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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Message on International Roma Day 2009
International Roma Day is an opportunity call attention to the history, experience, and human rights of Europe's largest ethnic minority.
Promoting and protecting the rights of Roma has long been of personal interest to me. I saw firsthand the plight of the Roma - particularly Romani women and children - when I visited Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe as First Lady. As a member of the Helsinki Commission, I urged governments to do more to protect and promote the 10 million Roma who live in Europe.
Despite important progress that has been made in the past decade, many Roma still live on the margins of society. They continue to experience racial profiling, violence, discrimination and other human rights abuses. Too often they lack identity documents or citizenship papers, which excludes them from voting, social services, education, and employment opportunities that would enable them to participate more fully in the countries in which they live.
The United States is committed to protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma through our bilateral relations and through our involvement in organizations such as the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Governments have a special responsibility to ensure that minority communities have the tools of opportunity they need to succeed as productive and responsible members of society. I urge governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education and employment so that Roma can fulfill their greater promise of success and achievement.
Roma have a rich artistic and cultural heritage, which has left an indelible mark across Europe and the world. It is in the interests of the larger European and global community to create conditions that maximize success for all people within our borders and beyond. I hope that events taking place at our embassies and missions around the world on International Roma Day will be one more step on the path to helping Roma reach a better, brighter future.
Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina and
Bosnian Roma women in West Europe
The situation has not changed at all in 2009
Click on this picture to read the article
(60KB doc file)
Click the picture to download a free copy (475kb)
Click on the Romani flag to listen to an interview by Yvonne and Dave Slee on the Romani Radio Program in Perth WA with an Indian couple about similarities between Romani and Indian culture, religion and language.
Radio program interview
Roma in Bosnia
Banjaras: the cousins of Roma in India by Avinash Singh
The term Banjaras bring up some images in our minds. Known in India as a wandering people, their mention is colloquial to music, dance, colorful life and constant travel. Every one in India knows about them. They have the same image as the Roma in Europe. Colorful traveling people, who love to dance, sing and make merry. They are famous for their colorful dresses and their love for travel. They are mentioned often in the literature and have been romanticized in the tales. Although partly true, this image doesn't always hold true, especially in the modern times.
It has been human habit to generalize and form stereotype things. Like a Russian is supposed to be drink a lot, the Jew has a long nose, India is full of elephants and snakes or as in our case the Banjaras are still 'Gypsy'. Most of these are not true but still people like to mention them because they are catchy! Like the mention about the nose of Jews was a Nazi propaganda. In India too, now a day elephants are rare! And most of the Banjaras have today taken to settled life. All there stereotypes are utterly wrong but they have continued... (Read more)
The mother and the son by Avinash Singh
It's a story of a mother and a son that got separated long ago. Fate split them apart but now is the time for them to reunite.
The annals of European history have recorded the coming of some strange people.
They came to the borders of Europe somewhere in the 15th century.
They were different in looks, customs and manners form the rest of Europeans.
From the first day itself, they have been subject to suspicion. The people thought that they were coming from Egypt and hence they were given the name 'Gypsies'. A derogatory term that has stuck to their heads ever since. They were made subjects of legends and folklores. In time they became larger than life characters but remained little understood. These dancing, singing and 'happy go lucky' people were different form the normal settled people but society hates deference (as it has always done!). Soon they were prejudiced against and even enslaved. Many misconceptions about them soon spread around. They were accused of black magic, cheating and fooling people (even stealing babies). Life was made difficult for them.
All sorts of propaganda were used against them. In spite of the highly unmaterialistic and truthful lives they lead, they were dubbed as thieves and burglars. However, they survived it all. They are the Romani people or the Roma... (Read more)
The people we are... by Avinash Singh
A Greek, no matter no matter what religion or nationality, call themselves Greek as a people! So is the case with Arabs, Persians and Slavs.
So what people are the Roma?
Today they live in many countries and follow many different religions. They are the largest minority in Europe. They are living in Asia and in America too. But they have a unique bond with India. Despite all the changes in culture, language and religion they remain Hindu as a people. And I say Hindu, not in terms of religion but as a people (be it of any religion). The Hindus are a diverse people. The variations can range from mongoloid to Caucasoid in features. But it's not contradictory! The Turk and Tatar people too have these variations, and still all of them call themselves 'one people'. So why can't a Hindu; be it in India, Serbia, France or America call himself a Hindu! The Indians that were taken by British to work for the plantations to Fiji and Mauritius and West Indies do still call themselves Hindu, so why shouldn’t the Roma. (Read more)
At-glance: Who are the Roma?
20 August 2010. Source: Szilvia Malik Game, SBS Radio
There are no official numbers, but it is estimated that 10 million Roma live in Europe and they represent the poorest people group on the continent. There are estimated to be about 25,000 Roma living in Australia. The President of the Sinti-Romani Organisation in Queensland, Yvonne Slee, explains their origins.
