Aj, Rromale!

Mišto aviljan ka o Aj-Rromale! Kado blogo si pe kultura thaj nevimata le Řomenge, thaj vunivar le Phirutnenge. Na dara te de amenge vareso te arakhes, kaj interesno tumen si. Te interesnil pe kongodi te žutil amen le blogosa, phen amenge!
Welcome to Aj-Rromale, a blog about the culture and world news of Romani, and sometimes Travellers. Please, feel free to submit anything of interest that you find. If anyone is ever interested in helping to run this blog, please let us know!

Regarding the content on this website!
The images do not belong to us unless stated. All credit is given to the owner and websites linked up if we can find the information. The same goes for the news articles.

If you ever see your own work on this website and you do not want it to be shared here, please contact us and we will remove it.

Pe-l fotura po kado vebsajto! Le fotura thaj nevimata po kado sajto naj amenge, te či phenas. Sa le kreditura dinile si, thaj das bišajimo vebsajtosko ke šaj arakhas e informacija.

Te dikhes tire butja po kado vebsajto, thaj či mangan, ke avile kathe, te phen amenge thaj ame durjaras les.

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Article about Roma is widely criticized in Hungary →


A founding member of Hungary’s governing Fidesz party has been sharply criticized for writing a newspaper column that contained offensive remarks about the nation’s Roma minority.

Writing about a New Year’s Eve bar fight in which several people were seriously injured and some of the attackers were reportedly Roma, the journalist Zsolt Bayer said “a significant part of the Roma are unfit for coexistence. They are not fit to live among people. These Roma are animals and they behave like animals.”

Bayer’s commentary in Saturday’s Magyar Hirlap newspaper criticized the “politically correct Western world” for advocating tolerance and understanding of Roma, who make up around 7 percent of Hungary’s 10 million people and often are among its poorest and least educated citizens. Roma also are known as Gypsies.

Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics criticized the article on Monday night.

Opposition parties said authorities must decide whether Bayer should be prosecuted for incitement against a minority and urged Fidesz to expel him. If that doesn’t happen, opposition groups have called for a protest on Sunday outside Fidesz headquarters.

However, Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi said at a news conference Tuesday that the party will not take a position on an opinion piece. “Zsolt Bayer wrote this article not as a politician but as a journalist, and we don’t qualify the opinions of journalists,” Selmeczi said.


Tagged: newshungarypoliticsethnic minoritiesromaromanieyes rolling out of my headracismreblog

Gypsyland - Documentary by Martyn Bray — Kickstarter →

When we started out making this exciting documentary about the Gypsy festival in the Camargue, the gypsies, who are one of the most persecuted people in history, were once again being threatened. President Sarkozy had offered them €300 each to leave France voluntarily. Those who declined his offer had to watch while bulldozers destroyed their homes. I had already been over in France and started work on the film so I felt outraged and at the same time a great deal of compassion for the people and characters I had come to love & trust.

If like us you value freedom, self-expression in music and dance, tribal traditions and those who live in harmony with our natural resources, then please join us. Your collaboration will result in the creation of this inspiring documentary that might help change people’s perceptions of the gypsies.

While filming the pilgrimage, I became fascinated by the mysterious story of the Gypsy Saint Sarah. Following in her trail laid down by the eminent Gypsy scholar Prof Ian Hancock, I was led back through time to mediaeval India.

Kickstarter →

I can’t say I like the title much, but the subject is intriguing.

Tagged: romanigypsyfilmmediakickstarterGypsyland



From me to all of you….

Tagged: RromaRomaRomaniGypsyRomaleChavaleAmale!New Year2013BaxtaliBaxtaleBaxtaloSastipeSastivesti

Do It Romanes | Indiegogo →

Do it Romanes (Gypsy style) is about Alex, a poor teenage gypsy with incredible musical talent. Unfortunately for him, his particular gypsy tribe has a taboo against playing music for gadje (non gypsies). Throughout the story he struggles to reconcile his dreams with his cultural beliefs. The story will have humor, excitement, romance and the always powerful theme of family unity.

