of Roma children from their legitimate parents, actions justified by their inability to ensure them “decent living conditions”.

If in 2007 about 45,000 Roma people originating from Romania lived in Italy, (where human rights organizations had undertaken serious integration and schooling programmes) persecution from the institutions has now thwarted these programmes and triggered off an ethnic purge, the terrible policies of which have been taken up by the local authorities and organized and carried out by the police force, which has encouraged the local people to collaborate. Many police actions have been characterized by inhumane and brutal behaviour, while no support has been forthcoming from the social services. Today fewer than 3000 Romanian Roma live in Italy, in dreadful socio-sanitary conditions. Even the Roma with Italian citizenship and the refugees from the former Yugoslavia, (about 45,000 in all) after the flight of many Roma families to Spain, France and other Member States, are living in camps in pitiful conditions.

Criminalized, with no access to steady jobs, turned away from schools or, in a few cases, enrolled but discriminated against and underestimated; they survive without any hope of emancipation. The activists involved in fighting for their rights are regularly intimidated and controlled by the police; in some cases they have been subjected to serious violence from members of the police force during camp clearances and persecutory actions. The percentage of Roma men and women in prisons is very high: they are offered no real legal protection, besides formal defence. Asking for charity (often their only means of support) is banned in many cities through local laws, and the police force is fighting the practice of begging all over Italy.

Newspapers and TV channels spreading lies and prejudice are now totally out of control. Before the almost indifferent eyes of the European Union the Roma people are becoming the “untouchables” of the Western world due to the level of intolerance that has taken root in Italy, something which has no precedent (if we exclude the years of the racial laws) and which represents a temptation for other Member States. We are thinking of Spain, where a recent survey by the institutions revealed that one schoolchild in two would not like a Roma child sitting at the same desk; of France, where the local institutions are adopting the Italian model of obsessive police control; and most of all of Romania, where the Italian racist propaganda has reached the local press, causing further racial hatred against the Roma population, which in Romania numbers about two million people. It is no exaggeration to compare the discriminated-against Roma to the “untouchables” because there is no real difference between the Dalits of South Asia and the “gypsies” of Italy. In fact the Dalits, the untouchables, have access to jobs considered “impure; such as cleaning out toilets, work in the cemeteries and stables and the recovery of material from rubbish dumps; while the Roma people in Italy are kept at a distance by everyone. History and experience teaches us that when a “caste” is formed inside a civilization, at the same time prejudice is formed that takes centuries to eradicate. Not to mention that exclusion and racial hatred causes a deterioration of the health, hygiene and “presentability” of the victims, who in the eyes of the local citizens become automatically “ugly, dirty and wicked”. Our group believes that in Italy the limits of civilization have been greatly overstepped and in the present state of things precise laws are needed, not just suggestions. For example – and we are able to supply you with a structured project – the obligation of countries to include in the number of workers from another Member State a percentage of Roma citizens equal to their ethnic ratio in their country of origin. Thus, considering that in Romania the Roma make up 10% of the total population, the project would call on Italy (and other Member States) to include in its quota of Romanian workers 10% of Romanians of Roma origin. It would be advisable to apply the same law inside the Member States themselves. For example, Romania should include a Roma citizen every ten citizens employed in the public and private sectors. It is necessary for the European Union to undertake effective and urgent measures, consulting associations like our own that have considerable experience in the field, combined with historical and modern-day knowledge of the characteristics of the Roma people.

It is unacceptable that a civilization whose foundation is based on union, ethnic and racial equality, equal opportunities and human rights, watches on as a new category of human beings without rights takes shape - that of the new untouchables. We are available for any form of collaboration in the difficult procedures that are now necessary for fighting the plague of racial hatred and the denial of human rights for an entire people, and a culture of prejudice which conceals, in a perilous way, both the real history of the Roma people in Europe and the necessary measures that must be rapidly taken to lead them to their emancipation and a correct moral, legal, cultural and historical recognition.