"We originate from India. In the 11th century groups of Indians were taken out by Mahmud of Ghazni the conqueror, and he took the people out, he took the gold, he took jewels, he burned down temples and he did that over 30 years.
Many of us were taken out of there and ended up in Afghanistan for a while because that is where he went and then after the army was defeated by the Seljuks we ended up in Anatolia where we stayed for 200 years and that is where we crystalised into our own culture.
The words that we use now, our language still has a lot of Indian words, Hindi mixed with Greek words.
And then we went on further westwards into Europe, because the Ottoman Empire encroached on Anatolia and so we were pushed out again and we had to go further, into Europe".
Ever since the Roma arrived in Europe they have suffered discrimination and everywhere they have settled, they have ended up with inferior social status, education, employment, wealth and political power.
During the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of them were burnt in the gas chambers by the Nazi Germans.
David Diaz-Jogeix is Europe's Deputy Program Director for the human rights group, Amnesty International. He believes European states are not seriously trying to break the Romas' cycle of discrimination and poverty.
"The Roma people are the largest minority in Europe, but it is not just a matter of numbers.
It is a matter of severe and entrenched discrimination that the Roma people have been subjected to in Europe," says Mr Diaz-Jogeix.
Mr Diaz-Jogeix believes that a tendency of many Romas to live in caravans has given rise to negative impressions about their lifestyle, and has contributed to their marginalisation.
"The great vast majority of the Roma people are not nomads.
The people live in towns, but the prejudice against them has resulted in no access to jobs, no access to education," he says. Mr Diaz-Jogeix says in many European countries, Roma children have been forced to attend segregated special schools or segregated classes where they study according to an inferior curriculum.
He says in some cases, they are even treated as "stupid" and "disabled".
"For example in Slovakia, the administration are treating the Roma different from the mainstream population and placing the children in school that are meant for people with mental disabilities," he says.
Angela Kocze is a former president of the Hungarian-based European Roma Rights Centre, which lobbies for Roma rights across the continent. From a Roma background herself, she currently researches Roma issues for the Institute for National and Ethnic Minorities at the Hungarian Science Academy.
Ms Kocze says the Romas' poor access to education has a ripple effect, resulting in bad employment possibilities.
"There are several human rights reports which pointed out that Romani children are facing serious obstacles in the educational system.
They are not able to get into high school, especially those who are coming from a segregated area, and they were attending segregated schools. And if we can see the statistics that approximately half million Roma are living in Hungary now and only five percent of the Romani schools' pupils were able to get to high school. I mean compared with the non-Roma students, which 70 percent of them were able to go to high school, so there is a huge discrepancy," she says.
The often unemployed Roma tend to live in segregated, substandard housing, and face much lower life expectancy than that of non-Roma. Forced evictions have left thousands of Roma without homes Europe-wide.
Romas are also often perceived as criminals. But according to the United Nations Development Program, many of the crimes committed by Roma can be linked directly to poverty - like stealing of crops. Recently, the Second European Roma Summit took place in the Spanish city of Cordoba.
Mr Diaz-Jogeix from Amnesty International, who was present at the event, says he was disappointed with the absence of European government representatives promising political action. "The agenda of this year's conference looks at the exchange of best practice among member states of the European Union.
However Amnesty International would have liked to have a far more political leadership from the European Union, reminding the obligations of the member states not to put specific categories of people subject to discrimination for example in the areas of health, in the areas of education and subject to force evictions in many countries in Europe," he says.
The Roma in Australia face different hardships to their kin in Europe. Here they are not discriminated against, and in fact are barely even recognized. That's a situation that Yvonne Slee, from the Sinti-Romani Organisation in Queensland, is trying to change this, through running education courses about the culture of her people.
"It is misunderstood, sort of stereotyped, you know not understood as a culture, they sort of see us as a Hollywood gypsy and we do not seem to get the right acknowledgment for our culture here and it is very hard to get it across.
People do not understand, so we have to do, like I do, cultural exhibits to educate or to do talks at schools to make them understand what culture we are, otherwise we get overlooked often and it is, well quite, we get left out again, our kids get left out again that way as well," she told SBS.
"O Rajah, I have been taught that we of the Deccan civilization should seek balance in our lives. Surely we have room for the soul as well as the material world. Yet their importance, one to the other, I think is not constant, but changes with the needs of men. In times of peace and prosperity, a certain amount of asceticism and concern with the afterlife may help to temper the corrupting influences of wealth and materialism. But even while our eyes seek the heavens, our feet should remain earthbound. Recall that the Muslim conquests took place at a time when our people were steeped in the supernatural. When the sultan's armies sacked our villages and killed and enslaved our people, little resistance was offered. Instead, the people took refuge in prayer and spiritual consolation, comforting themselves that the next life would be a better one."