The film will appeal to fans of movies like MoonstruckMy Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bend it LikeBeckham, which have a similar focus on unusual families of lesser known subcultures.

Read more and contribute here

Tagged: romanigypsymediafilm

Learn Romani - Das Duma Rromanes is now a KINDLE BOOK



(no matter what dialect you speak, the grammar sections are REALLY useful)

Highly recommend it!

Tagged: reblogromanigypsylanguageřomanesrromanesromanes



Found a website today - Romalgbt - that is (unfortunately for most of my Roma followers) in Czech and is basically a free clinic for people in the Czech Republic. They offer an ear and free counseling to anyone who needs help.


Their tagline says it all: “jsem také člověk” - I am also a person.

They have pages about coming out, places of interest, links and how to contact them. It’s SUCH a great thing to see… Generally, LGBT is considered taboo (marime) by the older generations and we’re not even allowed to talk about it… so this is a great development. For my Czech followers:

“Ahoj holky a kluci,

vítejte na stránkách první romské LGBT (lesbické-gay-bisexuální-transgender) poradny. Proč zrovna romské? Protože i mezi námi jsou příslušníci LGBT menšiny. V našich rodinách je ale tohle téma často tabu a kolikrát nám chybí někdo, s kým bychom si mohli normálně promluvit.
I proto jsme založili poradnu, na kterou se můžete kdykoliv anonymně a zcela bezplatně obrátit, pokud:

- řešíte svou sexuální orientaci

- bojíte se reakce rodiny

- bojíte se reakce okolí (kamarádi, spolužáci, pracovní kolektiv)

- vaše rodina už to ví a má s tím problém, včetně toho, že čelíte fyzickému nebo psychickému nátlaku

- jste obětí šikany ve škole nebo na pracovišti

- řešíte jakýkoliv jiný problém, který souvisí s LGBT tematikou

Jak nás můžete kontaktovat?

Nejlépe e-mailem na adresu uvedenou v kontaktech. Záleží na vás, jestli dáváte přednost písemné nebo osobní komunikaci. Můžete nám svůj problém popsat, anebo jen mailem poslat telefonní číslo a my se vám ozveme.

Sami jsme prožili něco podobného co možná prožíváte teď vy, tak se nestyďte a klidně se ozvěte, jsme tu pro vás.”

Tagged: RromaRomaRomaniGypsyLGBTRomalgbtCzechreblog



(54# Czech Republic) Elena Gorolová: Why she kicks ass

Everything is possible, where there is a will

  • She is the spokesperson for the Group of Women Harmed by Forced Sterilization in the Czech Republic, who has broken not only Czech but also Roma gender stereotypes, by speaking out in public about her experience as a survivor of forced sterilisation and advocating for redress. Her efforts have brought this issue visible at the local, national, and international levels; and were further recognised when the Government of the Czech Republic acknowledged these harms in 2009.
  • She is also the coordinator of the Human Rights Team of the Ostrava-based nonprofit organization Vzájemné soužití (Life Together) and civil society member of the Czech Government Council for Roma Community Affairs, and is a well known speaker to the UN.
  • To this day, she has a bitter memory of the critical moment in the delivery room when health care workers gave her a paper to sign and said “Sign this or you will die.”  “No one told me what it meant, I was young,” says Gorolová. Doctors sterilised her in 1990 at the age of 21. The doctors decided to sterilise her in the course of her second Caesarean delivery. Two or more Caesarean deliveries, was the most frequent reason cited as a precedent to sterilise. 
  • However, the women harmed by these sterilisations say the problem is that they never gave their informed consent to the surgery, nor were they given any information about sterilisation and what it really meant. Elena is one of eighty-seven (87) women who sent complaints of being forcibly sterilised to the Czech Public Defender of Rights (the ombudsman). In December 2005, in his Final Statement on this issue, the ombudsman accepted that sterilisations performed on Romani women during the communist era had been of a eugenic nature. Both his report and cases litigated by the League of Human Rights now show that illegal sterilisations have continued up until today.
  • “After our demonstrations, the women had to deal with many local papers writing untrue articles about them,” she said. “On how they were perceived by neighbours, alleging that they owed money, or did not pay rent, or comparing the difference between the states of mind of Romani and non-Romani women when consenting to sterilization.” But the changes they have won have been rewarding. The term “informed consent” is now a part of the vocabulary at hospitals and more women have been coming forward to share their experiences.
  • “The nurse told me that previously the method had been to tie the tubes, but that some women had become pregnant despite this,” she said. “They didn’t want any more Roma children to be born…I have experienced discrimination since I was a child…they just don’t like the Roma people.” 
  • She strives to create friendly platforms for communication between Roma and non-Roma in Ostrav, and to improve the living conditions of families in need.  
  • On the occasion of Elena Gorolová’s presentation in the UN Committee on 17th August, the Human Rights Team at Life Together organised two significant events: a peaceful meeting in Ostrava and an opening ceremony at the Brno-based Museum of Romani Culture.