Roberto Malini, Matteo Pegoraro, Dario Picciau - Gruppo EveryOne

GYPSY – Die Geschichte einer grossen Sinti-Familie – Book Review

Review by Michael Smith

GYPSY – Die Geschichte einer grossen Sinti-Familie
Dotchy Reinhardt
Price € 18,90 in Germany, € 19,50 in Austria and SFR 33,80 in Switzerland
288 Seiten, Hardback with dust cover
ISBN 978-3-502-10190-1
Publisher: Scherz Verlag

Dotschy Reinhardt is a a Sintiza, that is to say a Gypsy woman from the Sinti groups of the Romani People, and of the famous Reinhardt family from whence also the most famous Jazz musician of all times sprang, namely Django Reinhardt, and was born 1975 in Ravensburg, Germany.

While the Sinti groups of Gypsies have been living in Western Europe, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Britain for many hundreds of years they still, whether in Germany or elsewhere, have to battle injustices and discrimination on a daily basis. In some places this is obviously worse than in others.

Dotchy Reinhardt not only has a great style of music, she also has a great style of writing and when she talks about her childhood, spent with her grandmother in Ummenwinkel it brought memories of my own childhood flooding back to me in a very vivid way, as I too am of a Gypsy family.

While I full agree with her explanation as to the word Zigeuner personally as a Sinto I have no problems with that word in the same way as i have no problem with the word Gypsy. I know many Romani, Sinti and Roma, who have use the word Zigeuner themselves and also in the English world Gypsy. If used by ourselves with pride then and and all bad connotations it may have from the Nazi era, I am referring here to the word Zigeuner, is banished. We have to deal with things like that in that way and not in a way of suppressing them and forcing others to use other terms. It is our pride in being what we are even to the extent of using those words that the Gadje may or may not have given us but that have been misused by them to have bad connotations with pride. Such actions will take the wind out of the sails of people that use the words in a negative manner.

We must face the fact that even today the term Sinti and Roma is being used in the same way as was Zigeuner before, such as in police reports, and in Romania the term “Roma” has also got negative meaning, same as Zigeuner.

The book is extremely well written with feelings and political insights direct from a Sintiza, though one that may have been influenced by some of those that may or may not have a hidden agenda, in that the author seems to accept that Sinti are part of the Roma, which, of course, they are not.

There will, no doubt, be and probably already have been some people that will say that Dotschy Reinhardt said too much in this book as far as the Sinti ways and cultural things are concerned though I think that she has done a great job of putting across some of the things without actually giving anything away.

Although the Holocaust is being touched in a small way only as, as Dotschy says, she has no direct experiences – obviously, she is too young for that – nor has she learned much from her direct ancestors directly, though her own family lost many in the camps and some are the survivors of camps as well.

However, in one chapter she describes the battle of her grandfather – though she did not actually get to know him properly – for recognition as a Nazi victim and for some compensation and the way this was fobbed off again and again by the authorities who then were still run by the same people, basically, who tried to exterminate the Gypsy People of Germany and the occupied Europe. Still in the late 1940s when it was already the “Federal Republic of Germany” - a supposedly democratic country – handbooks and guidelines were issued to police officers as to how to deal with the “Gypsy menace”. In addition to that, though not mentioned in the book, several offices of the police forces in Germany and even at Interpol existed – and probably still exist despite claims to the contrary – that were basically entitled as “Office to Combat the Gypsy Menace” and such.

In this regard the book give a great insight in the problems faced daily by Sinti and Roma in Germany (and elsewhere).

In her book Dotschy permits the reader a deep insight – as deep as permitted – into the life and soul of the Sinti, the life and importance of the family, and much more.

In the last pages of the chapter entitled “Borstenvieh und Schweinespeck” she shows exactly where Gypsy community is superior to that of the Gadje, namely in the clan government and clan living, where people support each other; not necessarily financially but in other ways. That kind of support is much more important often than finances. This is just the kind of support that all may need to rediscover in this uncertain time that the world is facing at this moment.

On page 196 of the book Dotschy cites an Uncle of hers, Hannes Pfisterer as saying that “Roma have a different history and that the Roma are a different people” and with the entire statement, as further discussed on page, I can but agree. He makes the same arguments here as to the German-speaking peoples, that is to say that no one would call the Swiss, Austrians, and Germans one people simply because of the fact that they speak a related language.

