March for the Dignity of Roma People in Europe
BENJAMİN ABTANWeariness and despair could have finally caught up with us. Haven’t the Roma people, Tziganes, Gypsies and Sintis, been persecuted for centuries? Wouldn’t it be illusive to think that one could “normalize” a situation that may appear desperate?
Indeed, in many ways, violence against the Roma people in Europe seems endless. and the problems they face to be fully integrated into society appear insurmountable.
Today, they are packed into separated and walled districts without any access to running water nor electricity in Ostrava (The Czech Republic), Svinia (Slovakia) or Baia Mare (Romania). In 2011, Ataka organized protests all over Bulgaria under the banner of « Death to the Roma people ! » while in Hungary, the paramilitary militia of the Jobbik party terrorizes them and regularly triggers extreme racist violence.
Moreover, expulsions and deportations continue to take place as in France, Germany, Sweden and Italy.
Finally, daily racial discrimination in health, employment, leisure and education persists in Kosovo, Portugal, Serbia, Croatia and Poland.
This worrying situation pushes us to greater commitment to the fight for Dignity and Equality of rights.
Therefore, on Sunday October 7th, we will lead the unified European civil society across the continent, from Denmark to Turkey, from France to Poland including Italy, Romania, Croatia and Serbia to proclaim together : « Roma Pride ! »
Indeed, our hope is not in vain.
At the institutional level, the EU has moved forward : all Member States drafted and presented to the Commission a « National Strategy for Roma Integration » by the end of 2011.
However, how could some of these strategies really have an impact when they remain without funds or planning ?
Above all, a Roma elite is emerging, with a simple and clear objective : the full Equality of rights and responsibilities. Composed of political women and men, intellectuals, artists and activists, this elite not alone but deeply rooted into the Roma communities and fully part of the civil society.
Roma Pride is therefore a mobilization of and a support system for self-emancipation, carried out regardless of the origins of individuals and organizations involved, since Universalism is our inspiration, and the full integration our shared demand.
This integration does not mean a threat to the transmission of cultures or identities which are part of the European heritage, but an end to racist murders, the dismantlement of the ghettos, an end to the stigmatization. It means a determined fight against stereotypes, discrimination and segregation in education. It means, at last, the recognition of the responsibilities for the persecution, especially during WWII.
In order to eventually obtain the full integration of all individuals into European society, to achieve the Dignity of all and respect for Equality of rights across the continent, let us march together throughout Europe on October 7th for Roma Pride !
Benjamin Abtan is President of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement – EGAM. This Open Editorial as been signed by the antiracist and Roma leaders of 27 countries”.