Tagged: romaniElena GorolováCzech RepublicRomareblog

Source: womenwhokickass



Page from the “Kur’ani: Irame ki Romane Chib”

~ Muharem Serbezovski (2005, Sarajevo)

(Qu’ran written in Romanes and Arabic, so beautiful)

Tagged: RromaRomaRomaniGypsylanguageRomanesRomani chibKur'aniQu'ranreblog

On The Word “Gadje”


In every single dialect of Rromanes, the Romani language, there is a word specifically for those outside of our ethnicity; gadje, gadže, gažhe, gaujer, gage, gorger, gorgio, etc..

It is speculated that this word came into being from a Prakrit term meaning “civilian”, suggesting that at least part of our diasporic group was somehow militarily involved.
This is mere speculation, though, and is not based in concrete facts.

The term, “gadje”, and any derivations that exist in other dialects simply mean “non-Romani people”.

“Gadji” means “non-Romani woman”.
“Gadjo” means “non-Romani man”.
“Rakle”, or “raklja” mean “non-Romani children”.

These words have one meaning & one meaning only: not Romani.

They are in no way inherently derogatory.
Saying “gadje” is no different than saying “non-Romani”. “Gadje” is just the word we use in Rromanes. It is no different than using “nem Rroma”, “nicht Rromani”, “ne Rromu”, “non-Romani”.
We just have a single term for those outside of our ethnicity in our own language.

That being said, people who do not speak Rromanes, people who are not ethnically Romani, should not use “gadje” or any other forms of the word.
You should refer to yourself & others outside of our ethnicity as “non-Romani”, or whatever the term is that exists in your language.

Maybe you know a Romani person who is okay with you referring to yourself as “gadje”, but you should only use this term when speaking with that individual.
Otherwise, you are bastardizing, or appropriating a word from our language.
This word is not yours; it is ours. 

I do not know exactly what it is that frightens people about this word.
No, we will not stop speaking our own language simply because it makes you uncomfortable.

Most Romani on here, or on other forums only use “gadje” amongst each other.
We have found ourselves in a predicament where this word is either stolen from us & used by non-Romani, or that we are chastised for using a word that comes from our language.
Many times, when we post in English, we will use non-Romani because that is the only English translation of the term.

If we want to insult you, “gadje” is not the term we would use.
We have our own swear words & our own insults that we are not shy about throwing around.
“Gadje” is not one of those words.

The only arguments I have heard against the word are from ill-informed non-Romani who wrongly think this word is a slur, or from those who can only claim Romani “ancestry” & do not quite understand what it means to have people tell you that you cannot speak your own language.

If you are non-Romani; do not use “gadje” to refer to yourself unless you are speaking with a Romani person who is okay with your using it.