Some people might disagree with some of what Dotschy has said and written, simply because she has come close to what some people consider the Taboo or, some would say, may have even crossed the line. Especially here in regards to the mentioning of the fact that the eating of horse meat is against the Sinti law and one or the other aspect that also may have been mentioned.

However, in my opinion, and that is the opinion of an older Sinto, some of those things should be mentioned for people to understand who we are and even must be mentioned. Also in order to show the differences between us, the Sinti and related groups, and the Roma. The horse fact also point to the differences between us and the Jews and hence that we cannot be a lost tribe of Israel.

I found this book to be an extremely interesting and enlightening read, one that at times catapulted me back in memory to the very days of my own childhood, and the truth expressed by the authoress in this book makes it one that I can wholeheartedly recommend to the readers.

There are some parts of the book regarding Gypsy issue and Gypsy politics where I do not necessarily agree with the authoress but then that is Dotschy's own understanding of things and that's the way it has to be.

Personally, I have, for instance, have no problem with the word “Zigeuner” and I know many German Gypsies that have not either and then there are others that do, in the same way as I have no problem with the word “Gypsy”.

All in all this is a brilliant book that is not just the autobiography of a brilliant singer and musician who happens to be a Sintiza and of the Reinhardt clan of great renown; it is also and especially the story of the family from which Dotschy Reinhardt stems and of its history.

This is a book that should be read by all and a translation of it into the English language is needed sort of yesterday.

The book is well written and is very much down-to-earth, not that I had really expected anything else from a true Sintiza, though a modern one. Dotschy Reinhardt has done her People, our People, the Sinti, proud with that book. Well done!

I have immensely enjoyed this book and can most highly recommend it.

While this is a review in English the book itself, alas, is so far only available in German but those of that can read German would be well advised to get a-hold of a copy of this book. It is well worth the price and the read.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

GYPSY – Die Geschichte einer grossen Sinti-Familie – Buch Rezension

Rezension bei Michael Smith

GYPSY – Die Geschichte einer grossen Sinti-Familie
Dotchy Reinhardt
Price € 18,90 in Deutschland, € 19,50 in Oesterrich and SFR 33,80 in der Schweiz
288 Seiten, Gebunden, mit SU
ISBN 978-3-502-10190-1
Scherz Verlag

Dotschy Reinhardt ist ein Sintiza, das heisst sie ist eine Zigeunerfrau (obwohl sie das Wort “Zigeuner” als negativ empfindet) aus dem Volke der Sinti und sie stammt ab von der beruehmten Reinhardt Familie aus der auch der genioese Jazz-Gitarrist Django Reinhardt stammt. Sie wurde 1975 in Ravensburg geboren.

Waehrend die Sinti Gruppen der Zigeuner – schon seit vielen Jahrhunderten in westeuropaeischen Raum leben, in Deutschland, Frankreich, den Niederlanden und Grossbritannien, werden sie noch immer diskriminiert und misbehandelt, und das taeglich. Mancherorts ist das natuerlich schlimmer als an anderen Orten.

Nicht nur hat Dotchy Reinhardt einen tollen Musikstyle. Auch ihr Style es Schreibens ist grossartig und mit ihrer Beschreibung ihrer Kindheit, verlebt bei der Grossmutter in Ummenwinkel hat bei mir Erinnerungen an meine eigene Kindheit hervorgebracht, da ich auch von einer Zeigeunerfamilie abstamme.

Dies Buch ist sehr gut geschrieben with Gefuehl und politischer Einsicht direkt von einer Sintiza, jedoch erscheint diese von Einfluessen einiger Leute mit einer verstekten Agenda gefaerbt zu sein da sie zu akzeptieren scheint das die Sinti ein Teil der Roma sind, welhses sie jedoch nicht sind.

