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April 20th, 2008

09:01 pm - No Security Guarantees for Roma in Kosovo
European Roma and Travellers Forum
Press Release

Strasbourg, 15 February 2007: After renewed violence in Kosovo involving two deaths, the president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum, Rudko Kawczynski, warned Roma not to travel to the province. To those who have remained there he recommended to prepare for an eventual evacuation and called on the international security presence to finally fulfil its mandate and guarantee the security of Roma.

“I am appalled to notice that almost eight years after the end of the war the international community has failed to rebuild a multiethnic Kosovo,” Mr. Kawczynski said, adding that following the proposal of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari for a conditional independence of Kosovo and last weekend’s events he he was expecting further violence .

The president of the European Roma and Travellers Forum reminded that more than 150,000 Roma have been ethnically cleansed by Kosovo Albanian nationalists by the end of the war and that ethnic cleansing was conducted with the clear purpose to obtain an independent, monoethnic Kosovo. He announced the organisation of an international security conference with the topic of the persecution of Roma in Kosovo.

Kosovo once provided a home to about 200,000 Roma who inhabited this territory for almost 600 years. Most of them were ethnically cleansed from Kosovo in summer 1999 when the international community watched unprepared.

The European Roma and Travellers Forum is the international Romani interest representation which gathers Europe’s main international Roma organisations and more than 1,500 member organisations from most of the Council of Europe member states. In December 2004, the Forum signed a partnership agreement with the Council of Europe which provides for special relations between both organisations.

For further information and interviews please contact:

European Roma and Travellers Forum
c/o Council of Europe
F – 67 075 Strasbourg

Tel.: 00 33 3 90 21 43 31
Email: ertf@coe.int

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09:00 pm - Anti-Romani hate speech contributes to intolerance toward Roma
On 15 February 2007, the ERRC sent a letter of concern to Mr Boris Sorkin, Managing Director of the Russian Information Agency "REGNUM", expressing concern at the regular linkage of Roma with crime in the agency's reports and noting that such media reports contribute to a climate of intolerance of Roma. The letter referred to numerous articles published in the newspaper collected by the ERRC during 2006 and 2007, which explicitly link Roma with drug dealing and criminality. In its letter, which was copied to the Director of the Central Regional Administration of Rosohrancultura, the ERRC urged the information agency to take a firm stand against hate speech and to refrain from publishing inflammatory anti-Romani language. The full text of the letter is available on the ERRC Internet website at http://www.errc. org/cikk. php?cikk= 2722 .

The letter is a result of ongoing ERRC work in the Russian Federation to combat hate speech against Roma. Since 2006, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has supported ERRC work in the Russian Federation.

Persons wishing to express similar concerns are urged to contact:

Mr Boris Sorkin
Managing Director, Information Agency "REGNUM"
Pravdi 21 stroenie 1, Moscow 125040, Russia
Fax: +7 495 2594639

Mr Alexander Haev
Director, Central Regional Administration of Rosohrancultura
Malaya Nikitskaya str. 12, Moscow 630091, Russia
Fax: + 7 495 2904573

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc. org
European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200
Fax: +36.1.413.2201

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08:58 pm - Gypsy teen plays key part in new policy for children's services in Cambridgeshire
from www.cambridge-news.co.uk

A TEENAGER from the gypsy community in Huntingdon has played a key part in helping to draw up a new policy for children's services across Cambridgeshire.

Billy Smith, 13, a student at Hinchingbrooke School, made suggestions for the plan being drawn up by the Cambridgeshire Children and Young People's Strategic Partnership, and his artwork also features in the finished document.

The partnership's plan is designed to improve the lives of young people and their families.

It includes measures to reduce the number of children injured in road accidents, to improve youngsters' self esteem, tackle bullying, increase participation in sport, and increase attainment in the traveller, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities, as well as boost GCSE results of children in care.

Billy, who is proud of his Romany origin, said he enjoyed taking part in the project, especially to help get the views of gypsies across.

"I interviewed some council people and drew some artwork and miniature posters and did some work on the booklet - The Big Plan," he said.

Billy, who was born in Essex and who has travelled all over the region, has been living in a house for about 10 years.

"I do prefer travelling really, but you can't stop anywhere, and when you do people throw firebombs at you or come up looking for a fight, so we are moved on," he said. "There is good and bad in everybody. Travellers are not all bad people."

Coun Shona Johnstone, Cambridgeshire County Council cabinet member for children and young people's services, said:

"Children, young people and their families are at the heart of the partnership and the plan they have produced.

"What they have told us has been vital in setting our priorities.

"We particularly valued the contribution made by Billy and the travelling community."

Coun Johnstone said the partnership was working to ensure children and their families receive faster and more effective services close to where they live and go to school, and that they look to the Government for support.

The partnership, made up from local councils, the police, primary care trusts and NHS trusts, Connexions, schools and voluntary organisations, felt contributions by young people were an integral part of the plan, and 1,850 took part.