If you are non-Romani; do not ask us to stop speaking our own language because you have a misunderstanding of a term that we use.

Tagged: romromaromaniromanyrromrromarromanigypsygipsygazhegadjegorgergaujerreblog



Romany Gilla - Romany Song

Tagged: romromaromaniromanyrromrromarromanigypsygipsyrromanesromanesrromaneromaneAnglo-Romanyanglo-romaniangloromanycue the queuereblog

A Requiem For Europe’s Worst Prejudices, Behold The Gypsy Philharmonic [WorldCrunch]


I cried like a baby reading this today…


PRAGUE - A few minutes before the concert starts, Riccardo Sahiti says he can’t believe all this is real, that it’s not a dream. He’s standing in the ornate conductor’s room of the Rudolfinum in Prague – one of Europe’s premier concert halls. All around him are photographs of his idols – conductors such as Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Leonard Bernstein.

Sahiti is 51 years old but he’s as nervous as a schoolboy facing exams. He walks over to the piano, closes his eyes, plays the first few notes of the piece he’s about to conduct. His wife comes over to smooth out his full black hair. There’s a knock on the heavy wooden door, and when it opens the loud buzz of the audience chatting in the hall fills the room. Sahiti adjusts his coat jacket one last time, kisses his wife on the cheek, and heads for the conductor’s podium.

The concert is sold out, and Sahiti’s appearance is met with a long round of applause. On the podium, he looks the musicians in the eyes, smiles, and they smile back. Nearly 10 years ago to the day, Sahiti founded the Roma and Sinti Philharmonic. It started out as a small project, which was hardly taken seriously. Now Sahiti stands before 60 musicians, from Germany, Romania, Hungary. All the orchestra members belong to the ethnic minority called Roma or Sinti: Gypsies; some of them have been abused, others bullied. At the Rudolfinum, they are playing for the public, but also for themselves – and against centuries of stereotypes.

Riccardo Sahiti grew up near Pristina in Kosovo. Musically inclined, he was lucky to have wealthy parents who could afford to buy him a piano and send him to study at the conservatory in Belgrade. He practiced up to 15 hours a day, and in 1988 won a scholarship to study in Moscow.

When war broke out in Kosovo in 1992, he fled to Frankfurt where he auditioned for a place in several orchestras. He was always turned down. The director of one music school told him: “You have a lot of talent, but you don’t fit in here.” Sahiti asked if that was because of his Roma origins but didn’t get an answer. “It might have been a lot easier if I’d had been German or American,” he says.

At the start of the new millennium, Sahiti decided to engage in an original form of protest. He knew that there were a few Sinti and Roma musicians in the big orchestras like the Vienna State Opera, the Leipzig-based MDR Symphony (Germany’s oldest radio orchestra) and the Romanian National Orchestra. He invited them, and musicians who invited other musicians. He would let them stay in his apartment, and at night in his living room, crowded with concert posters and his record collection, they talked late into the night.

During the day, they rehearsed and handed out flyers. Then, after months of planning, in Nov. 2002 in Frankfurt, the Roma and Sinti Philharmonic gave its first concert. None of the musicians asked to be paid. “The concert hall was packed; people actually came out to hear us,” says Sahiti holding back tears.

Hiding their origins

Johann Spiegelberg was one of the original members of Sahiti’s orchestra. Spiegelberg has a Jewish mother and a father with Roma roots. Spiegelberg is not his real name, which he does not want revealed.

“I’ve had some bad experiences, I have to think of my son,” he says. He grew up in Romania, on the Black Sea coast, and received a first-class musical education. For two decades he has lived and worked in a large city in the eastern part of Germany where, he says, now and again people still make him feel he’s not one of them. He relates how recently he was on his way to a concert, wearing his coat jacket, and when he drove into a gas station to fill up his Mercedes a couple of youths spotted him and called over: “You people live well in Germany, at our expense.” He says he didn’t respond to the taunt.