"Let us not be alarmists," countered Amul. "We Madrans can not all carry swords and arm ourselves against phantom enemies. Then our neighbors will become suspicious and arm themselves, and a race will begin that can only end in a conflict that no one wanted in the first place."
"There is much in what you both say," mused the rajah. "But have we not had enough reason to be suspicious of the rana, Chandra, in our neighboring state of Madresh? He has placed troops along our common border, though the Madreshian army officers say they are merely engaged in peaceful camping-out exercises. Perhaps, and perhaps not. What is certain is that we lack good military intelligence."
Excerpt from the book 'The Willing Spirit' by Piers Anthony and Alfred Tella.
European Commission Meeting on Roma
Brussels, March 10th 2010
Keynote Address Ian Hancock Click here to read (PDF 267kb)
A Comment from the POLITICS.HU website on the article 'Government official says Roma exclusion not to be treated as an ethnic issue'
Hi there. It's been awhile. Eastern European Roma are uneducated because of a variety of reasons. They need more education, including sex education. Once they get up to par with the rest of Europeans in education they will realize they have more options which would include limiting the number of children.
Ronald Lee, Ivan Vesely, Ian Hancock, Tamara Demetro, Yvonne Slee, Paul Polansky and there are many other Romani activists. They all fight hard and some have devoted their lives to this cause.
Click on the YouTube window to hear an interview with Prof. Ian Hancock
More information on Romanies from our Indian friends. Namaste!
A community within and between communities: multiculturalism, education and the Australian Romani community
Ph.D. in Social Science
The Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology
Click on the pic to watch a video of a small Romani Gathering at Scarborough beach, Qld.
The President of Sinti Romani Community, Yvonne Slee, and her daughter just took part in helping to stock a new library in a school on the island of Fiji. The school needed new and used books and her daughter's school asked parents to donate what books they could for the library. Yvonne donated Torn Away Forever and Australia and Romanies together with some general reading books. It's nice to have Romani books in the new library. Sonia Meyer also donated her book, Dosha, to the Fijian school library.
An article from the Sydney Morning Herald on Romanies about dispelling the myths and stereotypes with comments from two Romani women, Yvonne Slee and Sarah Bedak, living in Australia.
World ignores Gypsy plight, says refugee from Nazis
31/10/2013 - A refugee from Nazi Germany who is a regular speaker in schools has published a book for children to counter prejudice against Gypsies.
Ruth Barnett, who came here on the Kindertransport from Berlin at the age of four in 1939, draws parallels between the Jewish and Gypsy experience in Jews and Gypsies, Myths and Realities.
"I have been going into schools for Holocaust education to tell my Kindertransport story for over a decade," she explained, "and I don't think it has its full value unless I link it with what we...are allowing to happen today."
"The persecution of Gypsies is over halfway to genocide. I think it is appalling how people are indifferent."
Both Jews and Gypsies were ethnic groups without a land, she pointed out. "The Nazis persecuted both as landless people and having poisonous blood that would spoil the purity of the master race they wanted to create. That's why six million Jews and around a million Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis."
But the fate of the Gypsies has often been ignored, she believed.
It was an "absolute myth that Gypsy survivors have not contributed to the Holocaust literature," she added. "I have a collection of testimonies by Sinti and Roma Gypsies but nobody takes notice of them."
She cited the recent high-profile case of a little blonde girl called Maria, who police removed from a Roma community in Greece, suspecting she had been abducted, as an example of the problems encountered by Gypsies today.
The girl had been legitimately placed by her Romani parents with another Romani family, Mrs Barnett said.
"There are plenty of blondes in Roma circles."
(Article from the Jewish Chronicle'
Bringing Romani issues into the Australian classrooms.
By Adam Bruin
Furthering the commitment to developing an awareness of an issue within the classroom, is challenging some of the deep seated ideologies held by both the community and curriculum development writers in Australia. From a global Human Rights perspective, attention is usually drawn to human rights abuses that occur in developing countries, or indeed any nation outside of the West. Human rights abuses within both Eastern and Western Europe are largely ignored. Specifically referring to the situation faced by the Roma diaspora in Europe, there is an obligation to include Romani perspectives in history. Currently, the curriculum content in Australia does not specifically address the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Whilst homosexuals and those with disabilities were also experimented on and murdered in the death camps, the Porajmos, or Roma Holocaust has been largely ignored by both historians and the international community.