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08:58 pm - Photographs
Some really nicely done sites with photographs of various Romanies in different locations..







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08:57 pm - Flamenco dancer is appointed Roma's ambassador to the EU
By Graham Keeley

In the stuffy confines of the European Parliament, he cut an unlikely figure. A strutting peacock of a man, Joaquin Cortes is normally to be found stripped to the waist, dancing Flamenco in front of thousands of mostly female devotees.

This is the dancer who almost single-handedly used his talent - not to mention his looks - to make Spain's most famous art form a must-see among the fashionable classes. But, though more used to hearing excited female fans shouting guapo (handsome), the one-time model for Giorgio Armani now wants to use his fame for a very different end.

Roma by birth, Cortes has become the new European Union ambassador for his people, in an effort to end decades of discrimination and xenophobia.

Dressed in more sober attire than normal, the dancer recently addressed MEPs in Brussels. "The main reason for my presence here is that I am of Roma origin and I understand that this institution is known as the champion of human rights in the EU," he said.

"I am one of the rare European Roma to whom fortune has been kind, as I am able to proudly assert my identity without fear of being persecuted, humiliated or being made a scapegoat." He added: "We all have to fight for the integration of the Roma nation, and hope that in the near future a new generation will live a better life."

An EU report in 2005 on racism and xenophobia stated that: "Roma are often stereotyped as criminals. The reality is that many Roma are the victims of crime." Many, particularly women, are marginalised by society, living in an underclass from which it is hard to break out. An EU resolution last year said Roma women suffered high levels of exclusion, particularly from access to health services.

There are now believed to be 14 million Gypsies in Europe, with at least nine million of those living inside the expanded EU. The largest contingent of two million live in Romania, but the Roma have perhaps the highest profile in Spain, thanks in part to Flamenco, the art whose origins are credited to them.

Cortes, who is currently dancing in Moscow for Russia's new super-rich, has been fighting hard for the recognition of the Roma. He launched his own campaign, called Stop Anti-Gypsyism, seven years ago. One ambition is to try to rid the word "Gypsy" of the negative connotations which it sometimes has in the popular imagination.

He agreed to be the new ambassador for the Roma nation as the EU declared 2007 "the year of equal opportunities for the Roma". He is to head a series of initiatives to try to get Gypsy artists equal billing with leading singers, dancers and artists throughout Europe. Away from the arts, the broad initiative aims to integrate the Roma in society.

His people's cause is close to his heart. Growing up Cordoba, Andalusia in the 1970s, Cortes watched as many of his contemporaries struggled to find jobs or often slid back into the murky world of drugs and petty crime.

About 800,000 Gypsies live in Spain, and they have been persecuted for much of the past 300 years. A series of laws and policies tried to rid them from the country altogether.

Gypsy settlements were often broken up and the residents dispersed. In some cases, they were forced to marry non- Gypsies. They were banned from using their language, which is a mixture of Andalusian Spanish and Romani, and prevented from taking up public office or joining trade organisations. Under General Francisco Franco's dictatorship, Gypsies were harassed or their children forced to attend school. They became a permanent underclass.

Conditions for Spain's Roma have improved considerably in the 30 years since democracy was re-established, with special state education programmes operating, and social services becoming more geared to their needs. But recent reports on Gypsy life have found high numbers are still illiterate and living on the periphery of Spanish society. Many run their own small companies, dealing within their own communities. Gypsy-run building firms mark their sites with the blue and green Roma flag as a warning that if anyone breaks in, they may have to reckon with reprisals from Gypsy "security".

Huge slum dwellings like Los Tres Mil (The Three Thousand) in Seville and San Cosme in Barcelona were traditionally used as dumping grounds by local authorities to separate Gypsies from the rest of the community.

A dancer with Gypsy roots

* Joaquin Cortes is a native of Andalusia, the birthplace of flamenco. He was born into a Gypsy family in Cordoba on 22 February, 1969.

* The Cortes family moved to Madrid in 1981, where at the age of 12, Cortes began to take formal dance lessons. He was invited to join the Ballet Nacional de España in 1984, taking to the stage in venues as diverse as the New York Opera House and the Kremlin.

* His wild, passionate approach to flamenco earned him worldwide recognition and controversy. He once said, "In classical ballet they still dance with a nude torso. Why not in flamenco?"

* In 1992 Cortes founded his own company, "Joaquin Cortes Ballet Flamenco". A starring role in Pedro Almodovar's 1995 film, La flor de mi secreto, brought him a new audience, as did Carlos Saura's film, Flamenco, and he regularly tours worldwide.