Es weren sicher Leute auftauchen von unserem Volk der Sinti die behaupten weren – und wahrscheinlich sind da schon einige da – das Dotschy Reinhardt zu viel hier gesagt hat in ihrem Buch ueber die Sachen der Sinti, die Kultur und auch Traditonen, jedoch denke ich das sie sehr gute Arbeit geleistet hat hier die Dinge zu erklaeren ohne eigentlich zu weit zu gehen.

Durch einige Rueckblicke in die Geschichte der Familie gibt Dotschy dem Leser auch eine tiefe Einsicht in die Probleme mit denen die Sinti (und Roma) vor der Nazi Zeit, waehrend dieser und selbst nach dieser Zeit bis in die heutige geplagt werden und die Diskriminisationen die sie ausgesetzt sind noch immer.

Ich habe dies Buch als eine sehr interssante und aufschliessende Lektuere empfunden und die Wahrheiten die von der Asutoring vermittelt werden macht dies ein Buch das ich ganzen herzens allen Lesern empfehlen kann.

In dem Buch gibt es Aspekte bezueglich Zigeuner Angelegenheiten und Zigeuner Politik wo ich nich unbedingt mit der Autorin ueberinstimme aber das ist wie Dotschy das sieht von ihrer Perspektive und so ist es halt.

Ich persoenlich habe kein Problem mit dem Wort “Zigeuner” und ich kenne viele Deutsche Zegeuner die da auch kein Problem mit zu haben tun aber ich weiss auch von anderen die ein Problem with dem Wort haben, oft aus falschem Grunde jedoch.

"Gypsy - Die Geschichte einer grossen Sinti Familie" ist keine Nostalgiegeschichte, auch keine Anklageschrift gegen alle, die Sinti und Roma durch die Jahunderte hinweg und besonders in Deutschland verfolgten. Es ist ein fluessig geschriebenes, sehr gut lesbares Buch über eine junge Sintiza von heute, aber auch über die Vorurteile, die es gegenüber "den Zigeuenern" heute noch massenweise gibt, über die Schwierigkeit, eine Balance zwischen der eigenen Tradition und der totalen Assimilierung zu finden.

Dies is ein brilliantes Buch das nicht nur die Autobiographie einer grossen Saengerin und Musikerin die Sintiza ist und aus der Reinhardt Sipper stammt; es ist auch und besonders die Geschichte der Familie von welcher Dotschy Reinhardt stammt und deren Historie.

Was wir jetzt dringendst benoetigen jetzt ist die Uebersetzung dieses Buches in Englisch und andere Sprachen damit das Buch noch viel weiter als im deutschen Sprachraum gelesen werden kann.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Social welfare programme for Alhaurin Gypsies receives 15,000 Euro in funding

by Michael Smith

Andalusia, Spain: The Corales Gypsies Association with ALHAURIN el Grande Council continues to develop the ‘Programme to Promote the Gypsy People’ with an investment of 15,000 Euros, which is earmarked for the El Bajondillo neighbourhood.

The scheme has been introduced by the Centre for Social Affairs whose objective is to develop a series of initiatives to encourage the integration of and equality for the Gypsy community within Alhaurin el Grande’s society.

It also aims to improve the quality of life of local Gypsies as well as to provide them with education, vocational training so they can obtain work and health-care.

According to Social Welfare Councillor, Francisca Bonilla: “We shall continue to develop a social plan that began in the year 2000 and has so far borne fruit such as the creation of the Corales Association, the only association formed by ethnic Gypsies.”

This appears to be a very commendable set of projects that should and could be – probably – be seen and used as a model. However, where are there any such projects in other EU countries?

Britain certainly does not have anything like this and where there is anything then the government demands, through its rules, that non-Gypsy would have equal rights to be involved with such a Gypsy Council or Gypsy Union as do the ethnic Gypsies which, obviously, is a load of dung. But that is the way it goes here.

Other countries seem to have similar and related problems and no projects proper by Gypsies for Gypsies ever see funding and help. The only thing that seems to happen is that money is given to the projects of the Eastern European Roma and no one has a clue what has been done with the money.

When, however, Gypsies, such as those of the Sinti groups, including the Romanichals and the Cale, in Western Europe, and even Roma groups in Western Europe want to do anything the answer always is that those funds and such assistance is for the Decade of Roma Inclusion and that that is for those in the Eastern European EU states and those that wish to join the EU.