The Sinti and Roma orchestra is a way of showing “that we’re not criminals,” Spiegelberg says, adding that this stereotype revolts him. And although famous Sinti and Roma like singer Marianne Rosenberg, jazz musician Django Reinhardt – and conductor Riccardo Sahiti – are made much of, according to Spiegelberg, many less well-known musicians of Sinti and Roma heritage keep quiet about it out of fear of prejudice. In Prague, for example, the orchestra had trouble renting double basses because rental firms thought they might never see the instruments again.

Passing on a cultural heritage

On the evening before the concert in Prague, some orchestra members gathered in the lobby of the hotel. They compared instruments, chatted about Beethoven and Schubert, sang, laughed. “It’s like a class trip,” Sahiti laughs. He says rivalries such as one sees in other orchestras are absent in this one because “we all want to pass on our cultural heritage.”

It is a considerable heritage. Over 80 operas were inspired by Roma. Jewish Klezmer music, Andalusian flamenco, the Cuban rumba were also all inspired by Roma. Despite this, Roma culture is often written off as being about little more than fiery violin players or Carmen in Bizet’s 1875 opera. In Germany, no state institution teaches Roma music or literature, or even the Romani language. Sinti and Roma were only recognized as one of Germany’s official minorities in 1997. The Philharmonic is the only orchestra of its type.

In Prague, the Philharmonic played the “Auschwitz Requiem,” a powerful piece for orchestra, four soloist singers and a choir, composed by Roger Moreno, a Swiss Sinto. “Writing it took so much energy, ” Moreno says. “I sometimes wonder how I was even able to finish it.”

He remembers being called a “smelly Gypsy” when he was in school, and that many doors were closed to him as a musician. So with his wife, he created an ensemble to play traditional music. After his first visit to Auschwitz in 1998 he decided to write what would be a “living monument” to Holocaust victims. “Very few people know that the Nazis murdered 500,000 Sinti and Roma,” he says. He wrote six of the eight stanzas of his requiem right away, then suffered ten long years of “composer’s block” before he was able to complete the work.

The Roma Philharmonic premiered the piece last May in Amsterdam during the annual celebrations marking the end of World War II. Never before in the Netherlands had the Roma received so much public attention: Queen Beatrix even invited Moreno for coffee.

The Philharmonic was signed up to play the “Auschwitz Requiem” at Frankfurt’s Old Opera House, with plans to play in Kracow and possibly Berlin in January. Much has to be improvised, as the orchestra has no permanent rehearsal space, no office. Sahiti dreams of creating a music association with a choir, ballet, and a cultural campus, but lacks financing.

The 100,000-euro cost of the Prague concert was paid for by European sponsors and Czech activist groups. Most of the tickets in the 1,000-seat concert hall were handed out free to people leading anti-discrimination initiatives, foundations, and politicians – there are hardly any “regular” concertgoers.

While the Czech media did report quite extensively on the orchestra’s appearance, says Jitka Jurková, a member of the organizing team, “they barely said a word about the political message. The orchestra was portrayed in the usual way, as something ‘exotic’.” She doesn’t believe that the concert will do much to decrease animosity to the Sinti and Roma.

But none of this is an issue on the night of the concert. Sahiti raises his arms; the music starts. How much he enjoys his work is clear to the last notes of the requiem, which ends with soft bell-like sounds. Slowly, Sahiti lowers his arms. The applause lasts for nearly 15 minutes. Tomorrow morning the orchestra moves on to Budapest to give a concert there.

As he moves about the empty stage collecting some sheet music forgotten by his musician colleagues, he looks up: ”This is just the beginning…”

VIA WorldCrunch

Tagged: RromaRomaRomaniGypsyprejudicemusicamazingconcertSinti

Nothing Changes →


In May 1942, Romania’s Antonescu ordered the deportation of ‘nomad, idle and criminal Gypsies’ (Roma) in order to ‘cleanse villages and cities of poor or dangerous people.’