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08:56 pm - You Try It for a Few Days: The Roma and the gadje in the Czech Republic
by Fedor Gál

The year 1997 will go down in history as the year the Western press suddenly noticed the relatively massive Romani emigration from this country which has been going on for years. Since nothing is true until it appears on television, most journalists and commentators blamed the exodus of hundreds of Czech Roma to Canada on a TV Nova documentary that presented an idyllic picture of émigré life in the North American country. The Canadian government reacted to the exodus by slapping a visa requirement on Czech visitors to Canada. The Roma then started heading to Britain. The British reacted by sending the buses on which the Roma arrived back to the Czech Republic. A proposal to impose visa restrictions on Czech and Slovak travelers started to circulate in the British parliament. President Václav Havel tried to get in touch with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in an attempt to prevent London from imposing a visa requirement - a move that could complicate the Czech Republic's integration into the European Union.

Czech television viewers were treated to nightly footage of Romani families sleeping at British and French train stations and ports. The newspapers were filled with dramatic headlines such as "Czech Roma Not Welcome in Dover" or "Czech Transport Companies Don't Want to Carry Refugees." The chairman of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Miloš Zeman, let it be known that the whole affair was mainly a Romani "disgrace." Czech Prime Minister Václav Klaus at first declared that there was no Roma problem in this country but later announced that the government would take "firm" measures, even recommending that a special government office be created to deal with the issue.

In late October, the deputy chairman of the small Czech National Social Party stated his thoughts on the issue. While his party has no representation in parliament and the comment was pure rubbish, it is noteworthy for the simple reason that it truly reflects the opinions of many average Czechs. This commentator placed the blame for the situation squarely on the shoulders of the Roma. In his opinion, the Roma are not so bad off in the Czech Republic. He asked, "How long are we going to silently suffer restrictions to be placed on our rights because of a minority group that has demonstrated time and time again that it is not prepared to conform to the laws and basic societal norms of this country?" He also proposed that the president and government quickly find a "few Gypsy advisers" because "the Gypsies know better than anyone how to make easy money without lowering themselves to any form of mental or physical exertion."

By mid-November, the Roma exodus had been pushed off the front pages of our newspapers, but its protagonists were and still are among us.

A history on the fringes

The Roma settled into what are today the Czech and Slovak republics sometime around the 15th century. Most of them turned to traditional craftsmanship or lived as nomads. Those who settled down ended up anchoring themselves in the local society. But the anchor was unsteady. Their traditions and language, their carefree attitude toward money and competitiveness, their communal lifestyle, and their hand-to-mouth existence all served to cut them off from the rest of society once and for all.

In 1927, the Czechoslovak government passed the Law on Wandering Gypsies. In March 1939 - two weeks before the German army's occupation of Prague and the establishment of the Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia - the government passed an ordinance on the establishment of punitive labor camps for "Gypsy families and other wandering individuals." This collection center was later replaced by concentration camps in Lety u Písku and Hodonín u Kunštátu, where many Roma perished or were held until they could be transported to Nazi death camps. Of the thousands of Roma who were sent to the concentration camps, only a few hundred survived. After the war, the Czech nation maintained an embarrassed silence with respect to this tragic genocide.

The communist regime decided to "re-educate" the Romani people in its own image. It stripped them of their identity and persistently worked to destroy Romani culture and solidarity by imposing a "correct" set of values and lifestyle on them. In a society that no longer recognized private property and freedom of movement, the Romani people were forced out of their traditional occupations as musicians, blacksmiths, and basket-weavers and drafted as unskilled laborers at construction sites. According to the regime's grandiose social engineering projects, the Roma were moved from Slovakia to the Czech lands, from rural settlements to tenement housing blocks in the city, from a communal lifestyle in the countryside to the anonymous environment of large industrial urban centers. This systematic uprooting of the Romani people had a predictable effect - a high crime rate, unemployment, alcoholism, and related problems.

The past eight years

The fall of communism in 1989 opened up new opportunities for the Roma of the Czech lands. However, the successful exploitation of these new opportunities depended not only on the Roma but also on the dominant majority in the Czech lands. The same majority that has been losing the struggle for multiethnic and multicultural harmony throughout this century - from the Romani Holocaust in the Czech lands, to the postwar expulsion of the Sudeten German population, to current attitudes toward immigrants from impoverished corners of the world. Today, public opinion polls show that the majority of Czechs refuse to put up with the Romani minority, whom they view as a loud and lazy band of parasites. Those same Czechs view themselves as friendly, tolerant, and hard-working.

Meanwhile, daily life is becoming increasingly difficult for the Roma. The number of racially motivated crimes against Roma is increasing with every passing year. Other forms of racism are also becoming more common, such as incidents of Romani children being beaten up in the schoolyard or on the streets, Romani youths not being allowed into certain clubs or bars, or Romani fathers unable to find work because of their ethnicity. As for those who say the Roma are only getting what they deserve, one can only respond that they should color their faces and hair and try to live like a Rom for a few days, because the story of the Roma is also the story of the gadje who refuse to learn.

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08:37 pm
Apparently, someone thought it was funny to hack into a few of my communities and delete some things. Since I do have some of the entries backed up on another site, I am going to try to transfer them over. I figured I would also take the opportunity to do some 'spring cleaning', and removed all the members who hadn't been active in the last year. Membership is now moderated, so please request to rejoin if you feel you were removed by mistake.

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