Whilst from a social justice point of view it is necessary to acknowledge the Roma Holocaust, it may be difficult to convey how the inclusion of other content relating to Romani people will enrich the Australian curriculum. In October 2013 the story of Maria, dubbed the blue eyed blonde angel by international media, became the focus of a global investigation and inflammatory media coverage that drew attention to the ingrained prejudices of the non-Roma community towards this ethnic minority. Victim to the false perception that Gypsies steal children, the adopted parents (who were eventually proven innocent) were accused of abducting the young girl based on the fact that she had fair skin and they could not produce official documents relating to her adoption. Subsequently, there was an international response which saw neighbours informing local authorities of fair skinned Roma children living with dark skinned parents, which resulted in more children being removed from their families for DNA testing. This blatant disregard for human rights was eventually queried by Australian media after they were contacted by the Romano Sinti Community Association of Queensland. In order to address the broader education of the community with regards to Roma history and the stereotype of child stealing, President of the Romano Sinti Community Association Yvonne Slee, engaged in both radio interviews and providing information to journalists for online newspapers. This resulted in a number of very positive articles that helped to shed light on both the reality of the Roma situation, and the false ideology that Gypsies steal children.
In order to link this theme back to an Australian context, obvious parallels can be drawn between the Anti-Roma laws of Europe and the assimilationist policies of the Australian government towards Indigenous Australians. The cultural fable of Gypsies stealing children is based on the perceptions of the European community when Roma families liberated their own children from state or foster care and went into hiding. Given the moral superiority Europe seems to assume within the global community, the fact that children are still being removed from their families based on race and ethnicity is a controversial issue worthy of investigation. In the broader context of education in the global community, it is worth critiquing the attitudes of the developed world with regards to the human rights of ethnic minorities. Given the lack of understanding of the history and culture of the international Roma community, this topic deserves particular attention in the international community.
When I was a little girl my Sinti grandmother told me about the significance of our Romani culture and our rights, that our cultural identity be recognised and that I should never forget that identity. 'What is a person without their cultural identity', she said. She prepared me for my own family life and I knew what I had to do; tell my children about their Romani heritage so our culture lives on. We have much to be proud of as my ancestors, like my grandmother, were good and peaceful people who took time to care for others, had a deep understanding of nature and knew the meaning of how important the family unit was. In this modern society we're living in now, there is a lot of pressure on mothers to leave their kids and go to work, but for me it's much more important to be there for my kids and work around it, like doing self employed jobs that fit in with my children as I am there for them first and foremost. Not only that, as all my kids live in Australian society, I found it necessary to put up Romani websites with plenty of knowledgeable material about our culture. The thing is, here in Australia, people really don't know what a Romani is and it is my mission to educate them through my websites, my books, Romani exhibits and more.
It has happened that my kid's rights have been ignored because of ignorance and we have had to speak up at schools. In some schools it made a big difference and it was like a burden being lifted when we were understood. 'Hey! We are living here in this multicultural place, there's room for us too', we thought. This is why it is important to speak out about our identity and culture. We have the right to do so, just like any other culture has. We've been through so much pain and suffering through all of our history, discrimination, the holocaust, and continuously persecuted. Then running away to other countries to find some home, to find some place we are welcome. It's been a long road and if we don't stand proud now, in my opinion it might be too late to change things. The timing is vital. It is important to break through the barriers and be counted, so that our children have equal opportunities in society.
If we have a movement of Roma women it will make us stronger and I think it is already happening. A couple of years back, I contributed to the Romani poem book, Sar O paj, Like Water. Roma women wrote poems from their heart and it showed that our women have a powerful voice that would be of so much benefit to the Romani cause. Society will get use to Romanies if we make a stance. It just takes a lot of persistence and finding ways to share ideas to get us heard. I take a Romani exhibit and education board to public places, such as very busy markets, twice a month so the public can read it. When an opportunity arises to work with someone who wants to help us, I take it up. This is so important to me.
To speak for our ancestors who could not speak out, often through fear, to carry on the Roma spirit, to undo the wrongs that have been done by the misinformation that has been fed for ages to the ignorant public by the media and entertainment industry, and to help our children live in a place without feeling they have to make themselves invisible is my vision and goal. I'll carry on so we can be free and I would like to see more Roma women participate in that as well.
O be a women and in particular, o be a Roma woman
(Extract from a new Romani women's book out in Dec 2015 called 'Wendepunkt')
The Romani road:
Australia's Gypsy culture
Click here to read more of this feature from SBS Australia's Life website.
The Spring edition 2016 of the Japanese publication, IMADR (International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism) featured a 2 page article by Prof Martin Kaneko on Romanies in Australia. He wrote about Romani Activists such as Yvonne Slee and her endeavours to edcuate the Australian media and public about Romani history, culture and stereotypes.
A video taken by Kelly Hussey for an SBS article on Romanies with Yvonne Slee talking about the times she spent with her Romani grandmother and book Torn Away Forever.
Welcome to the world of Australian gypsies
Romani (gypsy) culture is alive and well in Australia, with many of its members working break down the myths and stereotypes associated with the millennial-old culture. Read it here.