In August, 2012, French officials justified the dismantling and forced expulsion of Roma from France on the basis that conditions in the “illegal” camps were “unsanitary” and that “tensions” with the local population had become “untenable” because of a soaring “crime rate”.

After 70 years rhetoric doesn’t seem to have changed very much, does it?

[read more]

Tagged: romanigypsyreblog

Discrimination in Holocaust Remembrance: The Ultimate Irony [Romea.cz] →

How much more time will pass before Roma and Sinti (“Gypsies”) are sufficiently, publicly and regularly recognized as one of two ethnic groups slated for complete extermination in the Holocaust? What will it take for Holocaust education to include Romani persecution in a way that teaches not only who Romani people are, but also the very relevant continuities in European Nazi ideology?

As a Romani descendant of Holocaust victims and survivors, I was an audience member at the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance events, located in the New York City UN headquarters, in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2009, during the Remembrance week in January, there was an exhibit and event on Hungarian Roma in the Holocaust at the Hungarian mission to the UN. It was attended almost exclusively by Hungarian dignitaries and people connected to them. (See http://www.romea.cz/english/index.php?id=detail&detail=2007_1155) The effort’s significance in the Hungarian context must not be discounted, but its educational value to the larger public was virtually nonexistent. The UN Remembrance ceremony proper subsequently failed to include Romani victims by the name of their ethnic group, with the exception of a brief mention. It is important to note that these annual ceremonies are 1.5 to 2 hours long. They have included as speakers or performers not only key UN figures and Jewish representatives, but also scores of people from other ethnic groups. At least some of these time slots could have been – and should be – given to Romani participants. 

Indeed, following written protests from Romani people and supporters, as well as a meeting between myself and Ms. Kimberly Mann of the UN Holocaust Outreach Programme, the Polish Romani representative Andrzej Mirga was flown over to give a full-length speech at the main New York City event in 2010. The Romani community and survivors were very grateful for this. However, we must ask why such representation stopped again as quickly as it started. The substantive inclusion of Romanies has not been replicated in the UN lobby exhibits or in any other UN-sponsored program during or since that time. We need to see not a one-time token gesture but rather a permanent change in approach.

In 2011, the Remembrance event included a brief video testimony from a Romani survivor. However, once again no Roma or Sinti had been invited to participate, and as usual the Holocaust and its aftermath were implicitly defined as an exclusively Jewish matter. More often than not, the world’s media reify this inaccurate definition, a practice that is unlikely to change until a different tone is set in the most publicized official commemorations.

In 2012, for a minute or so out of the entire program, a Sinti person was featured, again only on the screen. It was Setella Steinbach, whose story was recounted as part of a string of portrayals of child victims. Setella had long been shown in Holocaust-related materials as a Jewish victim, so it was most appropriate and appreciated that her true identity was recognized at this time. Unfortunately, several other mentions of child victims in the program, which as a whole centered around children of the Holocaust, referred to young victims as if only Jewish children had been involved. Later in the program, a parallel on-screen display was shown, honoring specific Jewish Holocaust survivors and their contributions to society. The absence of a single Romani survivor was a stark reminder of the widespread idea that Roma and Sinti have few cultural merits, in addition to being unworthy of participation in Holocaust remembrance planning. Had any of us been asked, at the very least, for a suggestion, a prominent Romani/Sinti Holocaust survivor easily could have been included in that part of the event.