Surprise? Not really.

What is needed for Sinti and such to come together in confederation and do their own things and also fund their own things without dependence on the benevolence of benefactors whether they be called George Soros or the EU, the UN, or even a local government.

Ourselves alone must be the watchword and that's how things must be. Only that way will we get anywhere.

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009

Parents in Warwickshire remove children from school after Gypsies set up camp nearby

by Michael Smith

According to reports angry Gohja parents removed their children from a Warwickshire school because they felt threatened after a group of Gypsies set up camp in their village. Will such attitudes never change? Obviously not.

The Travellers who, so it is claimed by them, are Romany-Gypsies, caused uproar when they arrived on the rural site at Darlingscott, near Shipston-on-Stour, next to the home of Olympic minister Tessa Jowell, during the Easter bank holiday.

After a nine-month battle by the local council to evict them, a three-day public enquiry into whether the camp can remain ended at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall recently.

The Gypsy families, who lodged an appeal against eviction, said they bought 16 plots on the site in October 2007 for £20,000 each. But Stratford-on-Avon District Council refused planning permission for the camp and secured an injunction to stop any more people going onto the site and halt building work.

Cllr Christopher Saint said: “There was a lot of local concern when the Gypsies arrived. They felt compromised by the sudden appearance and felt it created a negative impact on the community. Several parents removed children and transferred them to other schools.”

The problem though is that no one of the members of that council, nor any other council, as far as known to this writer, ever makes and attempt to bridge the gap between the Gypsies and the locals and tries to help the settled community understand the Gypsies, especially when it comes to the Romany.

Cllr Michael Hutchins, of Tredington Parish Council, added: “The junior school has had 11 children from the travelling community with potentially another 21 of school age and three pregnant mothers. If they have to take all these children in one go they would not be able to cope.”

The Councillor also raised concerns about pollution, flooding and dangerous driving. So, according to this member of the council it would appear that Gypsies also have a hand in flooding and they are the only ones that may drive dangerously. What pollution is he, one can but ask, be referring to.

As far as the majority of those well-to-do villagers and their elected representatives are concerned Gypsies bring all manner of ills, it would appear, including flooding.

Mind you, we should be used to that by now. In days gone by we were accused of spreading the plagues while ourselves unaffected by it.

Paul Cairnes, barrister for the local authority, said allowing the site to remain would be harmful to the rural area. He said Ernest Wilson, who lodged an appeal against the decision to remove the families resulting in the public inquiry, failed to demonstrate the site would meet a need in the district as identified in the Gypsy Travellers Accommodation Assessment.

The team acting for the Gypsies said they had a right to permanent residency.

Barrister Michael Rudd said: “What do you expect them to do? Move them down a mile then they move back a mile. It becomes a never ending problem. There is a clear and undisputed significant regional need for additional pitch provision. The personal need of the appellants is also recognised. The appellants perhaps unusually in such cases have attempted to engage in consultation and were ultimately forced to move onto the appeal site in a last resort.”

During the enquiry members of the gypsy community told of their desire to settle permanently on the site so they could educate their children.

It would appear that people still regards Gypsies as carrier of diseases and all manner of things for why would they otherwise behave in such a way.

Personally, I cannot see where a Gypsy camp, for lack of a better word, in more or less the middle of the countryside, does any harm in this case. Also, why should the site meet the council's need in the district as identified in the Gypsy Travellers Accommodation Assessment? It was never meant to be a site within that remit. It was one that the Gypsies themselves were buying and building.

Here, once again, the council tries to get such a privately created Gypsy site into its own portfolio. We have seen this done before several times, even to such an extent where the residents of the private site were evicted, the site slightly improved by the council and then the evicted families brought back in as rent-paying residents.

The machinations of politicians, local or otherwise, do not seem to have any end and Gypsies are always an easy target. I just guess that we have to be thankful in this country that we are not being attacked in other ways by the government, such as happens in other places. Great comfort that is – NOT!

© M Smith (Veshengro), January 2009