As just one example of Holocaust commemoration utterances that ring painfully hollow to Romani survivors, their families and communities, many of whom are endangered by neo-Nazi activity daily, I will mention the speech made by Prof. Robert Krell. Overall, it was a moving talk in which he spoke not only of wartime atrocities but also, quite astutely, of post-war reverberations in survivor families. He spoke of the need to keep memory alive, to educate, and to be aware of the present-day effects of racist ideologies. Similar speeches are given each year (not only at the UN), and yet it is very rare that the author thinks to mention the very obvious, very real and very destructive link between the ideology that led to the Holocaust and the neo-Nazi and other racist dogmas that continue to keep Romani people segregated, poorly educated, and frequently unemployed. Rampant discrimination, not to mention the deportation of Romani refugees, is endemic to the same countries where anyone of even one-eighth Romany blood was legally singled out for extermination in the events being commemorated. Because of anti-Gypsyism, Roma and Sinti are at constant risk of physical attack in Europe, not to mention interethnic tensions in certain parts of New York City and other places. And beyond the risk of physical harm, they face a kind of constant discrimination that can easily slip into more dangerous hatreds, and which proper commemoration of the Holocaust ought to discuss. Neither the United Nations nor the annual United States Days of Remembrance in Washington, D.C. have succeeded in this regard.

How can these speakers, one after the other, call for effective Holocaust education without so much as mentioning that the Romani population, currently Europe’s largest ethnic minority, was decimated during the war – exterminated in proportions similar to the Jews according to Simon Wiesenthal and many other historians – and presently subjected to experiences such as “Gypsies to the gas!” graffiti (even on playgrounds) on a regular basis? How can teachers and professors call themselves Holocaust educators when most of their students, when informally polled, still have virtually or absolutely no idea who “Gypsies” or Romanies actually are? These issues, so absurd and ironic that the lack of logic surrounding them should be patently obvious, were once again brought up for the Romani audience members listening to Prof. Krell’s speech. One sentence, however, stood out in particular: when speaking of Einsatzkommandos in Lithuania, Prof. Krell referred to over 100,000 Jewish victims “and a few others.” According to Martin Weiser, Lithuania was one of the countries in which “almost all Gypsies were killed.” Their ethnic group has a name, and it is not “some others.” Their families have suffered as much as Jewish families have. However, what really caused the Romani audience members (and at least one Jewish attendee we know of) to look at each other, stunned, was the flippant tone in which Prof. Krell pronounced “and a few others.” What could have been a highly effective speech was thus tainted with hypocrisy.

In this most recent commemoration, any mentions of Romani victims were once again so minor that a Jewish woman, who had just attended the entire event and whom we met afterward, had no idea who Roma were and what they had to do with the Holocaust. She came up to one of our group’s members and asked what her sign meant. We were each wearing a large brown triangle with the inscription “Gypsy” (with quotes) in front, and a large Z with the word Zigeuner on our backs. The woman was upset that she had never been told about the other group slated for extermination in the Holocaust, and wondered aloud about the Holocaust education she had received, as well as about the program she had just seen. She called the situation “disgusting.” Eventually, she introduced us to a gentleman who was identified as one of the event’s organizers, and she briefly explained why we were standing there with signs. I did not catch the man’s name, as there was a bit of a commotion and he then quickly disappeared. He was eager to point out that a Romani speaker (meaning Andrzej Mirga) had been invited two years ago. I calmly countered that we expect to be included every year, and to have a Romani speaker, musician, or both, for at least five minutes out of the lengthy program. His reply was negative. At this point I said, “This is untenable. It’s morally untenable. It’s academically untenable. And it’s historically untenable.”

This is what I and many, many other Romani community members firmly believe. We are asking not only for a token mention but for inclusion in the organization of commemorative events and the preparation of educational material for schools. Right here on the East Coast, there are Romani academics, musicians, community leaders, survivors and/or relatives of survivors who have never been asked, but who very much want to be involved. Even if we accept the most conservative estimates for Roma and Sinti murdered in the Holocaust (in the hundreds of thousands), allowing Romani representatives a real five minutes each year in a ceremony that lasts up to two hours would hardly be disproportionate. These same people might be consulted to assure that new materials released into schools and media outlets actually explain enough about who Romanies are and what happened to them – a level of awareness with the potential to mean that the Romani victims of the Holocaust did not die entirely in vain. Again, to deny us such input and participation, in an effort that is aimed at learning lessons, at telling the hard truths about history, and at guaranteeing “never again,” would be morally, academically, and historically bankrupt

 Petra Gelbart, Ph.D., New York University

Postscript, November 2012: The UN Holocaust Outreach Programme recently held an event discussing both Jewish and Romani mass graves in Eastern Europe. Four panelists were invited; none of them was Romani. Two of them stated, inexplicably, that the Romani experience was separate from the Holocaust. When questioned about the inclusion of Romani people, the head of the Programme claimed that Romani representatives are being invited and consulted, adding in the same breath that “a Roma expert” is being flown in for teacher training. This person is indeed an expert and I welcome his input, but, contrary to what the audience at this event was led to believe, he is not Romani. Many letters of protest have once again been sent by Roma/Sinti, Jews, and others, but we have yet to receive any real response regarding plans for the regular inclusion of voices coming from Roma and Sinti themselves.

Petra Gelbart, Ph.D.

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Roma segregation remains a serious problem in the Czech Republic [Council of Europe] →

Prague, 15/11/2012 - “The “practical schools” in the Czech Republic perpetuate segregation of Roma children, inequality and racism. They should be phased out and replaced by mainstream schools that need to be properly prepared to host and provide support to all pupils, irrespective of their ethnic origin. There are certain examples in the country that show the feasibility of this necessary paradigm shift, which will require the government’s political will and sustained commitment”, stated the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, after his four-day visit to the Czech Republic.

The Commissioner visited an elementary school in Kladno, near Prague, which has a capacity of 309 pupils but currently hosts only 93 Roma schoolchildren. “This big school is an example of the ethnically segregated practical schools for which the Czech state spends more than double the expenditure ofmainstream schools, while their graduates as a rule end up unemployed and dependent on state benefits”. Commissioner Muižnieks regretted that five years after the D.H. judgment by the Strasbourg Court’s Grand Chamber, the violations found therein have not been redressed. “I urge the Czech government to provide a realistic budget, concrete timeline and indicators in order to bring to an end the vicious circle of segregated education that affects Roma children and costs the whole country so much , both financially and socially. The commitment expressed by the Ministry of Education to fully execute the D.H. judgment and provide quality education to Roma is promising and needs to be fully supported”.

Commissioner Muižnieks welcomed the Interior Ministry’s ongoing efforts to enhance pluralism and participation of members of national minorities, including Roma, in the Czech police forces. “I was interested to learn that seven more Roma graduates are expected to earn their degrees next year from the police academy, and that there is cooperation of the police with a group of Roma assistants. These are trust-building measures and good practices that reinforce social cohesion and harmonious inter-ethnic relations, so much needed in a country where incidents of racist violence and intolerance are far from uncommon”. The Commissioner was also pleased to note that the Czech Republic will soon accede to the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.

During his visit Commissioner Muižnieks also visited the psychiatric hospital of Bohnice, the largest such institution in the country accommodating some1 300 patients, and held discussions with experts on the human rights of persons with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities. “The judgments delivered by the Strasbourg Court in the cases of Ťupa and Burešin 2011 and 2012, as well as my discussions with experts, make clear the need to overhaul and transform psychiatric care in the Czech Republic. Promoting de-institutionalisation, fully protecting persons with disabilities from involuntary hospitalisation through effective judicial review, and preventing and eliminating ill-treatment of persons deprived of their liberty are priority tasks”.

The Commissioner noted that each year in the Czech Republic around 2 000 persons are stripped of their legal capacity. “New legislation that will enter into force in 2014 appears to be a step in the right direction, providing for abolition of full deprivation of legal capacity and the review by courts of around 22 000 such cases. However, this is a herculean challenge that requires sustained efforts to properly train and inform all legal and other professionals who will be called upon to apply the new law and give effect to the standards contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a key human rights treaty that binds the Czech Republic. In this context, the government needs to consult and make full use of the valuable expertise of specialist national non-governmental organisations”.

The Commissioner’s report on this visit is forthcoming.

Read earlier reports on the Czech Republic here 

Council of Europe

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